Netanyahu’s Doublespeak: Can He Be Restrained?
By Habib Siddiqui
After President Obama’s seminal speech in Cairo it was all too natural that Israel’s Netanyahu, the master spinner, would try his utmost to deflect world opinion to portray himself as a man of peace. He has learned the art of doublespeak quite well from his predecessors – from Ben-Gurion to Olmert. On June 14 he decided to deliver his own speech. If we were expecting a change of heart from this narcissistic individual whose extremist views and actions have not only killed many unarmed Palestinians but also led to the assassination of Rabin, we were mistaken. The speech was not meant for Palestinians but for the western audience, especially Obama, to deceive them. It was a deceitful speech, true to his nature!
While the civilized world has rightly recognized that the root of the conflict lies in the uprooting of the Palestinian people from their ancestral homes and the continuous refusal of the Zionist state to withdraw from the Occupied Territories allowing the Palestinian people to live as free citizens, Netanyahu said that 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.” What did you expect from this smooth-talking winker? Six years ago he said, “A Palestinian state – NO!” because “Yes to a Palestinian state means No to the Jewish state.”
In his speech, Netanyahu invoked the myth of historic rights by saying, “The connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel has lasted for more than 3500 years. Judea and Samaria, the places where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, David and Solomon, and Isaiah and Jeremiah lived, are not alien to us. This is the land of our forefathers.” He continues, “Eretz Israel is the birthplace of the Jewish People.” There is no denying that like the indigenous Palestinian people, the Hebrews – the Jewish people - once lived in Palestine. They were not the first settlers of the land though. Before the modern-day birth of Israel, in her 3500 year old history, Jews had ruled the territory for approximately 400 years, while Muslims had ruled the territory for nearly 1200 years (638-1918 CE). More importantly, there was a continuous presence of the Palestinian people for nearly five millennia, while Jews cannot claim such continuity. Not only were the Jews exiled and evicted from the territory in the Roman era (after the failed revolt of Bar Kokhba in 135 CE) and long before the conquest of the territory by Muslim Caliph Umar ibn Khattab (RA) in 638 CE, they suffered a similar fate in the pre-Roman era at the hands of Assyrian and Babylonian rulers. If religion is to be used as a valid criterion for justifying a real estate claim, then Palestinian Muslims, who revere the same prophets – from Abraham to Jesus, have more rights to Palestine.
Netanyahu said, “In 1947 when the United Nations proposed the Partition Plan for a Jewish state and an Arab state, the entire Arab world rejected the proposal…” It is not difficult to understand why the Arab world rejected the UN proposal. What the UN did was not only illegal going against its own charter, but also criminal to the core. It gave 56% of the territory to the Jewish state when the Jews only possessed 6.5% of territory before the partition was declared. When the Balfour Declaration was made, promising a Jewish homeland, they possessed only 2.5% of the land. The Balfour Declaration in itself was another travesty when, as Arthur Koestler rightly concluded, “One nation solemnly promised to a second nation the country of a third nation.” And thanks to Zionist terrorists of Haganah, Irgun and Stern Gang, the territory originally allotted to the Zionists by the UN was enlarged to include four-fifths of Palestine.
Instead of land, if we are to look at population, in 1880 there were only 30,000 Jews in Palestine, scattered among 600,000 Muslims and Christian Arabs. By 1930 their numbers had grown to more than 150,000. When Britain conducted a census in Palestine in 1922, there were about 84,000 Jews and 670,000 Arabs, of whom 71,000 were Christians. By the time the area was partitioned by the UN, these numbers had grown to about 600,000 Jews and 1.3 million Arabs, 10 percent of whom were Christians. Thus, the Jews comprised less than a third of the entire population, and yet, they were allotted 56 percent of Palestine. Is it difficult to understand why Arabs did not welcome the partition plan, which was illegal and unfair?
Netanyahu said he was ready to conduct negotiations with the Palestinian community “without preconditions.” And then, he put several preconditions! Netanyahu said, “Palestinians must clearly and unambiguously recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. The second principle is: demilitarization. The territory under Palestinian control must be demilitarized with ironclad security provisions for Israel… And obviously, the Palestinians will not be able to forge military pacts.” This pre-condition is disingenuous given the fact that by his use of the phrases “nation-state” of the “Jewish people”, Netanyahu is proposing to de-legitimize and uproot some 1.5 million non-Jews (i.e., Palestinian Muslims and Christians—the so-called Israeli Arabs) who live within the pre-1967 Israeli proper.
