Monday, September 29, 2008

How Not to Stick Up for Your Country

P. David Hornik | 9/29/2008

Mahmoud Abbas, Golden Boy of the current U.S. and Israeli leadership, was not so nice Friday when, in a special UN Security Council session on Israeli settlements requested by the Arab states, he insisted that Israel not build one more home for Jews in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and that the presence of Jews there was wrecking the peace process. Even by UN standards it hadn’t been a great week, with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday spewing gutter anti-Semitism to a packed house at the General Assembly and subsequently being warmly embraced by General Assembly president Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann of Nicaragua. Compared to that, what was a little more Israel-bashing in the Security Council?

“The first chapter of the Road Map,” Abbas complained on Friday, “talks about halting the settlement policy. Nothing has been done. The same policy continues.” He also said “This activity is an obstacle to peace and is preventing solutions….”

Saudi foreign minister Saud Al-Faisal chimed in that the settlements constitute the “one issue that threatens to bring down the whole peace process” and called on Israel to “cease all settlement activity including the issue of permits.”

There is much that could be said in response, and new Israeli UN ambassador Gabriela Shalev gave it a try. But the fact that Shalev, an obscure jurist and academic, was given the post by Foreign Minister—and possible prime minister—Tzipi Livni would inspire pessimism in those who see Livni as a formerly staunch Israeli who now complies with the international script for Israelis as people dying to bestow statehood on Abbas and his Fatah movement.

Shalev, in any case, said, “While settlements remain a delicate issue, they are not the principal one. You must remember that the Jewish nation is also sensitive about this sacred land.”

And: “Israel understands its commitment to peace. Do you, the Arab states, understand your commitment?” She added that really promoting peace would have to entail working for the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Shalev is also paraphrased as saying that “a stranger visiting the UN might suppose from the debate that Hamas violence, missile attacks fired over Israel’s border, the buildup of Hezbollah forces in Lebanon and Iran’s nuclear ambitions posed no problem to the Mideast peace process.”

And finally: “We in Israel are committed to a two-state solution. We continue to negotiate with the Palestinian president. Israel is prepared, if the conditions arrive, to make painful concessions” on the settlement issue.

In other words, she didn’t do too well; her statements unfortunately have the ring of trying to prove, if people would just try a little harder to understand, that her country is actually “good” and willing to carry out all the details of the script.

She doesn’t, for instance—at least in what was reported—ever reply directly to Abbas himself, the main accuser; indeed she’s also quoted as saying that “Security Council discussions are irrelevant and pointless. The real things are taking place two floors below us in a bilateral meeting between Abbas and (Israeli president) Shimon Peres.”

But are Abbas and his Palestinian Authority really blameless for the “lack of progress”; is it really only the likes of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran who are spoilers?

Shalev could, for instance, have demanded to know why just last week Abbas’s chief negotiator Ahmed Qureia threatened Israel with suicide bombings. She could also have asked why the official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida reacted to her boss, Tzipi Livni’s, victory in her party’s primaries with a sickening caricature of Livni with a dagger and bloodstained hands next to a dove with its head in a noose.

And since Abbas invoked the Road Map and the fact that it “talks about halting the settlement policy,” Shalev could have mentioned that this document’s reference to an Israeli settlement freeze comes at the very end of a long paragraph requiring the Palestinians to “immediately undertake an unconditional cessation of violence…end violence, terrorism, and incitement through restructured and effective Palestinian security services…undertake comprehensive political reform in preparation for statehood…”—and the uncomfortable fact that so far the Palestinian Authority hasn’t done a single one of those things and in fact practices systematic incitement fostering ongoing frequent terrorism.

But this, by now, would be way too much nastiness; what about Israeli leaders’ image as people always fawning over Abbas, Qureia and company and singing their praises as enlightened moderates?

And what of Shalev’s admonition that “the Jewish nation is also sensitive about this sacred land”? Wasn’t that, at least, a somewhat gutsy venture into the politically incorrect, daring to broach the tabooed fact that the “West Bank” is—apart from its critical security importance—the biblical heartland and Israel shouldn’t be expected to toss it away like a used car lot?

Indeed, she could have gone on to ask, pointedly, why the presence of Jews in Judea and Samaria should make peace impossible, whether Abbas is requiring that the state he supposedly desires be Jew-free and, if so, why that should be acceptable; whether Abbas could cite any other instances in today’s world of a peace agreement stipulating that one side has to destroy dozens of towns and villages and forcibly remove tens of thousands of residents; why the Palestinian Authority not only negates any Jewish connection to Judea and Samaria but systematically denies any Jewish connection to Jerusalem itself along with the entire land and state of Israel; or whether Abbas was aware of any instances of Arabs or other Muslims agreeing to the wholesale abandonment of land they consider sacred/historically resonant or essential to a state’s defensibility.

But Shalev—according to the reports we have—said none of that; instead she was quick to correct her indiscretion by assuring her audience that “Israel is prepared, if the conditions arrive, to make painful concessions”—that is, to show that it is a “good” little country after all and, in return for the peace it fantasizes about, forfeit its most basic rights and needs.
P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Tel Aviv. He blogs at He can be reached at

No comments: