Despite the bad and failed Palestinian-Israeli negotiations throughout the past 17 years, and despite the consensus within the Palestinian Authority on terming these negotiations as futile, it has never happened that when a round of negotiations is about to begin it is met with overwhelming sense that it would inevitably fail even before it starts. Perhaps the reason is that each party now knows the stances of the other and can speculate in advance what the other party will put forward, and what it will accept or reject. What makes this all the more clear is that Netanyahu and his government do not feel embarrassed to publicly reveal their secret stances. In fact, they see this revelation a means to garner and widen domestic support.
When such a stance leads to some sort of crisis between the Israeli government and the US president, Israeli officials are encouraged by news of US backtracking from pressuring Israel, even on a single issue like halting settlement construction in Jerusalem. Israeli officials are even more encouraged when US envoy George Mitchell, prepares for a new round of his mission. The first step in the mission is a telephone call from the US president to Netanyahu in which they exchange words of confidence and the US president expresses US concern for Israeli’s security. If reporters ask the White House spokesman about the date of a scheduled meeting between President Obama and Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, he declines to answer the question. This situation generates a new development, prompting the Palestinians this time not to trust the US Administration’s promises. After all, they have trusted these promises for a long time without any worthwhile results, particularly since Barack Obama took office at the White House.
Given this atmosphere of frustration, the indirect negotiations, or the proximity talks, as US officials call them, will this time start unhurriedly. Mitchell arrived in the region and met with Netanyahu and today, Sunday, he will meet with Mahmud Abbas. He will then leave for Washington and return to the region after two weeks. Pending his return, the Netanyahu government continues to declare “some” of its demands to the Palestinians in the forthcoming negotiating process. As a reminder only, I will mention the following demands:
— Palestinian recognition of the Jewishness of the State of Israel;
— Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and will never be divided;
— Endorsement of the principle of exchange of territories as to ensure official annexation of the settlements surrounding Jerusalem to the State of Israel;
— The right of return will not be put forward for negotiations, because there is no such concept in international law called “the right of return,” that is, the right of return to a country that is not yours;
— The necessity to take into account the established facts on the ground when discussing the issue of settlements, and this issue was contained in a famous letter from former US President George W. Bush to [former Israeli Prime Minister] Ariel Sharon.
— The necessity to take into account the security needs when discussing the issue of border in order to ensure a permanent presence of the Israeli army along the Jordan River in any settlement.
Suffice it to consider these demands to ascertain in advance that the indirect negotiations will fail before they start, will fail when they start, will fail when they end, and will also fail when both parties engage in direct negotiations.
We must bear in mind here that the extremism that the Israeli policy expresses in the negotiation process with both Palestinians and Arabs — extremism that all successive Israeli governments have similarly demonstrated, is akin to a more dangerous extremism that is growing in Israeli society itself. The current situation in Israel is not only confined to the presence of a right-wing extremist government led by Netanyahu. In fact, the Israeli government position is an expression of a development of an extremist right-wing mentality within the Israeli society. This right-wing popular position is in harmony with the official right-wing government. As things stand, a dangerous state has evolved demonstrating that the entire Israeli society — political parties, committees, associations — is heading to an extremist right wing trend and, consequently, to fascism, racism, apartheid, and eventually transfer [last word in English][of Palestinians].
The growth of this phenomenon of extremism in Israel has become an issue that is discussed by writers and politicians in newspapers and even in debates in the Knesset. There are public examples expressing this phenomenon, some of these follow:
The Yisrael Beiteinu faction, led by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, submitted a “loyalty law” bill to the Knesset, which turned it down on the grounds that it was antidemocratic. That bill calls for rescinding the voting rights of anyone who infringes on the state’s democratic foundations.
Another antidemocratic bill, which is even more dangerous, was proposed to the Knesset by two right-wing, extremist Knesset members from the Qadima party, led by former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. The bill outlaws Israeli associations and organizations that seek to prosecute Israel officers or politicians for committing war crimes.
An Israeli security agency announced that Israeli settlers act secretly with the intension of assaulting mosques. A mosque in the village of Al-Laban al-Sharqiyah, south of Nabulus, was burned a few days ago. Also, a mosque in the village of Yasuf was burned in December last year, and the Huwwarah mosque was assaulted in April this year.
Another example is the organized campaign against the Ha’aretz newspaper, which is opposed to these right-wing policies. A caricature was posted on a website showing an Israeli soldier wearing a yarmulke with a knife driven in his back. The caption underneath the picture read “Ha’aretz journalists.” Moreover, a petition was signed and distributed calling for outlawing Ha’aretz, branding it as a terrorist organization.
There is also a law against those who mark the anniversary of Al-Nakbah [“the catastrophe” — reference to the events that befell the Palestinians in 1948]. The law wants them to celebrate the independence of Israel. This law was passed in the first reading. Commenting on these trends, Ha’aretz reported that what is happening in Israel is fascism itself; fascism is not a political movement, it is a general temperament. It added that extremist Jewish groups have taken control of Zionism in Israel and they attack anyone of the left-wing who criticizes them. It said: “We are witnessing the Yisrael Beiteinu faction usurping national feeling.”
When a society is engulfed by such sharp conflict to the extent that one Jewish faction does not condone the viewpoints of another Jewish faction, one can conclude what position these forces will take on Palestinian demands, even on those demands that do not transcend the framework of the Oslo agreement, which Israel signed.
Strangely enough, while all this is happening in Israel, official and popular voices come from the extremist right-wing factions calling on the Palestinians to cease what they call Palestinian “incitement.” According to Israel, Palestinian incitement includes all of the stances expressed in the Palestinian media outlets as well as all that Palestinian children are taught at school about their homeland, its history, Israeli road blocks, POWs, news of arrest, and deliberate killing during pursuit of Palestinians.
After all, Israel is an oasis of democracy, believe it or not; it is the only democracy in the Middle East, believe it or not!