[News] Netanyahu's "brilliant" peace plan

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jun 17 15:10:25 EDT 2009

Netanyahu's "brilliant" peace plan
Hasan Abu Nimah and Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 17 June 2009


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed a peace plan so 
ingenious it is a wonder that for six decades of bloodshed no one 
thought of it. Some people might have missed the true brilliance of 
his ideas presented in a speech at Bar Ilan University on 14 June, so 
we are pleased to offer this analysis.

First, Netanyahu wants Palestinians to become committed Zionists. 
They can prove this by declaring, "We recognize the right of the 
Jewish people to a state of their own in this land." As he pointed 
out, it is only the failure of Arabs in general and Palestinians in 
particular to commit themselves to the Zionist dream that has caused 
conflict, but once "they say those words to our people and to their 
people, then a path will be opened to resolving all the problems 
between our peoples." It is of course perfectly natural that 
Netanyahu would be "yearning for that moment."

Mere heartfelt commitment to Zionism will not be enough, however. For 
the Palestinians' conversion to have "practical meaning," Netanyahu 
explained, "there must also be a clear understanding that the 
Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside Israel's 
borders." In other words, Palestinians must agree to help Israel 
complete the ethnic cleansing it began in 1947-48, by abandoning the 
right of return. This is indeed logical because as Zionists, 
Palestinians would share the Zionist ambition that Palestine be 
emptied of Palestinians to the greatest extent possible.

Netanyahu is smart enough to recognize that even the 
self-ethnic-cleansing of refugees may not be sufficient to secure 
"peace": there will still remain millions of Palestinians living 
inconveniently in their native land, or in the heart of what 
Netanyahu insisted was the "historic homeland" of the Jews.

For these Palestinians, the peace plan involves what Netanyahu calls 
"demilitarization," but what should be properly understood as 
unconditional surrender followed by disarmament. Disarmament, though 
necessary, cannot be immediate, however. Some recalcitrant 
Palestinians may not wish to become Zionists. Therefore, the newly 
pledged Zionist Palestinians would have to launch a civil war to 
defeat those who foolishly insist on resisting Zionism. Or as 
Netanyahu put it, the "Palestinian Authority will have to establish 
the rule of law in Gaza and overcome Hamas." (In fact, this civil war 
has already been underway for several years as the American and 
Israeli-backed Palestinian "security forces," led by US Lt. General 
Keith Dayton, have escalated their attacks on Hamas).

Once anti-Zionist Palestinians are crushed, the remaining 
Palestinians -- whose number equals that of Jews in historic 
Palestine -- will be able to get on with life as good Zionists, 
according to Netanyahu's vision. They will not mind being squeezed 
into ever smaller ghettos and enclaves in order to allow for the 
continued expansion of Jewish colonies, whose inhabitants Netanyahu 
described as "an integral part of our people, a principled, 
pioneering and Zionist public." And, in line with their heartfelt 
Zionism, Palestinians will naturally agree that "Jerusalem must 
remain the united capital of Israel."

These are only the Palestinian-Israeli aspects of the Netanyahu plan. 
The regional elements include full, Arab endorsement of Palestinian 
Zionism and normalization of ties with Israel and even Arab Gulf 
money to pay for it all. Why not? If everyone becomes a Zionist then 
all conflict disappears.

It would be nice if we could really dismiss Netanyahu's speech as a 
joke. But it is an important indicator of a hard reality. Contrary to 
some naive and optimistic hopes, Netanyahu does not represent only an 
extremist fringe in Israel. Today, the Israeli Jewish public presents 
(with a handful of exceptions) a united front in favor of a racist, 
violent ultra-nationalism fueled by religious fanaticism. 
Palestinians are viewed at best as inferiors to be tolerated until 
circumstances arise in which they can be expelled, or caged and 
starved like the 1.5 million inmates of the Gaza prison.

Israel is a society where virulent anti-Arab racism and Nakba denial 
are the norm although none of the European and American leaders who 
constantly lecture about Holocaust denial will dare to admonish 
Netanyahu for his bald lies and omissions about Israel's ethnic 
cleansing of the Palestinians.

