Paris, November 20, 2012 – Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Syrian President Bashar Al Assad have one important thing in common. When a part of the populations under their control rise up against them, they do not negotiate or compromise: they bomb the rebel civilians, even in violation of international law – a matter to which they are indifferent.
The UN and others have tried to convince the Syrian government to negotiate with Syria’s insurgents. The response has been more bombs and military repression. The Palestinian population of Gaza, which the UN still considers “occupied Palestinian territory,” chose in 2007, in internationally supervised elections, to be governed by Hamas, rather than the Palestinian Authority. They seek an end to the harsh blockade imposed by Israel because of that vote for Hamas, which Israel and other countries deem a terrorist organization.
Israel is legally Gaza’s Occupying Power under the Geneva Conventions, and is legally accountable for the well-being of the persons under its control. It has evacuated the Jewish settlements illegally established in Gaza. Only the Gazans remain.
Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups continue what they consider their liberation war, while its rival Palestinian Authority, on the West Bank, has cooperated with Israeli and American security forces, but has been unable to halt Israeli annexation and settlement of an increasing portion of the West Bank, and has been unsuccessful in its attempt to negotiate a formal two-state settlement with Israel.
The Palestinian Authority, in the absence of such an agreement, has now made known that later this month, on November 29, the anniversary of the UN’s original proclamation of Jewish and Palestinian states, it will ask the UN General Assembly (where no veto exists) to confirm that proclamation, and admit the Palestinians to non-member “observer status.”
Israel, the United States, and the European Union all oppose this, and threaten pitiless reprisals, since UN observer status, together with membership in UNESCO and other UN agencies and organizations, would give the Palestinians standing to go to the international justice system to appeal against Israel’s occupation of their state, and its illegal annexations and construction of settlements on their territory, and to seek redress for war crimes and other crimes committed in the course of that occupation.
Egypt, which together with Qatar has established new and closer relations with Hamas, was providing its good offices to the Hamas authorities in negotiating a cease-fire that would stop the rockets being fired at Israel by Gazan extremists (not members of Hamas, but potentially controllable by Hamas). These are what precipitated the present crisis.
With the assistance of Israeli civilian peacemakers, an agreement for a long-term cease-fire reportedly had been reached with the Hamas military leader, Ahmed Jabari. An Israeli targeted assassination killed Jabari just before the agreement could be signed.
There are two obvious motives for the assassination of this Hamas official, and for the Israeli military intervention that followed, with its threat of a massive ground assault.
The first, as Israeli commentators generally agree, is domestic politics, to strengthen Benjamin Netanyahu in forthcoming Israel national elections. The Gazans, though they may not know it, die to elect Bibi.
The second motive has been to undermine or cause the postponement or abandonment of the Palestine Authority’s plan to appeal to the UN General Assembly this month.
This presents a problem to which the Netanyahu government has yet to find a solution. Hence its present policy is indefinitely to fend off the need for a decision, even by such desperate measures as another invasion of Gaza. It and its predecessors have consistently succeeded in blocking two-state settlement agreements. They have done this because such an agreement would prevent the eventual creation of a “greater Israel” incorporating all of the Palestinian territories.
The existing Arab population – as President Netanyahu made plain in a press discussion at Davos in 1996, just after his first election to the presidency, would necessarily be treated in a manner encouraging them (to employ a useful expression introduced into our vocabulary by Mitt Romney, during the U.S. presidential election), to “self-deport” themselves to wherever they came from. Since where they came from is nearly always exactly where they are living now, surrounded by Zionist immigrant settlers, more drastic measures would be necessary to remove them, which even Washington might regret, and possibly would not tolerate.
The only real solution would be for the Israeli electorate to come to its senses and elect a new government willing to reach a civilized agreement with the Palestinians for the two peoples to live together in peace. But a civilized agreement would require civilized leaders, and there seem none in sight.
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