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Is it a tale of woe for Israel & Palestine
Hardly had the official results from the latest Israeli Knesset (parliamentary) elections been posted than scores of pundits raced to pen down their opinions. There were those who were jubilant with the outcome - yes, they do exist in the USA, in Europe and even within some ruling echelons of the Arab World.

23 March   |   2015   |   Subject  Middle East & North Africa (MENA)

Then there were those who saw an apocalyptic cloud darkening further this land of milk and honey, perpetuating a fetid occupation and as a result strangling democracy.

In my opinion, the truth lies somewhere between those two stark polarities. And that halfway grey zone exists whether PM Netanyahu denies the existence of a future Palestinian state or accepts it with his mercurial qualifications.

I am frankly not bothered if Isaac Herzog was nerdy and lacked political charisma or else if Tzipi Livni cast a negative pall on the electorate. Nor do I wish to lampoon any of the other candidates let alone address those grave domestic problems that the Zionist Union amplified almost exclusively whilst Likud ignored almost exclusively too.

Today, I would merely like to argue why the outcome in my opinion is not such an awful thing for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For someone who was involved with second-track negotiations during the Oslo years and who subsequently became disillusioned with this dud process, the re-election of Benyamin Netanyahu will magnify the sharply contrasting facets of the conflict and perhaps coerce the Palestinian Authority, the USA and the EU to undertake some hard choices.

  • The Palestinian Authority: I am not an advocate of Hamas and I disagree with their ideology as much as I often do with their practices. However, I am nowadays also less of an advocate for the PA that has lost its way and sullied its early principles for the sake of maintaining the fiction of negotiations. They have shuffled their positions continually in an attempt to keep the current status quo alive. It is time for them to examine this process a tad more openly and conclude that it has truly become an instrument that grants Israel all the geography it seeks for its illegal settlements, outposts or walls, fences and aquifers, whilst ridding itself of the human burden of the demography. Is it not time to stop this charade, dissolve the PA structures and re-strengthen the PLO as the sole and legitimate representative of all Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza? Would this not return the burden of occupation to Israel and kick in the apposite international conventions that carry legal obligations with them?
  • The USA: all I need to do is count the number of standing ovations to PM Netanyahu’s address in front of the US Congress in Washington DC (26 altogether) or the forthcoming visit by Republican House Speaker John Boehner to Israel to congratulate his ally, in order to realise the inequitable role that the country plays with regard to this conflict. Was it not the somewhat maligned Pat Buchanan who said to the McLaughlin Group in 1990 that “Capitol Hill is Israeli occupied territory”? Much as I respect those analysts who postulate that this might change due to the tensions between Obama and Netanyahu, I also disagree with them. The USA cannot become a fair arbiter because doing so requires not a new man in the White House but a re-modelling both of the way many US politicians think and of the lobbying influence of pro-Israeli hard-line organisations across the country.
  • The EU: casting political pressure points aside, there is still so much economic muscle that this 28-state body can apply to help Israel comply with international legitimacy and end its 48-year-old occupation. After all, are the tariff reductions that Israeli goods enjoy under the EU-Israel Trade Agreement - an agreement which offers Israel more favourable treatment than any other country outside the EU - not conditional upon the respect of democratic and civil rights? The EU has inexorably become a collective (or individual) banker with no credible say about the outcome of the conflict. From Tony Blair as a failed peace envoy for the redundant Quartet to the phobia that Europe manifests when criticising Israel, has the EU become unprincipled, inept, inefficient and alas irrelevant?

The new Israeli coalition government will no doubt lurch the country toward more right-wing radical postures and in so doing alienate the slim prospects for a two-state solution. PM Netanyahu is not lying: the man speaks the truth when he says that he does not want a Palestinian state - Bar-Ilan notwithstanding - because he realises that one can barely be established on viable 1967 borders! Is this not the new political benchmark or are we lulling ourselves into a false inertia?

To my mind, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains willy-nilly one of the MENA key hubs. So given that the USA cannot contribute much on its own and that Israel will simply continue to expand its colonies while fudging over the two-state solution, Palestinians should stand up for their rights. This requires bold steps rather than fulminations - even if it means forsaking their ‘privileges’ - and the EU has to gird up its loins (assuming it still possesses them) and act resolutely.

The Israel of sunny Tel Aviv is increasingly oblivious to the Palestinians’ plight, and the Israel of sombre Jerusalem is vehemently set against any solution predicated on territorial compromise. So there can only be political motion once Israel feels the painful onus of occupation and when Israeli politicians like Stav Shiffer go head-to-head with the prevalent political practice of airbrushing Palestine out of the Israeli psyche. Bite the bullet and move forward, I say, or else conditions will continue to fester, radicalism will be on the rise, and the tales of woe will lead to another conflagration.

I am not unhappy that PM Netanyahu was re-elected last week, but not for the obvious reasons!

© Dr Harry Hagopian   |   2015   |   23 March


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