During discussions in Washington between US officials and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an important revelation surfaced. Under US and international pressure to stop Jewish settlement activities in Arab East Jerusalem Netanyahu argued that peace talks might be delayed another year.
"The Palestinians are now raising a new demand," the Israeli leader claimed. "If this demand is adopted we are liable to lose another year."
Palestinians have not stopped, since 1967, demanding that Israel withdraw from all Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem. The unilateral Israeli expansion of the city limits and annexation of occupied territories has also been rejected by Palestinians and the entire world community. No country, including the US, has accepted this Israeli move nor have they agreed to move their embassies to the contested city.
But while the record shows clearly that the demands regarding Jerusalem are not new, Israel’s public threats to delay the negotiations is new and revealing.
For 43 years Israel has been claiming that it wants peace and is eager to initiate immediate negotiations with the Arabs. Palestinians and Arabs have insisted that Israel never really wanted peace and was only procrastinating. Jordan, which was in Jerusalem and the West Bank at the time of the Israeli occupation, agreed to shift its responsibility to the Palestine Liberation Organisation in 1973. Since then, Israel has been faced with the need to talk to the Palestinians. The Israelis attempted to circumvent the PLO by trying to establish and meet with local leaders, including mayors, the Village Leagues and even helped Islamist ideologues in Gaza to create an alternative to the PLO. Those Islamic forces have become a formidable force in the form of the Hamas movement.
Throughout these decades, Israel’s public position was to show desire for peace and peace talks and to show that, somehow, the other side was to blame for not being ready to talk. During these years, Palestinian frustration with the continued Israeli occupation and the settlement activities caused many Palestinians to resort to violent forms of resistance, giving the Israelis an excuse to lay the blame for the absence of peace and peace talks on them.
These Israeli obfuscations, delays, shifting of blame and other tactics seem to have finally been shown for what they are by Netanyahu’s reflections. The idea that the world’s insistence on a settlement freeze in Arab East Jerusalem would cause a delay of a year is a unique and unusual glimpse into what some Israelis really want.
Netanyahu’s revealing statement is not entirely new, however. At different stages in the Arab-Israeli conflict, similar revelations have surfaced, revealing the true Israeli desire to perpetually occupy and settle on Palestinian territories. Israel’s prime minister Yitzhak Shamir was quoted as saying, on the eve of the Madrid peace talks, that his delegation intended to apply delay tactics for 10 years.
Netanyahu’s own father was quoted, after the current prime minister said he conditionally accepts the two-state solution, as saying that his son agreed on the plan by offering conditions he knew Palestinians would not accept. Netanyahu had demanded that Palestinians recognise Israel as a Jewish state and that the proposed Palestinian state be demilitarised if he were to support the concept.
Words alone do not reveal Israel’s intentions. The actions of the Israeli occupiers since 1967 are the most concrete example of Israel’s true intentions. By planting exclusive Jewish colonies on Palestinian lands, the Israeli occupiers have been showing that they reject the basic requirements of peace.
The US has now joined the world community in stating the obvious: Israel cannot continue building houses in the areas intended to become the state of the Palestinians. This yet to see the light Palestinian state is now recognised as essential to the national security of the Untied States. General David Petraeus has stated clearly that the absence of a peaceful resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict puts American soldiers in danger.
So if the Israelis want to delay talks for another year, this means that the Israelis are oblivious to the continued danger facing their American allies. This necessarily will require more than a polite, or even an impolite, verbal response. This naturally requires concrete and painful steps by the United States. Otherwise, the Americans will be agreeing to Israelis putting American soldiers in harm’s way for yet another year.