Mid-east Journey to Nowhere. Guest blogger: John Tulloh

I read Marcus Einfeld’s response to my blog regarding Israeli settlements posted on October 16 with both interest and incredulity. It seems that he has grasped my piece as an opportunity to voice his own musings on the question of Israel/Palestinian relations.

Mine was based on my own personal bewilderment why Israel on one hand says it wants peace, but on the other insists on aggravating the Palestinians by building settlements in disputed land when it has five times as much undisputed territory of its own. To a distant outsider, it doesn’t make sense.

Mr Einfeld suggests I have come up with ‘instant judgments and simplistic solutions’. Excuse me? I have made no judgments let alone been so naive as to offer solutions. He goes on to claim that for me ‘the only or principal cause’ of the current problems is the question of settlements. I wrote it was ‘one reason’ (my italics).

He then accuses me of ‘one-sidedness’. I do not understand this when I was merely laying out what were mostly indisputable facts about just one of the many factors in this endless conundrum. The question of settlements has been a recurring theme in news reports for years. An international journalist friend, having read my blog, wrote to me to say: ‘I would like to see you give (your) opinion’.

Mr Einfeld seems to believe I was – or should have been – writing an overview of the entire Israel/Palestinian question because that was the thrust of his tortuous response. My interest was simply the question of settlements.

He views it all through rose-tinted glasses, possibly based on his own involvement there in the 80s and 90s when there was a real chance of a deal. Indeed I recall assigning ABC coverage of his much-lauded aid visits to help the Palestinians. He says the overwhelming majority of Israelis want a peace treaty which would involve the ‘evacuation of…the settlements’. In such a case, ‘most of the settlements would be no more than a passing phase of history…’ That may have been an idealism in his late 20th century world when there were far fewer settlements, but the reality in the 21st century is different. After all, why would so many settlers today – 350,000 at the latest count – invest their long-term future in the West Bank if they seriously thought they would be forced to move elsewhere and lose most of their money in return for a two-state settlement? Again, it doesn’t make sense.

John Lyons in the Weekend Australian of November 2-3 has an article, quoting a Palestinian official, which says 15,000 Palestinians in Jerusalem will be left homeless because their apartment blocks are to be demolished by order of the Jerusalem Council. Meanwhile, the newspaper Haaretz reported that ‘Israel was about to advance construction plans for 5000 new housing units in Jewish settlements’. These are hardly the actions to enhance the prospects of a peace deal which Mr Einfeld says the overwhelming majority of Israelis want.

In fact, the same article also says: ‘Reports in the Israeli and Palestinian media suggest the talks are collapsing. Both sides are facing strong internal opposition. On the Israeli side, right-wing elements in the Knesset, led by the Minister of the Economy, Naftali Bennett, have made clear their opposition to any Palestinian state’.

Two other statements in Mr Einfeld’s response require an explanation:

What was Netanyahu’s ‘shameless role in Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination’? This is a rather extreme accusation.

Also, what does he mean by ‘They (Palestinian leaders) know that the so-called “right of return” of Palestinians to Israeli coastal areas is a hoax and a cruel play on words used to save Holocaust survivors, with no chance of fulfilment’? I do not understand what he is trying to say.

I am surprised that a man who has a distinguished reputation as a jurist could be so loose with his claims and statements. I hope you can find room on your blog to note the above

 

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