Is­rael next step?

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNATIONAL - GEORGE S. HISH­MEH

IT HAS al­ways been a puz­zle, if not a wor­ri­some is­sue, why the Is­raeli prime min­is­ter, Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu, never re vealed any ideas about a fi­nal bor­der set­tle­ment with the Pales­tini­ans. In vi­o­la­tion of in­ter­na­tional law, the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment has ar­ro­gantly and il­le­gally ex­panded into the oc­cu­pied Pales­tinian ar­eas, es­tab­lish­ing to date some 500 Is­raeli set­tle­ments.

In turn, the Pales­tini­ans agreed in 2002, in ac­cor­dance with the Arab Peace Ini­tia­tive, to es­tab­lish their state on only 28 per cent of Pales­tine, rather than the 45 per cent granted to them un­der the 1948 par­ti­tion plan en­dorsed by the United Na­tions. More ad­van­ta­geous for Is­rael is that un­der the Arab Peace Ini­tia­tive, the 57 Arab and Mus­lim states, in­clud­ing Iran, that en­dorsed it are will­ing to es­tab­lish diplo­matic re­la­tions with Is­rael.

No Western power, in­clud­ing the United States, has never since 1967 prod­ded the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment about this is­sue, ex­cept to main­tain pub­licly that the set­tle­ments were il­le­gally es­tab­lished on “oc­cu­pied” land and as­sumedly should be re­turned to the Pales­tini­ans when a fi­nal peace agree­ment is reached.

This time Ne­tanyahu, as al­ways, had another dis­trac­tion to cover up his il­le­gal acts: his Cab­i­net’s ap­proved, on Sun­day, of what The New York Times de­scribed as a “con­tentious draft leg­is­la­tion that em­pha­sises Is­rael’s Jewish character above its demo­cratic na­ture in a move that crit­ics said could un­der­mine the frag­ile re­la­tion­ship with the coun­try’s Arab mi­nor­ity at time of height­ened ten­sions”.

The lib­eral Is­raeli daily Haaretz said the pro­posed “Ba­sic Law”, meant to serve as the ba­sis for an even­tual con­sti­tu­tion, has a “most ob­vi­ous prob­lem”, namely, mak­ing “con­sti­tu­tional the sec­ond-class sta­tus of Arab cit­i­zens”, who num­ber over 20 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion. “Ne­tanyahu’s bill,” said Haaretz, “does men­tion democ­racy and in­di­vid­ual rights, but it does not re­fer to the equal­ity of all Is­rael’s cit­i­zens”. In other words, “by ty­ing Is­rael’s iden­tity only to one peo­ple, it gives them con­sti­tu­tional priv­i­leges no other com­mu­nity can have ac­cess to”.

This pro­posal, drafted by sev­eral right-wing Cab­i­net mem­bers, can re­voke the rights of res­i­dents who “par­tic­i­pate in ter­ror­ism or in­cite­ment against the state of Is­rael”, an ob­vi­ous ref­er­ence to the Pales­tini­ans who live in Is­raeli-oc­cu­pied East Jerusalem. The re­vival of the sus­pended Is­raeli prac­tice of de­mol­ish­ing the houses of young Pales­tini­ans in­volved in one act of re­sis­tance or another, as has been re­ported re­cently, is, to say the least, un­fair and cruel since th­ese houses are owned by par­ents and not by the chil­dren.

The re­cent deadly at­tack on a Jewish synagogue, in which four Is­raelis were killed, holds no com­par­i­son to what Amer­i­can-born Is­raeli doc­tor Baruch K. Gold­stein did in He­bron 20 years ago. He en­tered a mosque in He­bron and opened fire, killing 29 wor­ship­pers and wounded more than 125. At Gold­stein’s fu­neral, Rabbi Yaakov Per­rin said that even 1 mil­lion Arabs are “not worth a Jewish fin­ger­nail”.

For sev­eral years Is­raelis came to his tomb in He­bron to cel­e­brate his crime. The Is­raeli army dis­man­tled the shrine in 1999. Much to the sur­prise of Is­raelis, in­ter­na­tional crit­i­cism of Is­raeli poli­cies has been abun­dant nowa­days.

Dahlia Scheindlin, an Is­raeli an­a­lyst and poll­ster, told the Times: “Is­rael is los­ing Europe on three lev­els: Pub­lic opin­ion has shifted de­cid­edly against Is­rael in most EU coun­tries, the EU it­self is in­creas­ingly think­ing about and im­ple­ment­ing poli­cies against Is­rael’s pres­ence in the West Bank, and, most re­cently, the waves of par­lia­men­tary dis­cus­sions and votes in favour of recog­nis­ing Pales­tinian state­hood.”

Var­i­ous Euro­pean rep­re­sen­ta­tives at the United Na­tions are re­port­edly se­ri­ously hop­ing to draft a res­o­lu­tion at the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, urg­ing the re­sump­tion of peace talks be­tween Pales­tini­ans and Is­raelis. Whether this ef­fort will yield any sig­nif­i­cant re­sult re­mains to be seen. One step that is ur­gently over­due is ad­mit­ting the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity to the United Na­tions. If this step is adopted, Ne­tanyahu will have to re­veal his think­ing about a set­tle­ment.

—Cour­tesy: JT [The writer is a Wash­ing­ton-based colum­nist]

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