The Palestinian Paradox / Zvi Mazel

While Israel has shown in the past year a greater willingness to meet the Palestinians half way as exemplified by Netanyahu's Bar Ilan speech the Palestinian Authority has chosen the opposite course and adopted a rigid position which prevented the resumption of the peace process, launching an all out diplomatic, media and legal war against the Jewish state the world over.
Obma's intense wooing of the Muslim world coupled with his demand that Israel put a stop to all building in West Bank settlements and in Jerusalem led Arab states to believe that the United States was about to change its policy regarding Israel. Feeling that he had the backing of all Arab states and of the European Union, Abu Mazen immediately declared that he would not come back to the negotiation table until all construction – Jerusalem included - had indeed been stopped. He refused to budge from this position even when Netanyahu decided on a ten-month freeze on private building, a measure which put him on collision course with the settlers and part of his own electorate.
Thus while Israel made far reaching concessions without entering in any negotiations, the Arabs have toughened their stance and demand more "gestures". The European Union is ratcheting the pressure and has issued a declaration calling for an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders and for Jerusalem to become the capital of both countries. This would in effect render negotiations useless by determining their outcome from the outset. Yet the Europeans are well aware of the fact that returning to the 1967 borders is no longer possible and that the refugee problem and the thorny question of Jerusalem and the Holy Basin make it almost impossible to find a solution acceptable to both sides. This has been demonstrated at Camp David, at Taba and in the Annapolis talks. In spite of Israel's ongoing dialogue with the United States in search of the right formula for the resumption of talks, the position taken by the Obama administration and the unfair pressure exerted by the European Union have brought down the fragile structure which had previously made possible negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Though these negotiations did not bring about the desired peace, they did constitute an agreed channel for discussions between the two parties.
One has to remember that Israel gave its agreement to an American proposal to train Palestinian forces in Jordan under the supervision of general Dayton, thus paving the way for the creation of a regular Palestinian fighting force trained with Western methods. This was a major concession and a risky one. This force is intended to keep order in Judea and Samaria, and does the job; however who is to say that they would not turrn against Israel under different circumstances? Yet it is Abu Mazen, who refuses to move one inch, who gets worldwide support while Israel is accused of thwarting all peace efforts.
It is as if the world has forgotten that Israel already made the most extraordinary concessions at Camp David and in Taba. Yet not only did Arafat turn down the Israeli proposals at Camp David, he did not make any counter proposition. It should have been obvious that it had been the Palestinians who refused to make peace. The same scenario played out at Annapolis in 2008. Olmert made even greater concessions, but that was not enough for Abu Mazen: he walked out when Olmert suggested a joint administration of the Temple Mount. He wanted everything. In a lengthy interview to the Al Jazeera channel on March 27, 2009, Saeb Erekat explained that this had been Arafat' s position at Camp David : when then president Clinton told him he would be the first president of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, but that he had to recognize the fact that vestiges of the Temple are buried under Al Aksa mosque (sic) and there would have to be joint administration of the Temple Mount, Arafat stood up and put an end to the negotiations.

There has been no Israeli denial following these revelations and recent interviews by Abu Mazen and by Olmert support Erekat's version of what happened, the meaning of which is that there is no hope of a compromise on Jerusalem. Then there is the ever present refugee question, for which no solution can be found. What is highly to be deplored is that successive Israeli leaders did not see fit to make those facts public. The latest round of negotiations carried out by Olmert and Livni enjoyed a degree of secrecy rarely seen here. Thus the fact that they failed was kept under wraps as was the extent of the concessions the two leaders had been ready to make – perhaps for fear of the impact of these revelations on the coming elections. This was to prove a mistake of colossal proportion and we are paying dearly for it. The two leaders should have told the Knesset, the country and the world that the extremely generous terms – some would say overly generous – offered to the Palestinians had been turned down, putting the blame squarely on Abu Mazen. Such a step would have gone a long way to defuse the situation with Obama and his advisers. It seems that the new government led by Netanyahu had not been fully conversant with the details of the failed negotiations and was thus ill prepared to deal with the accusations leveled against it. This is an eloquent demonstration of the extent to which adhering to narrow partisan and personal interests can lead to disaster for the country.
Then came the Goldstone report. The main message there is not so much the totally unfounded accusations of war crimes but an attempt to limit the extent to which Israel is "allowed" to use force to defend itself against terrorist organizations. In effect, these organizations are handed an impressive weapon to use against Israel in the political, legal, moral and even military fields – with no justification whatsoever. Such a move was not totally unexpected coming from the United Nations and especially from the Committee on Human Rights, where Islamic and Arab countries have a decisive voice. What was not expected was that it would lead, for instance, to the White House asking for "clarifications" following a recent operation in Nablus (In a confrontation with Israeli security forces, three terrorists who had murdered a father of seven were killed). This demand, made at the request of the Palestinian Authority, constitutes a dangerous precedent. Coupled with the Goldstone report, it tends to present a difficult dilemma to the government and to the Security Forces when contemplating military intervention. At the same time, terrorist organizations, at the behest of some Arab countries, will be able to keep attacking our citizens while sheltering behind their civilians, in hospitals, in schools and in mosques. Hamas to the South and Hezbollah to the north regularly launch bellicose tirades against Israel. They proclaim on every available channel that they will never recognize Israel and that they will fight until the Jewish state has disappeared – without causing an international furor. In fact Arab organizations supported by Leftist Western groups are busy getting arrest warrants issued against Israeli leaders and army officers for so-called "war crimes" in European countries having relevant legislation, calling for boycotting Israeli products and demonstrating their support for Gaza.
In each and every successive confrontation with Israel, Arab States and Palestinian movements have been defeated. Now they are seeking other ways to harass Israel. They are waging an all out media war to blacken its image and ultimately delegitimize its very existence. They are helped in this endeavor by hundreds of Leftist organizations and civil society movements in the West which see in Moslems in general, and in Palestinians in particular, members of the downtrodden third world needing their support to atone for the sins of colonialism. For them Israel is a neo-colonial power as are the United States. But Israel is an easier prey because of its size and isolation. Anti-Semitism is also at work here. Palestinian and Arab media, with the full support of the Islamic establishment in Arab countries, use every anti-Semitic cliché in the book and some of that leached into the West where it led to a renewal of classic European anti-Semitism.
Unfortunately European media too often side with the Arabs in their fight against Israel. Reports sent by the dozens of journalists stationed in Israel are giving a slanted and exaggerated image of the smallest incidents and their readers, who are not well versed in the intricacies of the conflict, are left with erroneous impression of what is really going on.
Reviled, isolated, the Jewish State is thus facing what is rapidly becoming a strategic threat on its very legitimacy and existence.
Here lies the Palestinian paradox: while Israel has made great efforts to move towards a solution to the conflict, Palestinian leaders, riding the crest of favorable public opinion in the West, are becoming more and more intransigent – and it is Israel which takes the blame!
It is high time for the government of Israel to sit up and take note of what is happening. Something must be done, and fast. We have enough talented and qualified people in the government and in the country; what is needed is the realization that the time has come to act.

Zvi Mazel was Israeli ambassador to Sweeden

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