November 27, 2006

A Close Look at Israeli Peace Offer.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's speech, supposedly offering a "hand of peace" is seen as a grand gesture by a peace-loving nation willing to make great concessions for peace. Accordingly, any refusal or coolness of Palestinian leadership is seen as another proof of their unwillingness to work for peace.

A closer inspection, with a touch of humanity, however reveals a more nuanced picture. Admittedly, the offer is a welcome one and has the potential for some kind of settlement. Yet it is important to appreciate why a Palestinian may not be that delighted with this plan.

First, the tone of the speech smacks of insensitivity to Palestinian tragedy brought about by the Zionist doctrine. Olmert, following Ben-Gurion, says that Israel is willing to settle for a "Jewish State without the entire land of Israel" for the sake of peace.
The international circumstances ... at this time, allow you and us to take a courageous step, which involves the need to make painful compromises and forgo those dreams which were part of our national ethos for so many years, and to open a new chapter offering hope for a better life for all of us.

We, the State of Israel, will agree to the evacuation of many territories and communities which were established therein. This is extremely difficult for us, akin to the Parting of the Red Sea, but we will bear it, in exchange for true peace.

There is a clear suggestion here of making a great sacrifice. Yet it is ludicrous to even compare sacrifices being demanded of Israelis and Palestinians.

The speech also has its liberal share of condescension. Olmert promises to "significantly diminish the number of roadblocks, increase freedom of movement in the territories, facilitate movement of people and goods in both directions, improve the operation of the border crossings to the Gaza Strip, and release Palestinian funds for the purpose of alleviating the humanitarian hardship which many of you suffer" in case of a positive Palestinian response. In other words, if Palestinians refrain from fighting injustices those injustices will promptly stop. Talk of putting the cart before the horse.

With regard to the the numerous "constructive" offers there are hints apt to cause alarm to many Palestinians. For one thing, there is no mention of a ceasefire in the West Bank. Perhaps typically Israeli army killed a 55-year old woman in West Bank today. Moreover, Olmert emphasizes that he intends to stick to the framework in Bush's letter of April 2004 to Ariel Sharon. This letter is an example of how solutions are being sought by the powers that be with total disregard of the aspirations of Palestinians. In it Bush quite calmly states,
In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion.

In other words, because the various Israeli crimes of the last few decades have created a whole new reality let us just take it from there. It is too inconvenient to address the issue of those crimes.

Unless one views issues in their proper historical and human contexts it is easy to fall into the trap of cleverly-enunciated political propaganda.


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