Netanyahu's "vision" offered absolutely no advance on the 1976 Allon 
Plan for annexation of most of the occupied West Bank, or Menachem 
Begin's Camp David "autonomy" proposals. The goal remains the same: 
to control maximum land with minimum Palestinians.

Netanyahu's speech should put to rest newly revived illusions -- fed 
in particular by US President Barack Obama's Cairo speech -- that 
such an Israel can be brought voluntarily to any sort of just 
settlement. Some in this region who have placed all their hopes in 
Obama -- as they did previously in Bush -- believe that US pressure 
can bring Israel to heel. They point to Obama's strong statements 
calling for a complete halt to Israeli settlement construction -- a 
demand Netanyahu defied in his speech. It now remains to be seen 
whether Obama will follow his tough words with actions.

Yet, even if Obama is ready to put unprecedented pressure on Israel, 
he would likely have to exhaust much of his political capital just to 
get Israel to agree to a settlement freeze, let alone to move on any 
of dozens of other much more substantial issues.

And despite the common perception of an escalating clash between the 
Obama administration and the Israeli government (which may come over 
minor tactical issues), when it comes to substantive questions they 
agree on much more than they disagree. Obama has already stated that 
"any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel's 
identity as a Jewish state," and he affirmed that "Jerusalem will 
remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided." As for 
Palestinian refugees, he has said, "The right of return [to Israel] 
is something that is not an option in a literal sense."

For all the fuss about settlements, Obama has addressed only their 
expansion, not their continued existence. Until the Obama 
administration publicly dissociates itself from the positions of the 
Clinton and Bush administrations, we must assume it agrees with them 
and with Israel that the large settlement blocks encircling Jerusalem 
and dividing the West Bank into ghettos would remain permanently in 
any two-state solution. Neither Obama nor Netanyahu have mentioned 
Israel's illegal West Bank wall suggesting that there is no 
controversy over either its route or existence. And now, both agree 
that whatever shreds are left can be called a "Palestinian state." No 
wonder the Obama administration welcomed Netanyahu's speech as "a big 
step forward."

What is particularly dismaying about the position stated by Obama in 
Cairo -- and since repeated constantly by his Middle East envoy 
George Mitchell -- is that the United States is committed to the 
"legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a 
state of their own." This formula is designed to sound meaningful, 
but these vague, campaign-style buzzwords are devoid of any reference 
to inalienable Palestinian rights. They were chosen by American 
speechwriters and public relations experts, not by Palestinians. The 
Obama formula implies that any other Palestinian aspirations are 
inherently illegitimate.

Where in international law, or UN resolutions can Palestinians find 
definitions of "dignity" and "opportunity?" Such infinitely malleable 
terms incorrectly reduce all of Palestinian history to a demand for 
vague sentiments and a "state" instead of a struggle for liberation, 
justice, equality, return and the restoration of usurped rights. It 
is, after all, easy enough to conceive of a state that keeps 
Palestinians forever dispossessed, dispersed, defenseless and under 
threat of more expulsion and massacres by a racist, expansionist Israel.

Through history it was never leaders who defined rights, but the 
people who struggled for them. It is no small achievement that for a 
century Palestinians have resisted and survived Zionist efforts to 
destroy their communities physically and wipe them from the pages of 
history. As long as Palestinians continue to resist in every arena 
and by all legitimate means, building on true international 
solidarity, their rights can never be extinguished. It is from such a 
basis of independent and indigenous strength, not from the elusive 
promises of a great power or the favors of a usurping occupier, that 
justice and peace can be achieved.

Hasan Abu Nimah is the former permanent representative of Jordan at 
the United Nations.

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah is author of 
<http://electronicintifada.net/bytopic/store/548.shtml>One Country: A 
Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse (Metropolitan 
Books, 2006).

A version of this article first appeared in The Jordan Times and is 
reprinted with the authors' permission.

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