Sandy Tolan writes:
It’s always bizarre to watch the cheering throng of US congressmen, their pockets lined with AIPAC contributions, fawn over a visiting Israeli leader as if he were a conquering war hero of their own.
But seen on YouTube from the West Bank, Binyamin Netanyahu’s fanciful walk through Middle East diplomacy, and his disingenuous endorsement of peace and democracy – accompanied by an estimated 55 standing ovations – was truly surreal.
If a member of Congress were to actually bother to travel through the West Bank, he or she could be forgiven for wondering what the Israeli prime minister was talking about when he promised to make “painful compromises”.
Huge and expanding settlement blocs cut ever deeper into Palestinian lands, each day making the establishment of a viable and contiguous Palestinian state more difficult to imagine. One settler city of 20,000 – Ariel – sits nearly halfway to Jordan from the Mediterranean. Maale Adumim, population 34,000, lies well east of Jerusalem, on the way to the Jordan Valley.
In support of this settlement project, Israeli military jeeps and armored trucks crisscross the would-be future Palestine. This week, on a three and a half hour round trip drive between Ramallah and Jenin, I saw a dozen such patrols.
Near Nablus, a Palestinian vehicle was pulled over to the side of the road, with a soldier pointing his M-16 at the driver. Further on, an Israeli bulldozer scraped the land, uprooting an olive tree – the heart of Palestinian rural culture and economy.
Now Netanyahu is trying to cement Israeli policy of endless land seizures with a diversionary tactic – insisting that Palestinians acknowledge Israel as the national state of the Jewish people.
Yet he well knows that in the Oslo agreement of 1993, Palestinians formally accepted Israel’s existence and agreed to their own painful compromise: giving up 78 per cent of historic Palestine in exchange for establishing a state on the remaining land in the West Bank and Gaza.
By making a new demand, Netanyahu has moved the goal posts – insisting that a nation where one in every five people is Arab be formally recognised as a state for Jews only. This may make sense for a delusional congress, but why would any Palestinian leader agree to that?