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Negotiations – an obstacle to peace

Webdiarist Sol Salbe was born in Israel, where he did most of his schooling. Having spent the majority of his working life with Melbourne Public Transport he was a casualty of Jeff Kennett's privatisation. These days he spends most of his day in front of the computer trawling through the extensive Israeli media and other websites. Sol has kindly agreed to reopen the conduit to his magnificent Middle East news service (which relies predominately on Israeli sources which he often translates himself from the Hebrew) to Webdiary. Sol writes:

A few weeks ago the Australian media reported, with some approval, a message from Netanyahu saying that he supported peace negotiations. I am sure that many of my Palestinian colleagues would have shared my own wry smile at the Israeli PM support for the negotiations rather than peace. The point is that negotiations have been used to obstruct the prospects of peace. Few people express it as clearly and succinctly as Akiva Eldar does.

Negotiations – an obstacle to peace
by Akiva Eldar

As he was setting out for today's summit at the White House, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that although three Israeli prime ministers supported a two-state solution, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continued and, if anything, worsened.

Netanyahu better not try this argument with U.S. President Barack Obama. Obama's conduct and the messages sent by his aides demonstrate that the lesson they drew from the failure of the process launched in 1993 is completely different from the lesson Netanyahu learned. Unlike Netanyahu, the U.S. administration does not put the entire blame on the Palestinians. At best (from Netanyahu's perspective), the administration blames both sides equally. Obama should conclude that it would be wrong to waste time seeking a new solution to the conflict. It's much better to look for new ways to implement the old one; that is, to find better means of cajoling and enforcing than those used by previous administrations.

But today's conversation between the two men could produce a much worse outcome: an agreement to set up "task forces" to "prepare the ground to renew negotiations" based on a two-state solution. This would allow the next Israeli prime minister to say that this miserable formula has guided four Israeli prime ministers and three American presidents. If Obama strives to develop mechanisms like the road map, the Annapolis Declaration and task forces, he might go down in history as the American president who put the final nail in the coffin of the Oslo process. The 15 years of "peace process" have served as an alibi to build more than 100 new settlements and outposts, and to enlarge the settler population from 110,000 to nearly 300,000, excluding East Jerusalem.

Even if Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas spend the rest of their days negotiating the final settlement, the lack of an active mediator presenting a detailed plan might make Obama's two-state solution turn out very much like George W. Bush's Palestinian-state vision. Without an American leader equipped with both carrots and sticks, the president's initiative will be forgotten, just like the Bush-instigated UN decision to establish a Palestinian state. Without all this, Iran will mock the peace plan sold to Obama by Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

To convince both Palestinians and Israelis that the rules of the game have changed, Obama must demand that Netanyahu carry out his part of an agreement he actually signed with Bill Clinton and Yasser Arafat: the Wye River Memorandum of October 1998. A reminder: At Wye River, Netanyahu promised to change the status of 1 percent of Area C (under Israeli civilian and military control) to Area A (complete Palestinian control), and 12 percent to Area B (Israeli military and Palestinian civilian control). He also committed to resume negotiations immediately on the territories' permanent status, and to avoid any changes to the territories' current status.

Netanyahu will probably claim that his honoring of the agreement was what brought down his first government. But in a book, Netanyahu's cabinet secretary and negotiator Dani Naveh revealed that at the height of the Wye summit, an unpublished survey showed that 46 percent of Jewish Israelis supported Netanyahu, while 37 percent supported Barak (the overall Israeli population was split 41 to 37 in Netanyahu's favor). But despite this support, Netanyahu avoided implementing the agreement, missed a chance to set up a national unity government, bowed down to the radical right, lost the American president's trust and eventually lost the prime minister's chair as well. According to a recent Haaretz-Dialog poll, most of the population supports an agreement with the Palestinians on a two-state basis. Now, as then, Netanyahu's fate rests in the U.S. president's hands.

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Israel is here

During today's sermon, our pastor asked "Did you go to Church today", to which a member of the congregation gave the right answer, "We are the Church".  He later asked and answered Marilyn's question 'Where is Israel?' His answer was "this city is Israel".

The West  commodified citizenship. Rather than guaranteeing the safety of Jews in their own country, they prefered to pack citizenship up and export it to the middle east.

We do the same with refugees. Instead of guaranteeing their safety in their own country, we prefer to salve our concience with refugee law. Even sadder is that I suspect that if Australia was asked to sign the UN decleration now, they'd hum and haw. 

Safety in their own countries?

How do we do that Jay, when we are invariably the ones blowing their countries to bits and producing the refugees.

And the Jews were safe in their own countries in 1948.   They were in the care of the US, UK, France and others.

They were not refugees from persecution when they stole Palestine with our blessing.

Boots 'n all

How do we do that ?

You are quite right, Marilyn. Unless we really want to stop war, we're just wasting time. If we were really serous though, we'd be pooling most of national defence budgets to set up a strong, permanent UN peace keeping force with an independent, non-political go/no decision-making body. It would be multicultural and multi-religious and much cheaper than maintaining our own defence forces. They even could go into internal conflicts/failed states boots 'n all without having to worry about politics and how neighbouring states would take it.

And the Jews were safe in their own countries

And a little voice in my head keeps murmuring "and a peaceful, voluntary ethnic cleansing it was". So many solutions to so many people – except the voiceless Palestinians, of course.

