Mideast Road to Nowhere. Guest blogger Marcus Einfeld

This blog by Marcus Einfeld is in response to the blog by John Tulloh of 16 October on the above subject.

John Tulloh’s 40 year career in international news gathering should have taught him that jumping into Israeli-Palestinian issues with instant judgements and simplistic solutions is unwise and simply assists to continue the conflict. The concept, promoted in Tulloh’s piece posted on this blog on October 16, that the only or principal cause of the ongoing problems in this long dispute is Israeli settlements is at best naïve. More importantly it demonstrates a seriously imperfect knowledge of the facts and of the problems that have defied solution at the hands of the world’s best diplomats for almost 70 years, during most of which there were no settlements at all.

Tulloh’s strange one-sidedness comfortably ignores the overwhelming majority desire in Israel for a peace treaty with the Palestinians based on the two state solution and the resultant evacuation of practically all the occupied territories including the settlements. It also conveniently fails to acknowledge the impossibility of negotiating with enemies holding the unashamed goal of Israeli destruction in preference to compromise and negotiation as equals. They seek, not the removal of the settlements, but the very removal of Israel itself.

It was also rather blind of an experienced journalist to overlook that even a potential peace partner like Fatah is more worried about what will happen to its leadership at the hands of Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad if it reaches an accommodation with Israel than anything Israel might or might not do or where some of its people might live. The hateful militancy of these terrorist organizations manifests itself not merely in their regular random killing of innocent civilians but in their frequent and regular pledges to their people and the world never to negotiate or allow peace with Israel. Mind you, they are just as vicious with their own fellow countrymen and women who aspire to peace as well.

To say the least, Prime Minister Netanyahu is and has always been much more a lucky opportunist than an inspiring leader and an enthusiastic peace maker, even more so than Prime Minister Sharon before him. Lucky because as in Australia a few weeks ago, recent election results in Israel owe more to the shenanigans of opposition parties than to Netanyahu’s personal popularity or acceptability to his constituents. Lucky because the terrorist organisations have given him no real choice but to take the populist if practical line of shoring up Israel’s defences waiting for the Arab parties to get their act together, which they never seem to show any signs of doing, and for the Muslim world to disavow terrorism and murder as mechanisms of progress. Lucky because the Israeli people have for some unknown reason apparently forgiven Netanyahu for his shameless role in the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

I agree with Tulloh that the peace process has not been worth its name in desert sand, basically ever since the Rabin assassination but I am surprised that he does not seem to realise that if a genuine peace were to be in prospect, still more if it were to break out with all borders secure and people safe, most of the settlements would be no more than a passing phase of history, whatever some might shortsightedly try to argue.

In the course of leading an Australian, World Bank and multinationally funded program, in the wake of the Oslo Agreements, to assist the Palestinians to build a legal system based on democratic justice and the rule of law in the 1980s and 90s, I met and spoke at length to virtually all the Palestinian Authority leaders and many others of their people. I have continued some of these contacts since. These leaders know full well that the settlements are in truth irrelevant because in substance they will largely go away in a peace treaty. They 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. They very well know that Israel could be, and in peace would be, a massive source of aid and support to a Palestinian State in almost every area of human and developmental activity, from music to irrigation and beyond.

But their extremists have for decades vetoed all efforts to make peace, ensuring the election of the Netanyahus, Sharons and the religious extremists, and taking the pressure off them to protect their people by pursuing peace with vigour, instead preferring a form of protection by building and expanding wherever they want. Many of these activities have certainly not helped the so-called “peace process” but they merely demonstrate the supreme irony that as Palestinian attitudes have sent the Israelis lurching to the right, more in fear and exasperation than aggression, Israeli activities have sent the moderate but disunited Palestinian leaders into shutdown mode.

Australians can do little to assist these parties to reach a compromise settlement of the issues which divide them. Rather than criticise one party alone, it would, in my view, be more helpful if those who wish to contribute to the public debate were to lend their talents to actions designed to show Palestinians what democratic statehood really means by contributing to the viability and peacefulness of a future Palestinian state and to challenge the Israelis to search for common ground based on mutual respect, understanding and constructive co-operation.

 

 

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