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Does Israel want peace?
By Yonatan Preminger
Ynet / Israel Opinion
3 Nov 2010

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3978400,00.html

Those Palestinians are a joke. Israel makes concessions, expends every effort in confidence-building measures, and what do they do? Nothing.

In 2000, we withdrew from Lebanon. In 2005 we left Gaza, pulling out the settlers completely. In 2009 we agreed to a building freeze in the West Bank. For 10 months Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu risked his coalition to enable Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to sit with us at the negotiating table.

And what happened? Nothing.

What did the Palestinians do? What concessions did they make? Did they withdraw from Haifa? No. Did they stop construction in the heart of Tel Aviv? No. Did they dismantle their outposts in Kfar Saba which even the PA high court has ruled are illegal? Not one. They didn’t even try to stop the weekly raids on the agricultural lands of the Sharon plain.

They haven’t released hundreds of Israeli detainees held without trial in Ramallah jails. Their legislative assembly hasn’t stopped passing discriminatory laws to preserve the Palestinian character (whatever that is) of their state.

The absurdity of this comparison should be clear, but let’s say it plain: The Palestinians have almost no concessions they are able to make. They have almost nothing to offer, and thus almost nothing to lose. And having nothing to lose is not a position of strength, as it is often portrayed, but a position of weakness. For the sake of keeping body and soul together, you are forced to accept what your adversary (not “negotiating partner”) is willing to offer in order to be rid of you.

Israel is irked because it has found that the Palestinians too have their red lines. Facing an extremely wealthy cardsharp over the green baize, the Palestinians have nonetheless said: Some games we will not play.

Certainly the Palestinians could do more to make their society look better in Israel’s eyes. They could do more to make us feel more comfortable, more secure. We’d love to see a more transparent democracy (hypocrisy aside), or less corruption (ditto), or a more equitable distribution of funds entering PA territory (ditto yet again). But that’s not our business – it’s theirs.

Intellectual courage needed
We must look to our own state. And when seen as a state, as an entity, when its acts and words are taken as a whole, we must admit: Israel does not want peace.

Netanyahu may want a complete settlement construction freeze. Forever. Eli Yishai in his heart of hearts may favor a complete withdrawal to the pre-‘67 lines. Avigdor Lieberman may fervently believe that the evacuation of Ariel is the only way forward. But as long as nothing is delivered, it’s all irrelevant. Regardless of dovish groups, regardless of surveys “proving” that 60% or 70% or 99% of Israeli Jews are willing to make “painful concessions” for peace, what counts is what Israel does.

These words are not directed at those who want to maintain Israel’s grip on the West Bank or “transfer” Israel’s Palestinian citizens. They are enjoying all these futile talks and laughing at the rest of us for being so stupid. No, these words are for those who really do want to see a viable Palestinian state, who really are willing to withdraw to the ‘67 borders.

I don’t know how many they are. It may only be a handful. Does it include the columnists who reiterate those tired lines, “the Palestinians are doing nothing” while expressing their yearning for peace? Does it include the commentators who support IDF operations unquestioningly while weeping at the cruelty of war? Does it include the Zionist Left, inextricably stuck between the rock of “Jewish character” and the hard place of liberal democratic values?

There is so little intellectual courage among Israel’s leaders and thinkers, it is hard to know who would count themselves part of this handful, but let’s stop fooling ourselves, and demand honesty and clarity of thought. If we really want peace, we shouldn’t be seeking excuses and blaming the Palestinians for the lack of peace.

Say it loud: Israel holds the cards, and is playing them mercilessly to win ever more territory with ever fewer Palestinians at the expense of Palestinian rights and basic human dignity, while squandering any chance of peace. Only when enough people are willing to recognize this will we be able to demand from our own government, our own society, to pay the not-so-terrible price and make peace already.

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