Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Obama calls Netanyahu "a man of peace".

Obama now joins George Bush in saying the utterly ridiculous in order to appease Israel. Bush said that Ariel Sharon was " a man of peace", a comment so ridiculous as to be beyond parody.

And now, from Obama, we get this:

Obama said he believed the Israeli prime minister was a man of peace.
Tell me one thing in the whole of Netanyahu's history that would lead any rational person to that conclusion?

This is the man who marched behind a coffin bearing the legend "Oslo is the death of Zionism". This is the man who some thought should be charged with incitement shortly after the assassination of Yitzak Rabin.

I am honestly at a loss to explain just what Netanyahu has done to bring about such a sudden change in Obama's tone.

Despite the dramatic change in public tone, there was little sign of significant movement on the underlying issues that led the Israeli ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, to say last month there had been a "tectonic shift" in relations.

The two leaders avoided speaking publicly about the issues that have led some in his administration to question whether the Israeli government is as serious about negotiations as it says.

Obama said nothing about the continued construction of Jewish settlements in occupied East Jerusalem which had prompted a bitter showdown in March after the Israeli authorities announced the building of 1,600 more homes exclusively for Jews while the US vice-president, Joe Biden, was visiting Jerusalem. Washington viewed that as a sign of contempt and evidence of Israeli indifference to the political impact of the construction on peace prospects.

Neither was there any mention of an extension to the partial freeze on building in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, which is due to expire in September.

Some members of Netanyahu's coalition cabinet, such as Benny Begin, son of the former hardline prime minister Menachem Begin, have said construction will resume at full force because there is little prospect of a peace agreement.

"The prime minister said a few times that the status of settlements would be determined only in a final-status peace agreement with our neighbours," he told Israel Radio. "Such agreement is not imminent at all. In the meantime, we have to ensure that our settlements are developed."

Does anyone seriously believe that Netanyahu has any intention of coming to any kind of peace deal with the Palestinians?

Here is what he has said on the subject before:

This is from Ha'aretz today: "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that Israel would never agree to withdraw from the Jordan Valley under any peace agreement signed with the Palestinians."

The Jordan Valley is the area on the far east side of the West Bank, adjacent to Jordan.

So here is what Netanyahu says Israel will never give up for a Palestinian state: (1) the entire area of East Jerusalem, massively expanded by Israel to include hundreds of thousands of Palestinians -- along with the holy sites of the Old City (2) all West Bank cities and settlements near Israel which will be incorporated into Israel itself (3) the huge city of Ariel smack dab in the middle of the West Bank.

Now, remember, Israel, without any of the occupied areas or East Jerusalem constitutes 78% of historic Palestine. The Palestinians want the other 22% to be their state, no more but no less.

Netanyahu is now ruling out a sizable chunk of that 22%, making any kind of Palestinian state impossible.

The silence from Washington should be deafening.

But Obama is now joining Bush in seeing "a man of peace" where the rest of us see no such bloody thing. My favourite line in the whole of this article is where the Palestinians are quoted stating, "Netanyahu is paying lip service to the establishment of their own state in order to pacify the Americans."

Got it in one. Anyone can say that they want peace. Indeed, Israel has been saying that since 1948. But, if you keep stealing someone else's land, it's very hard for any rational person to believe that you are serious about peace.

The reality of the settlements was highlighted by a new report by the leading Israeli human rights group, B'Tselem, today, which said that Jewish settlements now control nearly half of all land in the occupied West Bank.

The report said that the settlements take over land far beyond their nominal boundaries, ostensibly for security, much of it privately owned by Palestinians in breach of an Israeli supreme court ruling. B'Tselem calculated that more than 42% of the West Bank is under the control of the 300,000 Israeli settlers who live there. Settler organisations say the settlements control less than 10%.

The day Netanyahu talks about returning stolen land to the Palestinians as a means of ensuring a settlement between the two sides is the day when I will call Netanyahu "a man of peace". I have never seen any indication that he intends to do that. Nor will I be holding my breath for him to do so.

I think Obama is being ridiculously premature in attaching that title to a man with Netanyahu's track record.


Exposed: The truth about Israel's land grab in the West Bank
"The settlement enterprise has been characterised, since its inception, by an instrumental, cynical, and even criminal approach to international law, local legislation, Israeli military orders, and Israeli law, which has enabled the continuous pilfering of land from Palestinians in the West Bank," the report concluded.
Click here for full article.

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