The public discourse in Israel has momentarily awoken from its slumber. “To give or not to give,” that is the Shakespearean question – “to make concessions” or “not to make concessions.” It is good that initial signs of life in the Israeli public have emerged. It was worth going to Annapolis if only for this reason – but this discourse is baseless and distorted. Israel is not being asked “to give” anything to the Palestinians; it is only being asked to return – to return their stolen land and restore their trampled self-respect, along with their fundamental human rights and humanity. This is the primary core issue, the only one worthy of the title, and no one talks about it anymore.
No one is talking about morality anymore. Justice is also an archaic concept, a taboo that has deliberately been erased from all negotiations. Two and a half million people – farmers, merchants, lawyers, drivers, daydreaming teenage girls, love-smitten men, old people, women, children and combatants using violent means for a just cause – have all been living under a brutal boot for 40 years. Meanwhile, in our cafes and living rooms the conversation is over giving or not giving.
Lawyers, philosophers, writers, lecturers, intellectuals and rabbis, who are looked upon for basic knowledge about moral precepts, participate in this distorted discourse. What will they tell their children – after the occupation finally becomes a nightmare of the past – about the period in which they wielded influence? What will they say about their role in this? Israeli students stand at checkpoints as part of their army reserve duty, brutally deciding the fate of people, and then some rush off to lectures on ethics at university, forgetting what they did the previous day and what is being done in their names every single day. Intellectuals publish petitions, “to make concessions” or “not to make concessions,” diverting attention from the core issue. There are stormy debates about corruption – whether Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is corrupt and how the Supreme Court is being undermined. But there is no discussion of the ultimate question: Isn’t the occupation the greatest and most terrible corruption to have taken root here, overshadowing everything else? [complete article]
When the Western powers suggested, at Yalta, that the Pope be brought into discussions over the shape of post-war Europe, Stalin famously retorted, “how many divisions does he command?” The same is essentially true for Abbas. The Israelis and Americans are going into talks now with a Palestinian leadership unable to deliver. And they know it. This is talking for the sake of talking, and showing that talks could potentially lead somewhere under very different circumstances.
All of those regimes, including Abbas’s, who have thrown in their lot with the floundering Pax Americana in the Middle East have no alternative but to show up at Annapolis, and hope — against hope — that the Bush Administration is ready to do more than it has ever done to press the Israelis into withdrawing from the territories conquered in 1967. What they’ll get, though, at best, is a process that promises to reach that point at some unspecified date in the future. Still, where else are Abbas and the Arab regimes going to spend next Tuesday? [complete article]
See also, Syria is to attend talks in Annapolis (WP), Skeptical Arab leaders agree to attend Mideast peace conference (McClatchy), and Hamas warns of violence after talks (The Observer).