Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu recently posted an op-ed laying out his three prerequisites for “peace.” I place the word peace in quotes because his plan is basically a poison pill to avoid any serious move towards a just peace which acknowledges the rightful aspirations of the Palestinian people. It is, like many other previous Israeli offers, a cynical ploy meant to short circuit any serious negotiations. It is an “offer” designed to guarantee rejection by Palestinians. That way Israel can once again claim that it is Palestinian obstinance that stands in the way of peace. The facts belie this notion.

Netanyahu’s three prerequisites are: 1. The total destruction of Hamas, 2. total demilitarization of Gaza, and 3. the “deradicalization” of the population there.
In other words, an unconditional surrender by Palestinians (after which any negotiations would be total irrelevant). I would say they are all impossible to achieve, but the final one is really puzzling. Is Israel going to brainwash the population of Gaza? Is it going to put the people there into reeducation camps? Just what does “deradicalization” mean and how do we know when it is achieved? Thought police? The Spanish Inquisition?

People who have studied this issue over the years will recognize this approach almost at once. In his book The Lost Years, French historian Charles Enderlin describes how the peace negotiations at the end of the Clinton administration really ended. He writes, “On December 26, during a late-night conversation, Ehud Barak secretly informed Bill Clinton that he would not sign any agreement before the election, and could not accept the parameters for an agreement that the American President had presented to the partners three days earlier. The Israeli prime minister allowed the Taba negotiations to proceed in January 2001 knowing perfectly well they would go nowhere.” Ehud Barak knew that because his final offer to Arafat was (like Netanyahu’s new “prerequisites”), a poison pill Arafat could never sign off on. Yet he cleverly managed to assign the blame to Arafat and Clinton cynically went along with that story. Enderlin goes on to describe how the idea of portraying Arafat as a “terrorist” and the slogan that Israel had “no partner for peace” were the result of a carefully planned PR strategy.

Likewise, when Bush offered his roadmap for peace in 2003, the Palestinians agreed to it. It was the Israeli PM Ariel Sharon who issued a list of 14 “amendments.” Like Netanyahu’s prerequisites, this was basically an outline for an unconditional surrender by Palestine. The first amendment is almost a page long and makes totally unrealistic demands that even no strongly established government could ever meet. It ends with the curious parenthetical note that “as in in other mutual frameworks, the Roadmap will not state that Israel must cease violence and incitement against the Palestinians” (published in President Carter’s book Palestine: Peace not Apartheid). This was at a time when Palestinians were regularly accused of having a curriculum that incited hatred of Israel. In fact, the curriculum in Palestinian schools is controlled by Israel. No child in Gaza or any other occupied territory today needs to be taught about Israel in school—they see the effects of the violence and oppression Israel causes every day.

Netanyahu’s prerequisites are especially worthy of note because in years gone by, Israel refused to negotiate a peace if there were preconditions. His “prerequisites” are just a fancy word for preconditions. They are another in a long line of Israeli efforts to avoid a just peace settlement. In the past they delayed and bickered over every detail. Then they claimed that they could not negotiate during active conflict. When there was no active conflict, they felt no pressure to negotiate. They said they could not negotiate when Fatah and Hamas were split then they said they would not negotiate because the two were united. And so on and so forth. This is because Israel doesn’t really want a peaceful solution. The status quo (under which they continue to steal Palestinian land and terrorize the people) suits them just fine.

The lurch to the extreme right in Israel is especially concerning. Netanyahu’s government has little interest in democracy or the rule of law. People in Netanyahu’s cabinet now are guilty of hate speech and incitement to violence almost every day. One member floated the idea of using a nuclear weapon in Gaza. Another suggested that the people of Gaza leave “voluntarily” (for their own good.) Obviously a thinly veiled threat. Another said Hamas was a ‘great asset’ (because everything could be blamed on them). And so on. For those who don’t already know this, Israel actually helped Hamas get established as a way of undercutting Arafat and sowing confusion (kind of like how the US helped create the Afghan mujahadeen that eventually became the Taliban- Oops!).

Netanyahu’s latest statements show he has zero interest in a Palestinian state. He seems to be leaning towards a final solution of a different kind (see my previous post “Gaza Ghetto”). An ugly thought indeed, but when looks on the carnage being wreaked on Gaza every day, it seems he may have already started.

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