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Mr Netanyahu, Mr Abbas, your time is up

Sol Salbe writes:

A call on both leaders of Israel and Palestine to revitalise attempts at peace scored an Australian media first today (Thursday). An identical article with same strong message was published in the Australian Jewish News and the Arabic language An Nahar.

The joint writers of the opinion piece were Joseph Wakim, a co-founder of the Australian Arabic Council and Harold Zwier, the Australian Jewish Democratic Society’s representative on the Jewish Community Council of Victoria. The two writers have contributed jointly to the media before, but this was the first time that their respective community newspapers simultaneously published their thoughts.

What makes the publication even more unusual is Wakim and Zwier’s message. They do not subscribe to either side’s narrative but are motivated instead by a will for dialogue in reconciliation. At the same time they do not spare their verbal rod from either Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu or Palestine’s Mahmoud Abbas( Abu Mazen).

I tend very much to agree with Wakim and Zwier’s message. They denounce Netanyahu’s pre-conditions, urge Abu Mazen to form a national unity government (a call echoed by the editors of Haaretz on Tuesday,) and generally cut to the chase.

I only have two reservations. Their comments on the issue of recognising Israel as the state of the Jewish people are accurate as far as they go, but immaterial. The issue is not how Israel defines itself but making the Palestinians accept that definition. As Uri Avnery said “it is none of their [the Palestinians] business”. There are quite a few people in both Israel and the Melbourne Jewish community who support a notion of a Jewish state but totally oppose forcing the Palestinians sign on the doted line on that definition.

The other reservation is almost trivial. The last sentence ends by alluding to “the new Middle East momentarily illuminated by the flash of lightning in Barack's words.” It is based on confusing Barak (Hebrew for lightning) with Barack (Swahili and Arabic for blessed) whose Hebrew equivalent is Baruch, not Barak.

Hopefully this is a beginning of a trend

Copy here is taken from ABC’s Unleashed website, which is headed Roadmap to peace needs new milestones. The heading below is from the AJN.

Mr Netanyahu, Mr Abbas, your time is up
by Harold Zwier and Joseph Wakim

We know that US President Barak Obama, the great orator, is seeking to inspire a "new beginning" in the Middle East. But that breath of fresh air was not supposed to bowl over the Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Their responses and counter responses have barely risen above the ashes of failed policies from last century, ashes that should have been buried under the bridge that is now before us. Rather than extending more olive branches from the remaining olive trees, Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas resorted to name calling and threats of dead sticks.

In September 1993, in an exchange of letters with Israel, the Palestinians recognised "the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security", but now Netanyahu demands even more: "Palestinians must truly recognise Israel as the state of the Jewish people", rendering Gentiles within its borders as second class citizens. The book of Ecclesiastes understood the propaganda wars when it said "all words are wearying".

But time has run out. Israeli and Palestinian leaders need to face their fears, hopes and expectations from the opposite sides of the negotiating table, rather than chest-beating and point-scoring to appease their coalition partners. And if they are unable to rise above past failures, they need to hear harsh, heartfelt and honest words from all of us.

Mr Netanyahu, if Israel truly seeks peace, it is time to restart direct negotiations with Mr Abbas with out the double-speak of "let us begin peace negotiations immediately without prior conditions" yet [Israel] "will not sit down at conference table with terrorists [Hamas] who seek to destroy it".

Mr Abbas, to be a credible negotiating partner you need to bring the democratically-elected Hamas into the political process, and present a united front with all factions recognising Israel as a sovereign state.

Mr Netanyahu, the expansion of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land works against resolving the conflict. In order to reverse the animosity, please heed the wisdom of President Obama - "it is time for these settlements to stop", without ifs and buts.

Mr Abbas, you need to lead by example and discipline your officials not to resort to name calling the Israeli Prime Minister as a "swindler and liar". When referring to Palestinians, Obama avoided loaded words like terrorist and suicide bomber in his bridge-building speech.

Yet Netanyahu squandered the momentum, preferring to use the pronouns they and them rather than refer to the Palestinian. But Palestinians should know that two wrongs never made a right.

Mr Netanyahu, you cannot accuse others of "confusing cause and effect", yet oversimplify history by blaming the dispossessed Palestinians: "the root of the conflict has been and remains the refusal to recognize the right of the Jewish people to its own state in its historical homeland".