We should recall that in September 1993, Arafat sent a letter to the then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in which he stated unequivocally that the PLO recognized the right of Israel to exist in peace and security, accepted UN Resolutions 242 and 338, committed itself to a peaceful negotiated resolution of the conflict, renounced the use of terrorism and other acts of violence, affirmed that those articles of the PLO covenant that deny Israel’s right to exist were not longer valid. Even Hamas, the much maligned Palestinian organization in Netanyahu’s speech, is ready to accept the two-state solution with a Palestinian state living side by side Israel in the territories occupied in 1967. On June 16, 2009 Ismail Haniya, the leader of Hamas, made that announcement at a joint news conference in Gaza City with visiting former US president Jimmy Carter. Carter told reporters that solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict according to the two-state solution, with Jerusalem as the joint capital of the two states, was the best method of achieving a comprehensive and lasting peace.
Like all Zionists, obviously, Netanyahu is against sharing Jerusalem. His position on Jerusalem is unacceptable to all Muslims, and not just Palestinians.
Netanyahu’s call for demilitarization of the future state of Palestine is also criminal. If past and present records of war crimes are a sure way to decide who should be demilitarized, it is Israel that deserves demilitarization more than the Palestinian side to protect unarmed civilians. He wants to turn the proposed Palestinian state into another Gaza by having full control over air and sea. If Gaza is not enough of an eye-opener for all to see what such control will do to the new state, what will? He also talks about “defensible borders” which, as rightly noted by Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery, is a code-word for “no return to the pre-1967 borders”. This is an untenable position and violates several UN resolutions.
Netanyahu said, “The Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside Israel’s borders. For it is clear that any demand for resettling Palestinian refugees within Israel undermines Israel’s continued existence as the state of the Jewish people.” What he means is that he is against return of millions of Palestinian refugees. This is at odds with the U.N. Resolutions. One may recall during and after the 1948 war, about 420 Palestinian villages in the territory that became part of the State of Israel were destroyed and some 700,000 Palestinian residents were driven out. By 1964 when the PLO was formally organized, there were, according to the UN estimate, 1.3 million Palestinian refugees, with one-fourth in Jordan, about 150,000 each in Lebanon and Syria, and most of others in West Bank and Gaza refugee camps. Nor should we forget that when Israel launched pre-emptive strikes on June 5, 1967 and within six days occupied the Golan Heights, Gaza, the Sinai, Jerusalem, and the West Bank another 320,000 Arabs were forced to leave the additional areas in Syria, Egypt, Jordan, and Palestine that were occupied by Israel. A number of UN resolutions were adopted with U.S. support and Israeli approval, reemphasizing the inadmissibility of acquisition of land by force, calling for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories, and urging that the more needy and deserving refugees be repatriated to their former homes.
As to the settlements, Netanyahu said Israel has no intention of building new settlements. However, building construction inside the settlements will continue to “enable the residents to live normal lives.” It is obvious that like his predecessors, Netanyahu will continue to ignore pleas from the international community including those of President Obama in Cairo to halt settlement expansion. While Israeli settlements are illegal per international law, he said, “The settlers are neither the enemies of the people nor the enemies of peace. Rather, they are an integral part of our people, a principled, pioneering and Zionist public.” We should have known that the Zionist state was a colonial settler enterprise much like what South Africa once was before the apartheid wall fell!
The USA has a strong role in any peace effort involving the Middle East. Former President Carter has said in this book - Palestine Peace and Not Apartheid, “The U.S.’s constant policy had been predicated on a few key UN Security Council resolutions, notably 242 of 1967 and 338 of 1973. Approved unanimously and still applicable, their basic premise is that Israel’s acquisition of territory by force is illegal and Israel must withdraw from occupied territories. More specifically, U.S. policy was that Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza were “illegal and obstacles to peace.””
It is high time that the Obama Administration and the U.S. Congress take immediate steps to support the President’s statement that “the United States does not recognize the legitimacy of further settlements” and support a solution to the conflict based on UN Security Council Resolution 242 and General Assembly Resolution 194, the foundation of the Arab Peace Initiative. Let not a sly voice coming out of Israel choke the euphoria generated in the civilized world with a prospect of a real peace in the Middle East.