It is a day of sane views today

Posted: April 23, 2009 by Jonathan Boyko in Iran, Israel, Palestinians
Tags: ,

I am surprised to discover two articles that could well go under Article of the Day headline, and one of them is from Haaretz!

First, Yigal Walt discussed UN’s decision to allow Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech at Geneva’s Durban 2 conference. Walt notices that while freedom of speech is a precious value, it is unclear since when it is UN’s goal to promote individual’s freedom of speech. Besides, asks Walt, how come the West allows Ahmadinejad to enjoy his liberties in Western countries, while he himself denies civil liberties from his own people?

Indeed, freedom of speech is a sacred value, particularly in those parts of the globe we normally refer to as the developed or Western world. However, this freedom is part of a much broader system of civil rights, such as equality and freedom of religion, which the citizens of these states enjoy. It is unfathomable that someone will demand to be granted the rights associated with this value system while not subscribing to it himself.

In blunter terms, the shameless tyrant from Tehran demands for himself the Western rights which he prevents from his very own citizens.

In his Haaretz op-ed, and in another act of advocacy for Benjamin Netanyahu, Ari Shavit talks about the need of recognition of peoples by both Israelis and Palestinians. This time, I will not oppose his view:

It follows that peace will not be achieved without Israeli recognition of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian nation-state, and without Palestinian recognition of the Jewish people and the Jewish nation-state. The only way to peace is by means of true mutual recognition.

In Oslo 1993, Camp David 2000 and Annapolis 2008, Israel went a long way toward this necessary mutual recognition. At first it recognized the Palestinian people, then agreed to the establishment of a Palestinian state and finally accepted almost full withdrawal and the partition of Jerusalem. Israel thus shattered taboo after taboo and shed refusal after refusal. However, in no case – neither at Oslo, Camp David or Annapolis – did the Palestinians go a parallel distance. They shattered no taboo and shed no fundamental refusal. To this day they do not recognize the Jewish people, its rights or its nation-state.

The best illustration of the Palestinian refusal was provided last year. In the summer of 2008, Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert, made Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) an unprecedented peace proposal: Israel would retain only 6.5 percent of the West Bank (the settlement blocs) and in return the Palestinians would receive full territorial compensation in the Mount Hebron area, in the Beit She’an Valley and in the Judean Hills. Jerusalem would be divided on a demographic basis, with the holy basin to be entrusted to a special international regime. However, Abu Mazen did not accept Olmert’s end-of-occupation offer. He rejected out of hand the principle of dividing the country into two nation-states.

To try to acheive peace, it is essential to address the two asymmetries concurrently. To demand that Israel act for the establishment of a Palestinian state and to demand that the Palestinians recognize the Jewish state.

While I usually disagree with Shavit’s view over Netanyahu, it is transparent that constant concessions by Israel with no concessions by Palestinians got Israel (and Palestinians) nowhere. Despite rants form the left and radical Arabs, it is important to attempt a different diplomatic path. Maybe – just maybe – Netanyahu’s the one to do it.


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