WAKIM & ZWIER: Roadmap to peace needs new milestones 30 June 09 June 30, 2009

Joseph Wakim and Harold Zwier


As Israel announces it will expand Jewish settlements in the West Bank, Joseph Wakim and Harold Zwier offer hard truths to Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and say both sides must compromise if peace is to be achieved.

We know that US President Barak Obama, the great orator, is seeking to inspire a “new beginning” in the Middle East. But that breath of fresh air was not supposed to bowl over the Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Their responses and counter responses have barely risen above the ashes of failed policies from last century, ashes that should have been buried under the bridge that is now before us. Rather than extending more olive branches from the remaining olive trees, Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas resorted to name calling and threats of dead sticks.

In September 1993, in an exchange of letters with Israel, the Palestinians recognised “the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security”, but now Netanyahu demands even more: “Palestinians must truly recognise Israel as the state of the Jewish people”, rendering Gentiles within its borders as second class citizens. The book of Ecclesiastes understood the propaganda wars when it said “all words are wearying”.

But time has run out. Israeli and Palestinian leaders need to face their fears, hopes and expectations from the opposite sides of the negotiating table, rather than chest-beating and point-scoring to appease their coalition partners. And if they are unable to rise above past failures, they need to hear harsh, heartfelt and honest words from all of us.

Mr Netanyahu, if Israel truly seeks peace, it is time to restart direct negotiations with Mr Abbas with out the double-speak of “let us begin peace negotiations immediately without prior conditions” yet [Israel] “will not sit down at conference table with terrorists [Hamas] who seek to destroy it”.

Mr Abbas, to be a credible negotiating partner you need to bring the democratically-elected Hamas into the political process, and present a united front with all factions recognising Israel as a sovereign state.

Mr Netanyahu, the expansion of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land works against resolving the conflict. In order to reverse the animosity, please heed the wisdom of President Obama – “it is time for these settlements to stop”, without ifs and buts.

Mr Abbas, you need to lead by example and discipline your officials not to resort to name calling the Israeli Prime Minister as a “swindler and liar”. When referring to Palestinians, Obama avoided loaded words like terrorist and suicide bomber in his bridge-building speech.

Yet Netanyahu squandered the momentum, preferring to use the pronouns they and them rather than refer to the Palestinian. But Palestinians should know that two wrongs never made a right.

Mr Netanyahu, you cannot accuse others of “confusing cause and effect”, yet oversimplify history by blaming the dispossessed alestinians: “the root of the conflict has been and remains the refusal to recognize the right of the Jewish people to its own state in its historical homeland”.

Yes it is the promised land “where our forefathers … walked”, but these were shared forefathers for all people of the book, and it is also where Jesus walked. Your denial of any injustice to the exiled Palestinians is worse than terra nullius – do you genuinely believe that they were always people without a land, and that this is a good starting point for “mutual respect”?

Mr Abbas, rather than a pre-meditated and knee-jerk reaction to Mr Netanyahu’s speech, why not rise to the podium of a leader and declare your own policies. Please heed President Obama’s wisdom that “your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy”.

Many Arab leaders before you have spoken eloquently and inspired a violent free solution. The floor is yours and we are waiting for you to “reimagine the world”.

Mr Netanyahu, you cannot insult your neighbours with disingenuous throwaway lines such as “We will live side by side in true peace”. Live within which borders exactly? With which capital if you have claimed Jerusalem as the “united capital of Israel”?

How can you be side by side with such unequal power, with Palestine “demilitarized”? With no borders, no army and no capital, how do you expect Palestinians to sleep at night “in true peace”? How can Palestinians take your offer to commence negotiations “without preconditions” seriously, when you contradict the offer with such a healthy set of ambit claims?

Mr Abbas, what progress can be made when your spokespeople regress to threats of a new intifada: “we are headed toward another round of violence and bloodshed”?

It is pathetically predictable that both parties seek to appease their constituents, following the perceived majority, rather than leading their respective nations. But commitment without conviction is like presenting a body without a soul.

As President Obama declared “the cycle of suspicion and discord must end”. Both parties need to unclench their fist from the mantle of victim, and see the new Middle East momentarily illuminated by the flash of lightning in Barack’s words.

LINK:  http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/stories/s2611863.htm

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