Saturday, December 5, 2009

Israels genuine efforts to get the Palestinians back at the table

It is really moving to see how serious Israel is about the ten months building freeze on the West Bank (Jerusalem excluded) and not touching the building of schools, kindergartens, politice, administrative, community buildings and buildings like gas stations, pumping stations for water and sewerage, electricity, etc.,
For the settlers this is an unusual situation, or should we use the word that Hillary Clinton used, 'unprecedented'. In order to cool their anger over the unprecendentedness of this hardship they took to the streets, demonstrated, quarreled with policemen (picture) and stopped inspectors who are charged with the task to oversee the measure, even though the government at the last minute okayed 84 new buildings containing 492 housing units on top of the 2500 that already had got the green light beforehand. There were only 20 inspectors to check the mesure,  much too few for the task, and therefor Defence minister Ehud Barak took it upon himself to urgently hire an additional 40 of them. Also Barak visited a number of settlements to try and cool the stirred emotions.
Meanwhile the leaders of Yesha, the organization of settlements, visited the prime minister to protest the unusual measure. It was going to harm them economically, they argued, and would frustate younger settlers who wanted to start a family for themselves, as it was going to frustate 'natural growth'. Netanyahu received them with a stern face and tol them the following which I took from his website, the stress of some passages included:
  "The Cabinet decision is the optimal decision for the State of Israel in the complicated diplomatic situation in which we presently find ourselves, and given the various challenges facing us.  We made this tough decision in order to advance Israel's broader interests.  This step makes it clear to the main elements around the world that Israel aspires towards peace and is serious in its intention to achieve peace, while the Palestinians refuse to begin peace negotiations.  This step makes it clear who is refusing peace."

Prime Minister Netanyahu added: "This order is one-time only and it limits the duration of the suspension.  There are nine months and three weeks left.  Once the suspension has expired, we will continue to build.  I want to make it clear: The future of settlement will be determined only in a permanent peace agreement."
In this way we know that the freeze is really a one time thing which is not going to be repeated under whatever circumstances, and that serves only one purpose, namely to make clear to the world who is peace loving and who is not.
Whether the world really will be impressed, remains to be seen. However inside Israel it is a different matter.  There it is -at least to judge from the press - the talk of the day. Ari Shavit of Haaretz heaped praise on the prime minister in way one might rather exspect from a Saudi journalist than an Israeli one. He made us believe that Netanyahu has come more to the left than the late Yitzhak Rabin.. At the other end of the spectre the leftist Yossi Sarid (Meretz) wrote an op-ed in Haaretz in which he vented his anger over the fact that Netanyahu had calld the settlers 'our brothers'. We are not relatives, he wrote:

''When I see how they are burning with desire to use improper means, setting fields afire, chopping down olive trees, hitting children on their way to school, beating soldiers and chasing away inspectors, I immediately look at myself to make sure that they are not me.'' Sarid also referred to an incident on Thursday, in which a settler ran over a Palestinian a few times with his Mercedes (picture), after the Palestinian had entered a settlement with a knife in his hand and had been shot. The Palestinian miraculously survived, the settler was released after questioning.
However, the Yesha leaders scored their point during their visit to Netanyahu. A special ministerial committee was set up, comprising among others the ministers Barak and Benny Begin, to oversee that the freeze is performed with the least possible harm to the settlers.
 Very moving, all these efforts to secure a lasting peace.

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