Israel’s ‘John Hancock’ Means Nothing

Has anyone ever wondered why Israel continues to sign agreements or humor those whose advice it has not intention of taking? It’s about time somebody questions the intentions, since the apparent trend is for Israel to ride the wave of international currents only to reject them before they reach their intended goal.

Instead of offering evidence of this accusation from past to present, let’s do it the other way around. The Quartet Committee, comprised of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia have been pressuring Palestinians and Israelis to move to direct talks as opposed to the basically futile proximity talks they have been engaged in for the past several months. Israel has accepted the Quartet as a credible mediating party and has played along with the international game of responding to their statements, demands or criticisms. However, Israel has no qualms in shooting the Quartet down when its statements do not suit Israeli interests. It strips it of all clout in its actual role of helping to mediate a negotiated settlement between Palestinians and Israelis and refers back to its own dictates as the perimeters for negotiations.

Take for example this recent Quartet proposal. Israel’s forum of seven senior ministers have said Israel would reject the Quartet’s anticipated statement in which it calls for calling for the resumption of direct negotiations, an end to the occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian state within a year. Israel, of course, is not biting, saying it won’t agree to any "preconditions" for starting direct talks. Before the statement actually comes into being, the US is expected to "amend" it in a way that would be less demanding on Israel.

But back to the statement. What preconditions is Israel talking about? An end to the occupation? The establishment of a Palestinian state? These are all premises previously established in agreements past- agreements, it should be added that Israel has trampled all over time and again. The first major agreement Israel put its signature on was the Oslo Accords in 1993. Much can be said about the ills and faults of these accords and the Palestinians, frankly, have been paying the price of their signature ever since. Still, even more must be said about Israel’s disregard for them, even though the accords signaled a new and much more conciliatory tone from the Palestinians than ever before. The year 1999 was to be the last pit stop before a final settlement was reached –” i.e. the establishment of a Palestinian state. During that time, issues such as settlements, borders and water were to be solved through negotiations. And we all know what happened to settlements over that period of time. They doubled. Water? Israel expends four times the amount of water in the Palestinian territories (for settlement no less) than Palestinians. Borders? All controlled by Israel.

Moving on from Oslo, the next major agreement would probably be the Roadmap to Peace, drafted by the Quartet but under primarily American auspices and signed in 2003. The three phase performance-based agreement called for a freeze on settlement construction and an end to the conflict by 2005. Again, Israel approved the roadmap, but with reservations on some of its stipulations, the settlements in particular.

The list of course, can go on. Israel has followed a pattern since it decided to enter into the realm of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations that has become so clear it is amazing they can still play the game without being exposed. For one, Israel puts on a civil face to the world –” yes, we want peace, we want to negotiate with the Palestinians and end the conflict between us. It does not take long, however, for the mask to fall. We want peace, but on our terms: no sovereign and independent Palestinian state; no relinquishing Jerusalem; no return of refugees, etc., etc. On the contrary, as we smile for photo-ops in the White House, we continue to expropriate land, build more settlements and exclude more and more Palestinians from Jerusalem. Meanwhile, we undermine the authority of Palestinian presidents and prime ministers by continuing to invade Palestinian cities supposedly under their jurisdiction and imprison parliamentarians at our whim. Yes, we want peace. But we will dictate its shape and form.

What is so amazing is that the charade has gone on for so long. Even the Palestinians (who no doubt understand Israel) occasionally play into it. This last bit about entering into direct negotiations with Israel is further evidence that there is no end in sight for this merry-go-round. The Palestinians, whether we are to partially blame them for this unenviable position or not, have been sucked into the black hole of diplomacy with Israel, which as we all know, leads absolutely nowhere. President Abbas is being pressured from all sides to agree to direct negotiations and even he can stand but so much. The problem is that Abbas and probably even President Barack Obama know that direct negotiations with Israel will not get the Palestinians their legitimate rights. No negotiations before ever have so why would a government under Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu bear any fruit?

Instead of upping the pressure on the Palestinians, who in all fairness, have played by almost every rule of the game, why not lay down the law for Israel? It’s about time that someone blows Israel’s cover and realizes that not one Israeli leader in history has ever openly advocated a Palestinian state on the 22 percent of Palestine still under Israel’s occupation. And without real international pressure and sanctions against it, Israel’s leaders are not likely to start now.