09/14/2010 Jerusalem Post
They have many advantages, including the support of the mainstream American media and an American public that still views the Leon Uris book Exodus as the bible of Middle East history.
I don’t want to burn that bible, but I think it is important to weigh both sides and what they are really saying, to look past the rhetoric and analyze what is really being sought.
Both sides want peace. Even the fanatics want peace. They just want it at the end of a war with their opponents vanquished.
Real peace means balance, and balance has never been a major component of the ongoing negotiations that began in 1993 in – to use a sports analogy again – the White House Stadium.
LET’S LOOK at some key issues.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is making his case that Israel needs to end settlement expansion and address the core issues. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is responding with the assertion that settlement expansion is not the key issue here.
Rather it’s Palestinian violence (Israel’s security) and the acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state – a new precondition that has risen from the stalemate of years of failed negotiations.
According to Netanyahu, equilibrium does not exist between Palestinian demands on settlements and Israeli demands on security and defined recognition.
But that equilibrium does exist and Netanyahu can’t simply brush it aside.
To the Palestinians, the issue has never been rejecting Israel’s right to exist but rather Israel’s imposed right to grab any land it wants.
To Israel, the issue is security and being recognized as a “Jewish state.”
The fact is Palestinians have recognized Israel’s right to exist. That is not only inherent in their repeated declarations but also in the fact that Palestinians are sitting down and negotiating two states.
Despite that, though, Netanyahu has asserted that the Palestinians have not compromised and they do not recognize Israel’s right to exist, with the new caveat of being a “Jewish state,” and he has insisted that Israel, and he personally, have recognized the rights of Palestinians.
What rights are those Mr. Netanyahu? If Israelis can’t recognize that Palestinians have land rights, then what rights are they offering in exchange for a cessation of violence to reinforce security for Israel? What is Israel going to give the Palestinians in exchange for bringing this conflict to a final resolution? Ironically, the extremist movements of both the Israelis and Palestinians are being fed by Israel’s rightwing rhetoric. Many Israelis do not recognize the West Bank as the West Bank at all and in fact refer to the area as “Judea and Samaria.” It is an offensive term that is the equivalent to “Zionist state” used by many Palestinians who refer to the 1948 lands that were occupied by Israel.
Additionally, the right-wing Israeli sentiment is clear. They argue that the Palestinians, and Arabs, lost repeated wars and therefore also lost their right to claim ownership of the lands taken in those wars.
That is exactly the fuel that feeds the growing extremist movement. Because what Israelis are really saying to Palestinians is: “You only will get what we want to give you, and if you don’t like it tough luck.”
If Israelis really want peace, they need to drop the car dealership hustle and start speaking openly, candidly and compassionately about peace. Israel has the upper hand in this relationship. For now.
IF PEACE talks collapse, the Palestinian secular movement will eventually disappear and Israel will not only face the Hamas religious movement but the unbendable and uncompromising Islamic world, which increasingly is building its power and strength and would shift the balance in favor of a one-state solution.
The writer is an award winning columnist and Chicago radio talk show host. www.YallaPeace.com