Those who predicted that the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was serious in his pursuit of peace should now engage in some self-reflection. Netanyahu is a manipulative and deceitful man of the highest order, and it is a fact that he does not want to achieve a genuine peace settlement, which would lead to a viable Palestinian state. Instead, he has demanded complete Palestinian and Arab submission, to all his prohibitive conditions, and provocative maneuvers. His latest ‘negotiating’ maneuver came the day before yesterday, when he offered to extend the freeze on settlement construction in exchange for Palestinian recognition of “Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people”. The Palestinians responded with a swift and unequivocal rejection, because to accept this offer would mean abolishing the Palestinian refugees’ right to return, and sacrificing the Israel Arabs, whom hardened extremists in the Israeli right do not hide their desire to expel one day.
Netanyahu’s offer, or rather his poisoned dagger, came two days after his government adopted, by a large majority, the so-called ‘Loyalty Law’, which applies to those applying for citizenship, of non-Jewish descent, requiring them to declare their loyalty to Israel, “the Jewish democratic state”. This law has been described as racist by many, and has not only faced Arab criticism, but has been attacked from intellectuals inside Israel itself. Isaac Herzog, Israeli Minister of Labor and Welfare, left the intergovernmental meeting which adopted the ‘Loyalty Law’, saying that this law had brought Israel into a dark tunnel, descending towards fascism. The law was also attacked by a number of Hebrew newspapers, who saw it as a racist step, and not in line with the democratic principles embodied in the state. It raises problems for Israel, both internally and abroad.
Netanyahu is cheating, he is speaking with more than one tongue, to satisfy his extreme right-wing base internally, and also to hide the truth when addressing the outside world. Therefore, anyone who wants to understand his real intentions in the negotiations, and his insistence to obtain Arab recognition of Israel as a Jewish state should look to the statements of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who needs no introduction with respect to his explicit program to expel Arabs from Israel. Both men have exchanged roles, to manipulate the world stage, and the Obama administration has become disorientated by this. For example, Lieberman will come out and deliver a poisoned, extremist speech in front of the United Nations. The world will then criticize the speech, and the U.S. delegate to the United Nations, Susan Rice, will reprimand the Israeli Minister for his ill-advised words, which threaten the negotiations with the Palestinians. Even the ‘office’ of Netanyahu will issue a statement distancing him from the speech, which he considers to be a personal opinion, and not government policy. However, after all this commotion, we will find that Netanyahu has proposed to his government the same opinions announced by the Foreign Minister.
The game of exchanging roles seems quite clear, when one recalls Lieberman’s remarks last month, when he launched a strong attack on the Palestinians, and Arab positions, saying: “The strong opposition from the Arab League and the Palestinian Authority to recognize Israel, the Jewish people’s state, obligates us to place the issue of Israeli Arabs as one of the central issues in the Israeli – Palestinian negotiations”. This is exactly what Netanyahu is doing now, passing the Loyalty Law, then bartering with the Palestinians to recognize the Jewish essence of Israel, in exchange for a renewed freeze on settlement construction. However, Netanyahu does not explicitly tell us that he wants to swap settlement construction, an essentially illegal practice, which the whole world does not recognize, in accordance with international resolutions, in exchange for ‘Palestinian suicide’, by accepting a Jewish Israel.
With Netanyahu’s offer, and his implementation of new laws, he is declaring Israel as an ethnic, religious, nationalistic and racist state, and in the process demanding that everyone recognize this reality which undermines all the moral foundations on which the world rejected Nazism and fascism. These ideologies were fought against with arms, in an era notorious for the worst practices conducted against the rights of the Jews in Europe. Netanyahu has also opened the door to more laws and regulations that reinforce his concepts, and the concepts of his extremist allies, such as Lieberman. Even before the uproar surrounding the Loyalty Law had subsided, the Ministerial Committee endorsed a bill to impose a referendum before any possible withdrawal from East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights. There is also series of legislation being demanded by those in support of the Loyalty Law, such as targeting those members of the Palestinian population [in Israel] who commemorate the Nakba, preventing the Palestinian population from living on the border of Israeli towns, and defining the role of the Israeli army as the ‘defender of the Jews’.
The Arabs have conducted themselves in accordance with the option of peace, and accepted the principle of recognizing the state of Israel, within the framework of just and comprehensive peace. However, there is no sane person who could believe that they will surrender to the demand of Netanyahu, in recognizing the Jewish state of Israel. This would mean the end of the Palestinian refugees’ issue, would threaten the 1948 Arabs, and would make the peace negotiations an absurd concept. Perhaps now the Palestinians will review their positions, because their disintegration and in-fighting has weakened their position to the extent that Netanyahu deals with them as a dictator, rather than a negotiator. Hamas is responsible for this, as is the Palestinian Authority, because each of them manipulates the issue of negotiations to strike the other, either by accepting or rejecting them. This not only weakens their positions, but the Arab position in general. Reconciliation is the starting point for the Palestinians, not negotiations, and without such reconciliation, there will only be more Israeli dictations.