by Adam Keller
Will the Palestinians ever get free of Israeli occupation? Will there ever be peace between the State of Israel and the State of Palestine? If any of these things ever happen, Bahaa Samir Badir will not be there to see it.
On the night, the day before yesterday, Israeli soldiers entered the village of Beit Laqiya near Ramallah, a routine act such as happens every night in various parts of the West Bank. The village youth resisted the entry of the soldiers into their village, using stones and Molotov cocktails – as young Palestinians do in an increasing number of cases in recent months. Bahaa was shot in the chest and his life ended at the age of 13. Thousands joined in his funeral march. One more name was inscribed in the very very long list of victims and of martyrs for the Palestinian national cause.
Ron Prosor, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, is very angry this week. He is angry at Palestinian diplomatic terrorism. Yes, diplomatic terrorism which Prosor says is as bad as any other kind of terrorism, a diplomatic terrorism whose aim is “creating unilateral facts on the ground” (A rather odd charge, when Prosor’s own bosses are dedicated to relentless settlements construction…) It was diplomatic terrorism when two years ago the Palestinians asked for the State of Palestine to get the status of an Observer State in the United Nations and 138 countries voted in favor. It is diplomatic terrorism when now they appeal to the Security Council to establish a timetable for ending the Israeli occupation. And Sweden is aiding and abetting diplomatic terrorism with its “irresponsible statement at a very unfortunate timing“ declaring an intention to recognize the State of Palestine. Diplomatic terrorism, in short, is any diplomatic act taken by Palestinians other than sitting at the negotiating table with representatives of the Government of Israel.
Prosor made an impassioned plea to the international community to “prevent the Palestinian cart from rolling off the cliff”. “True peace will not be achieved through unilateral measures, only via direct negotiations, the distance between Ramallah and Jerusalem being much shorter than to New York or Stockholm.”
What would happen if the Palestinians were convinced by the rebuke of the passionate Ambassador, and would consent to engage in yet another round of direct negotiations with Netnayhau’s representatives?
It so happened that Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon granted this week an extensive and candid interview to “Israel Today.”. As he made clear in no uncertain terms, in Ya’alon’s vision of the world there will never be an end to the conflict. The conflict with the Palestinians will continue “until the last of our enemies understands that we are here to stay.” But that will probably never happen because “They are not truly concerned with establishing a Palestinian state, but with destroying the Jewish state”. Therefore “we must learn how to manage this conflict without illusions” and to barricade [ourselves] behind “An Iron Wall”. Ya’alon showed political acumen in quoting both the term “Iron Wall” – derived from the teachings of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, spiritual father of the Likud Party – and also a virtually identical statement by Dr. Moshe Beilinson, prominent among Jabotinsky’s Socialist Zionist ideological rivals.
A Palestinian who comes to the negotiations table has definitely nothing to expect from the government in which Ya’alon is the Defense Minister. Abu Mazen? “He is a partner for discussions, a partner for Conflict Management. I am not looking for the solution.” A Palestinian state? “We need to free ourselves of the notion that everything boils down to only one option called a [Palestinian] state. As far as I am concerned, let them call it the Palestinian Empire. I don’t care. In practice, it is an autonomy”.
Probably, British Parliament Members did not read Ya’alon’s special interview, though it was published also in English – but they did see the footage of destruction and devastation which the State of Israel poured upon Gaza, and heard quite a lot about the wave of land expropriations and settlement construction which began immediately after the bombing ended.
There was a prolonged debate at Westminster over the motion to support recognition of the State of Palestine. Possibly the single most important contribution was of Richard Ottaway, the Conservative Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, who said that before he became a Tory he had already been a supporter of the State of Israel and its right to exist after the Holocaust.
As he told the gathered MPs: “Looking back over the past 20 years, I realise now Israel has slowly been drifting away from world public opinion. The annexation of the 950 acres of the West Bank, just a few months ago, has outraged me more than anything else in my political life. It has made me look a fool, and that is something I deeply resent. I have to say to the government of Israel: if it is losing people like me, it is going to be losing a lot of people.”
And so, after five hours of debate, the British Parliament voted by an overwhelming majority of 274 against 12 to for recognizing the State of Palestine. Several of the speakers had referred to the public call of 373 Israeli citizens, including well-known public figures:
“We, Israelis who worry and care for the well-being of the State of Israel, believe that the long-term existence and security of Israel depends on the long-term existence and security of a Palestinian state. For this reason we, the undersigned, urge Members of the UK Parliament to vote in favour of the motion to be debated on Monday, 13th October, 2014, calling on the British Government to recognize the State of Palestine alongside the State of Israel “
Ninety-seven years ago, British Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur James Balfour issued a famous document stating that “His Majesty’s Government views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” – to which a specific condition was set: “it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious’ rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”.
Not even the most staunch of Zionists would dare state that this “clearly understood” condition was actually complied with. In practice, there did happen during the following century an all too serious “prejudice” to the rights of the non-Jewish communities living in 1917 in the Ottoman province. This week, Her Majesty’s Government has made at least a small step to compensate for this damage, when Prime Minister Cameron chose to absent himself from the vote and by his absence facilitate the passage of the resolution.
The British vote will probably have sequels. According to French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius “It is only logical” that France would recognize a Palestinian state. “The only question is what steps will be most effective in achieving peace, we do not want a merely symbolic step. Until now, the concept was that recognition has to be directly linked with negotiations. But at the moment that negotiations are no longer possible, or that clearly they would not lead to any agreement, France would of course not shirk her responsibilities”. For their part, Members of Spanish Parliament are probably going to emulate their British counterparts and call upon their government to recognize the State of Palestine, too. An especially significant step considering that Spain is about to join the UN Security Council, one of the countries on whom will fall the decision on the Palestinian request to set a date for ending the occupation.
Adding to Netanyahu’s headaches came this week an unexpected public challenge from a group of disaffected young Israelis who had moved, of all places, to Berlin. Some of them left Israel behind with a feeling of despair at the rightward trends in Israeli society, the decreasing and disappearance of the chances for peace, the increase of extreme nationalism and racism, and the lack of hope for a positive change. For others, the last straw was the soaring cost of living, the inability of young people to find an apartment at an affordable price, and the failure of the 2011 social protest movement which brought hundreds of thousands of demonstrators out into the streets but failed to achieve any concrete change in government economic policies. Undeterred by the dark shadows of Berlin’s past, the young Israelis find Berlin of 2014 to be a young and vibrant city, in which democracy is solidly established – and where both consumer goods and housing are incomparably cheaper than in Israel.
Members of this taboo-breaking self-exiled community came up with the subversive slogan “Making Aliya to Berlin”. Four words which flagrantly overturn the traditional order of Zionist moral values, whereby a Jew who comes to Israel from any other place is performing a praiseworthy “Aliya” (Ascent) while anyone leaving Israel is guilty of contemptible “Yerida” (Descent).
“Israel of 2014 is a nation state for rich Jews, high-tech workers and generals’ children” wrote one of the protest organizers. “A state in which young people have no chance of buying a house and can’t afford to raise a child, where a working person is poor and humiliated and a student lives like a dog.
Elections can change nothing, nothing but the identity of those in power. The policies will remain the same. The politicians know for whom they are working, and it is not for you. “Vote with your wings.” Flock to Ben-Gurion Airport in masses. Let the government chase after us to Berlin and try to convince us to come back. Believe me, if we get 100,000 or 200,000 Israelis in Berlin, we will start seeing some changes in Israel. See you in Berlin!”
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