Palestinians declined to take the bait of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday. Netanyahu offered an extension of the 10-month freeze on new Israeli settlements in the Palestinian West Bank in return for a PA acknowledgment of Israel as a “Jewish State.” Obviously, the phrase has some covert significance for the Israeli Right, and perhaps it is intended to bestow on Israel a right to denaturalize and expel Palestinian-Israelis. The phrase may also be intended to forestall any return to Israel of the Palestinians ethnically cleansed from that territory in 1948.
Fatah official Saeb Erekat said he could not understand what Israel’s self-definition had to do with negotiations over the shape of a Palestinian state, and pointed out that the PLO had exchanged letters in 1993 recognizing the state of Israel. (The Palestinians do not understand how the Israelis can negotiate over the West Bank in good faith if they are de facto annexing large swathes of it even as the talks proceed.)
Israeli foreign minister and far-right social engineer Avigdor Lieberman lost his temper Sunday in a meeting with the Spanish and French foreign ministers. He told them to go solve Europe’s own disputes before coming to the Mideast and instructing Israel how to resolve its. Lieberman is then accused in some quarters of having leaked his comments to the press, embarrassing Spain and France. He is said to have pointed to France’s ban on the niqab or full Muslim face veil, and to Switzerland’s ban on minarets as signs of European difficulty in dealing with Muslims.
(Lieberman does not appear to understand the difference between banning the niqab, which is worn by almost no one in Europe, and keeping over 4 million human beings for decades in a condition of statelessness wherein they have no real human or civil rights.)
Lieberman, already angling for title of most corrupt politician in elective office in the world, now appears to be trying for the additional title of Worst Foreign Minister in the history of foreign ministers.
Spain and France, undeterred, continued their fact-finding mission in the region. France’s Bernard Kouchner even admitted that it may be necessary to go to the United Nations for a declaration on a Palestinian state.
From another side, Mahmoud Abbas told the Arab League summit this weekend at Sirte, Libya, that Israel has unilaterally abrogated the Oslo accords and other understandings it had reached with the Palestine Authority. It has stripped the Authority of much of its power, and makes daily incursions into PA territory.
Abbas raises the possibility that if the negotiations with Netanyahu continue to be frozen, he would go to the UN General Assembly with a plan for a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state, to be blessed by the UNO.
The problem is that although the UN could give Palestine a seat as a nation, unless the Israeli army were induced to withdraw from the West Bank and to cease blockading Gaza (which is being economically strangled by an illegal and inhumane Israeli ban on civilian exports), the resulting “state” would remain a fantasy.
If NATO would agree to reassign the troops now beginning to withdraw from Afghanistan to Palestine, and would face down any Israeli intransigence, now that would be a plan.
But nothing so dramatic is likely to ensue. Fanatics like Lieberman have taken over Israel and they have no future in a Muslim Middle East that is now growing faster than Israel economically and which is likely to become more and more militarily and scientifically sophisticated. As Obama’s initiative for a two-state solution is thwarted by the Liebermans and Netanyahus, their actions guarantee that Israel’s future in coming decades is bleak. Unfortunately, the attendant trouble generated by that bleakness is likely to fall on the heads of all our children.