Tuesday, December 11, 2012

11-Dec-12: On screaming silence and thundering demagoguery

Meshaal and other Hamas leaders this weekend in Gaza [Image Source]
The more we think about what Europe's political leaders have just done, the more we are seething with anger.

Associated Press says the European Union warned Israel yesterday (Monday) of unspecified consequences if it goes ahead with something that Israel says it plans to do. The bloc's 27 foreign ministers are "deeply dismayed" by the Israeli plan. Sweden's foreign minister, Carl Bildt, says this something that the Israelis plan to do has caused "extreme concern" in the 27-nation European Union. It is so extremely concerning that Israel's plan "has shifted opinions in Europe" - against Israel, needless to say. Europe's political view of the Mideast, says Bildt, changed profoundly since Israel announced what it's going to do. Yet as serious as it is, Sweden's representative wonders out loud about the depths and breadth of Israel's comprehension: "I don't think the Israelis are aware of this.Something else the Israelis don't get, according to the Swede: "Israel shouldn't underestimate the level of European concern... The EU is "deeply dismayed". This thing Israel plans to do has hardened attitudes in the EU. It has "really shifted things inside the European Union to an extent that I don't think they have fully appreciated."

Those 27 ministers declared that if Israel should proceed with what it says it is going to do, this "would seriously undermine the prospects of a negotiated resolution of the conflict" [AP]. Israel's actions would amount to "a breach of international law", no less; they would require the Europeans to "closely monitor the situation and its broader implications and act accordingly". Reuters says that France's Hollande government wanted  to have Monday's EU statement include a warning that Israel's actions would damage the relationship between Israel and the EU. (In the end, the statement did not contain such a comment.) 

And - related to that same thing, naturally - did we mention that Israel's ambassadors to the United Kingdom, Australia, Brazil, France, Spain, Sweden, Finland, Ireland, Denmark, Italy, Egypt and the European Union were all called in to those country's respective foreign ministries and given what one source called a "dressing down"? 

Now - taking a breath - let's briefly summarize what the Palestinian Arab leadership did and said in the past few days

The Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal has just completed a long weekend of noisy rallies and impassioned speeches, addressing hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs in Gaza via "fiery rhetoric" [according to Canada's National Post]. Accompanied by his deputy, Mussa Abu Marzouk, and the Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya, Meshaal called repeatedly and explicitly for the destruction of Israel, pledged never to accept a two-state solution, and called for a Hamas/Fatah  reconciliation that [National Post again] "would almost certainly doom any peace process". 

The Al Jazeera version of Meshaal's message includes these direct quotes:
  • Meshaal "rejected any concessions over a future Palestine state". 
  • For the geographically-challenged, he said "Palestine is our land and nation from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan] river, from north to south, and we cannot cede an inch or any part of it".
  • "Statehood will be the fruit of resistance, not negotiations".
The BBC's report adds these Meshaal quotes:
  • Addressing "tens of thousands of people marking the 25th anniversary of the Palestinian Islamist group's founding, [Meshaal said Hamas] will not recognise Israel... Palestinians would not cede any part of their land."
  • "As long as Palestine is ours and Palestine is the land of Arabism and Islam, we can never recognise the legitimacy of Israel's occupation of it".
  • "There is no legitimacy for Israel, however long time lasts."
From the National Post:
  • God willing, we shall liberate Palestine together, inch by inch... We started this path and we are going to continue until we achieve what God has promised.
The National Post helpfully points out that Meshaal's Gaza speeches were 
"in stark contrast to an interview he gave CNN less than a month ago when he said Hamas was “ready to resort to a peaceful way, truly peaceful way, without blood and weapon”. He also said Hamas had accepted a two-state solution based on the borders of 1967."
Obviously, Meshaal was either lying a month ago or this weekend, but it hardly matters. Our issue is not with the arch-terrorist (he is what he is) but with the analysts, reporters, foreign ministers and assorted politicians who are as aware as we are of what the Hamas leadership is doing and saying... and ignore it, preferring to pile criticism on Israel instead. (For the record, the EU managed to put out a press release yesterday terming the "inflammatory statements" of Hamas leaders that deny Israel’s right to exist as "unacceptable".) 

As most of our readers know, what Israel did to attract the vituperation of Europe's politicians was to declare a determination to build three thousand new homes in Jerusalem, the nation's capital, a city that has had a clear Jewish majority for as long as records have been kept.

Israel's prime minister Netanyahu today deplored [AP] the "deafening silence" of the international community in the face of the Hamas declarations and threats. But we say their hypocrisy plainly speaks for itself. More important by far is to understand why the worsening security situation here has to do with matters much more serious than several thousand new Jewish dwellings.

Dr Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the US, has an intelligent op ed ["Stop scapegoating Israeli settlements"] in today's New York Daily News that lays out the salient points. He reminds us that in 2005, Israel uprooted the twenty-one Jewish communities located in Gaza and forcibly removed their 9,000 residents in the name of making peace. "In the seven years since, Israel has been targeted by nearly 9,000 terrorist rockets from Gaza. Clearly, settlements are not the reason." 
  • Rather, it is our enemy’s determination to deny the Jewish people the right to independence in our ancestral homeland. That is why Palestinian Arabs fought for decades to prevent the establishment of Israel in 1948 and why, over the next 20 years, Arab armies tried to destroy us — before there was a single settlement. That, and not the settlement issue, was why the Palestinians turned down Israeli offers of statehood in the West Bank and Gaza in 2000 and 2008.
  • And that is why last month, Hamas in Gaza launched yet more rockets at Israel, and why the West Bank’s Palestinian Authority refused to negotiate with us for the past four years. Instead, it unilaterally declared sovereignty in a UN General Assembly resolution that denied any security for Israel or recognition of it as a Jewish state.
  • The Palestinians... could have a state if their leaders agreed to sit with ours and work out the complex issues between us. 
  • One of those issues is borders [as well as the] Jerusalem neighborhoods built after 1967, home to more than half of the city’s Jewish residents and only a few minutes’ drive from downtown... Then there are the West Bank settlements. These communities provide strategic depth to our borders which, before 1967, were as narrow as 8 miles across. But the West Bank — Judea and Samaria — is also the birthplace of our people, our tribal lands.
  • The settlements reflect the right of a people to live in its homeland. We are willing to qualify that right — painfully — if the Palestinians agree to live with us in peace.
  • Still, all of the settlements account for a very small percentage of the West Bank. Most of them are concentrated in blocs that have become suburbs of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Everyone — Americans, Israelis and Palestinians — understands that these blocs will always remain part of Israel, even if a Palestinian state is negotiated.
  • All of the building recently approved by the Israeli government was in Jerusalem and these blocs. So, too, were the preliminary plans for construction in the area known as E1, which were approved last week.
  • E1 is a stretch of desert, less than 2 miles long, connecting Jerusalem to its suburb of Maaleh Adumim, home to 40,000 Israelis. Every Israeli prime minister in the past 40 years, including Ehud Olmert and Yitzhak Rabin, has planned to build in E1 in order to prevent Maaleh Adumim’s isolation.
  • That construction will not, as the Palestinians claim, divide the West Bank. Just look at a map: E1 in no way obstructs Palestinian Ramallah’s access to Jericho and Bethlehem. In a negotiated two-state solution, short tunnels under E1 can also connect Ramallah with the Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem.
  • We stand ready to do the difficult work of peacemaking. Even today, after all the terrorist rockets and denial of our rights, we remain at the negotiating table, waiting for the Palestinians to join us.
Makes considerably more sense to us than the sophistry of those European diplomats.

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