Yes it is the promised land "where our forefathers ... walked", but these were shared forefathers for all people of the book, and it is also where Jesus walked. Your denial of any injustice to the exiled Palestinians is worse than terra nullius - do you genuinely believe that they were always people without a land, and that this is a good starting point for "mutual respect"?

Mr Abbas, rather than a pre-meditated and knee-jerk reaction to Mr Netanyahu's speech, why not rise to the podium of a leader and declare your own policies. Please heed President Obama's wisdom that "your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy".

Many Arab leaders before you have spoken eloquently and inspired a violent free solution. The floor is yours and we are waiting for you to "reimagine the world".

Mr Netanyahu, you cannot insult your neighbours with disingenuous throwaway lines such as "We will live side by side in true peace". Live within which borders exactly? With which capital if you have claimed Jerusalem as the "united capital of Israel"?

How can you be side by side with such unequal power, with Palestine "demilitarized"? With no borders, no army and no capital, how do you expect Palestinians to sleep at night "in true peace"? How can Palestinians take your offer to commence negotiations "without preconditions" seriously, when you contradict the offer with such a healthy set of ambit claims?

Mr Abbas, what progress can be made when your spokespeople regress to threats of a new Intifada: "we are headed toward another round of violence and bloodshed"?

It is pathetically predictable that both parties seek to appease their constituents, following the perceived majority, rather than leading their respective nations. But commitment without conviction is like presenting a body without a soul.

As President Obama declared "the cycle of suspicion and discord must end". Both parties need to unclench their fist from the mantle of victim, and see the new Middle East momentarily illuminated by the flash of lightning in Barack's words.

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Will it ever end?

That is a very good open letter and well done Sol for appropriating it to this site for our consideration.

Those fortunate enough to read this find themselves being led thru all the false dichotomies like a hot knife thru butter. We have the two state solution resolved withing the context of the needs of the wider region. We foresee the solution of the wedged Palestinians in the call for Abbas to bring Hamas into the equation. We sense the role the wealthy Western Jewish lobby and the rich autocratic oil states alike could play in lubricating a solution workable for all, against all the current squander of wealth; everything from Wall St Madoff speculation or money chanelled by the Lobby to Israeli military spending, to monumental palaces for the oil sheiks instead of the billions that could be spent making life bearable for the human family as to its Levantine constituency.

As a doco on SBS I think, the other night, made clear, Arabs and Israelis can resolve their differences in ways similar to what happened eventually in Northern Ireland and get to know each other at the personal level, if they are allowed to by axe-grinders on both sides.

The main thing, the US must not now backslide itself, or permit Netanyahu in particular, to backslide. Real pressure must be brought to bear on the Israeli redneck ruling clique and its developer mates to cease settlement construction and repatriate the squatters. The place is an open-air concentration camp or ghetto and Israel, with its heritage of all people , must stop this WW2-like barbarism toward its Palestinian victims.

And both Palestinian factions must understand that their goal is a future for their constituents as bearable as it it might be for Israelis: any goal for the elimination of Israel and Israelis, or for personal power as spoils of defeat, must bow before the interests of the Palestinian constituency and the region as a whole. Whatever the post WW2 injustices, it is no longer tenable or practicable to eliminate Israel, if for no better reason than the nuclear arsenal at Dimona, most of all when this prevents relief for the Palestinian people themselves.

But Israel must drop the furphy that underpins its sterile response to foreign policy, that the ragged, divided forces of the Palestinians represent any major military threat to Israel, whose interests would be guaranteed by the US and NATO anyway.

In short, no vainglorious Eretz Israel or vengeful destruction of Israel, particularly when it returns to its 1967 borders ( for there must be (an) unimpeded space for the Palestinians to live their lives to fulfillment, as well ).

Israel can be guaranteed if the will exists, but also, the Palestinians must , belatedly, have it recognised that thety must have some proper stake in the outcomes - this must be recognised - and this must acted on without further prevarications from Israel and the reluctant Americans, or other middle eastern countries, if the despair that leads to violence is not to be ended.

Why the West can't help the region and the region itself, can't put aside its differences in the interests of a prospective middle eastern community that uses resources for the benefit of its people thru meaningful development, rather than the continuance of the current arid status quo with all its squander, in all its physical and moral squalor, is beyond me!

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