Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Mitt Romney: A Rare Voice of Sanity on Palestinian Issue?

Mitt Romney is being strongly criticized for suggesting that the Palestinians don't want peace. His proof of this position ought to be obvious to anyone: their avoidance of dialogue and multitude of reasons to not even attempt to negotiate with Israel. I have blogged about the underlying causes of this reluctance toward talks, such as the vested interest of corrupt Palestinian officials, and the Palestinian refugee myth which has backed the Palestinian leadership into a corner they cannot escape from.
The issues, arguments and accusations coming from the Palestinians, the so called "friends of Palestinians" and the wider Islamic world clearly demonstrate that they do not seek a genuine dialogue with Israel, (which in turn means they don't seek peace, because that is the only way it will come!). Firstly, if you seek dialogue you push for talks, no conditions, perhaps no plan of what the outcome will be, you just seek to talk. You keep talking for weeks, months even years, maintaining some kind of dialogue no matter how fruitless, and at the same time, you prepare your people for an eventual compromise, which may be painful, but in the end will be for the good of everyone. The Palestinians are not doing these things, Israel to a great extent is, and certainly Israel's friends hope for talks. This is why Israel has a vibrant peace movement and the Palestinians don't. This why Israel has just agreed with The Mid East Quartet's call for talks and the Palestinians have once again made excuses why they will not attend. Instead, for the second year in succession, the Palestinians will go to the UN for some kind of quasi backing for a two state solution and recognition of Palestine as a member state, despite not having borders, or any kind of economic stability or plan (not to mention no great love of democracy either). Indeed this not yet formed Palestinian state is already split in half, and on the verge of  a civil war between Hamas & Fatah, but off to the UN they will go, rather than engage in negotiation- This is what my late grandma would have called "Make Work" - it certainly isn't working for peace!

Worse though, the debate on the international stage and in 'the street' is not even in the ball park of reality: Real issues of land, populations, resources such as water, freedom of religions and of course security agreements are not discussed. Instead 'excuse' arguments are created such as settlements – everyone from the EU, Tony Blair to President Obama has been sold the idea that the evil Israeli settler is the reason there's no peace yet. The demographics of 'settlement' make that an absurd assertion (The Jewish communities settlements are on only 1.3% to 1.7% of the land area in the West Bank, according to B'Tselem, the human rights watchdog group), but even if we accept for argument sake the untenable argument that settlements are a stumbling block to a peace agreement, why should they be a stumbling block to peace talks? If Mitt Romney was wrong, and the Palestinians truly seek peace, then the concept of "we wont talk unless Israel agrees ahead of talks to.. {fill in the current red line pre-condition here!}" is ridiculous. True seekers of peace will always take any opening for a dialogue, no matter how far apart the two sides may seem. It is perfectly acceptable to go into negotiations saying "we wont budge on A,B or C", but not to even try to talk unless you can use the UN to bully your opponent to agree in advance to difficult issues? That's absurd and disingenuous, proving that Mitt Romney is not far from the truth when he says:
"I look at the Palestinians not wanting to seek peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues, and I say there's just no way.".
The Palestinians 'friends' worldwide talk about ethnic cleansing of Palestinians on the West Bank and East Jerusalem, about genocide committed by Israel. They accuse Israel of apartheid, building Nazi concentration camps, and other untenable accusations. In fact life expectancy of Palestinians in the West Bank, soared from just 48 years in 1967 to 72 by 2000, while infant mortality plummeted from 60 per thousand live births to 15 per 1000 and childhood diseases disappeared due to systematic Israeli programs to eradicate them. Despite actual facts, debate on university campuses, and often in the media continues to focus on the slurs, and lies while the real issues here in Israel & in the Palestinian sphere are not even being discussed. Friends of Israel get sucked into this agenda created by the so called Friends of Palestinians, and waste time defending the libel of ethnic cleansing or apartheid and so also not debate actual real issues that exist: the future borders, the possibility of settlers becoming dual citizens of Palestine, the thorny question of an agreement to Fatah being nullified by a future Hamas takeover of the West Bank, militarization of a Palestinian state, refugees, water rights and so much more.

Instead, despite the truth of the situation for Palestinians under Israeli control, which is that their lives are much better, longer and healthier than they were prior to Israeli control (or at least they were prior to the Palestinian Authority's creation), or than that of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and other places, we are arguing the myths and lies and not reality. That path excludes any hope of a future for the Palestinian people, and any prayer of an end to the intractable situation in this small corner of the Mid East. It means there is no future for the Palestinians, because their leaders are not working toward one, and it seems, despite the storm of criticism aimed at him, that Mitt Romney understands this, and that President Obama, and certainly much of the US media, doesn't get it at all.

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