We agree

So we agree, Paul, neither we (the western nations) nor the middle eastern nations really want peace. It is therefore unethical, and somewhat naive, to pretend that we want peace. That the middle eastern nations are equally  unethical and somewhat naive to prentend they want peace is true but interesting. I am concerned about my behaviour, not theirs.

Prostitution and child labour have  'a willing buyer and seller'.  I am, in principle, not against either of them. I'd happily pay neighbourhood kids to wash my car, and an adult porn star earns more in an hour than I do in a week - who am I to despise her? However, what makes these transactions evil is when there is a major difference in power between the buyer and seller.

The argument for free trade between countries is that in a trade, the first world will make $5 and the third world will make $1. Both countries are better off. True, and the way it goes is that ten years later, the first world is making $10 and the third world is making 50c.

A good question

Jay Somasundaram: "Is the West, for example, really convinced that peace in the middle east is in their interest?"

Are Arab regimes really convinced peace is in their interest? And if not, is it really in the west's interest to argue?

The way some would like to tell history, Americans have physically held people down and stuffed greenbacks down their jocks, then physically made them enjoy the gains. A market (any market) can only exist with a willing buyer and seller. America (the west) doesn't own and operate the market; America (government, companies, individuals), at least up to date, has only been better at reading it.

Peace Now! End negotiations Now!

Here is a two thousand year old song from one of the "group of squatters who call themselves Israel ":

I am what I am.
I shall be what I shall be.
I am what I shall be.
I shall be what I am.

Just for Marilyn.

"Where is Israel? Go on Alan, tell me where it is, what it is. Dare you."

In one sense I often sympathise with the sentiment expressed here and in the lead pieces by Sol Salbe and Akiva Eldar.

At times I too think it is time for Israel to unilaterally declare its borders, withdraw to them, and end all negotiations. Leave the mess to the knowalls, bigmouths, ratbag lefties (including the particularly ugly Israeli strain of the species), Arab autocrats, supercilious and racist Europeans, and fascist arselickers everywhere to sort out. After all it was they who created the problem in the first place and have carefully nurtured it for over sixty years.

Yes! End negotiations now!

Time for peace.

After all, you only have to look at the stuff Marilyn and others here have to say to wonder out loud what's the point of talking any longer?

No Alan

A bunch of people squatting in someone else's country is quite capable of building a good deal of infrastructure but that does not make it a country.

Where is Israel? Go on Alan, tell me where it is, what it is. Dare you.

Where is Israel

Marilyn Shepherd, this should get things started for you,

A country of southwest Asia on the eastern Mediterranean Sea. It was established in 1948 following the British withdrawal from Palestine, which had been divided by recommendation of the United Nations into Jewish and Arab states. Discord with neighboring Arab countries that had rejected the UN partition led to numerous wars, notably in 1948–1949, 1956–1957, 1967, and 1973. In the Six-Day War of 1967 Israel occupied the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Jerusalem's Old City, the Golan Heights, and the Sinai Peninsula. The Golan Heights and Jerusalem were later annexed, and the Sinai was returned to Egypt in 1982. A 1993 Israeli-Palestinian accord granted limited Palestinian autonomy in the Gaza Strip, and a similar accord calling for Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank was signed in 1994. Jerusalem is the capital and Tel Aviv–Yafo the largest city. Population: 6,430,000.

If you want to know anything further check the link below.


The land was stolen, it is not Israel

Alan, you can give me your material as long as you like but where is the border of Israel?


 Marilyn Shepherd, the Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, will lead a high-level delegation to Israel next month as part of an effort to strengthen political, business and cultural ties between the two countries.

Do you think you should contact her and tell her she is wasting taxpayers' money, because according to you Israel is not a country?

Yes, Minister

Perhaps we should learn a lesson from the TV series.

Its greatness was in laying bare the motives (with poetic exaggeration) of the stakeholders. When there is no peace, the overwhelming message is that the stakeholders (believe they) benefit more from the war than from peace.

If we want to achieve peace we need to start analysing and laying bare the motives of the stakeholders.

Is the West, for example, really convinced that peace in the middle east is in their interest?

Did anyone catch the episode in The Hollowmen on the Government's response to violence in East Timor? 

12 Tribes

What happened to the other 11?

The British Israel Society appear to believe that Dan reached Greece, Danaos, and eventually, Danmark and England. Judah has a birthright to only a fraction of Israel.

Let them remember this.

It might be Israel, Alan

It might be Israel, Alan, but it don't make it right.

And the country will still be Palestine

Akiva Eldar's book Lords of the Land was one of the more dreadful exposes of Zionist settler behaviour but no-one is addressing one simple fact and never have.

The country is Palestine and the UN vote was utterly illegal.

And the country is?

Marilyn Shepherd, the country is Israel, it is now and always will be.

Just get used to it.

No it isn't

There is a group of squatters who call themselves the state of Israel but Israel has never, ever been a country.

That is Palestine and always will be.

State of Israel

Marilyn Shepherd, when I was in Israel a few months ago it certainly looked like a country.

It had modern cities, with universities, museums, schools, hospitals all - with state of the art technology. They also have a parliament that runs the country, a country that is recognised by all except the Palestinians.

The Palestinians still have their people living in refugee camps, whilst their Arab brothers do not lift a finger to help them but manage to find money for horse-breeding, Formula 1 racing and building 6 star hotels.

I did not see one Israeli refugee camp.

I will tell you something, this bunch of squatters has one hell of an army and air force, without a doubt the strongest in region.

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