It is hard to understand how, as the US Ambassador to the United Nations, you can be so far removed from reality with regard to relations between the Israelis and Palestinians. Your constant refrain demanding that the Palestinians take “the path of negotiation and compromise,” suggests a level of ignorance and arrogance rarely seen on the international stage unless, of course, you are speaking on behalf of the Israeli government.
You suggest that “the Palestinian leadership has a choice to make between two different paths. There is the path of absolutist demands, hateful rhetoric, and incitement to violence. That path has led, and will continue to lead, to nothing but hardship for the Palestinian people.”
You insist, too, that the path to negotiation and compromise remains open, if only the Palestinian leadership had the courage to take it. You go on to accuse the U.N. body of using the most democratic country in the Middle East as a scapegoat for the region’s problems.
The problem, Madame Ambassador, is not the Palestinian leadership or its people, even though both have made mistakes. The problem is Israel and its almost fifty-one-year-long occupation of the Palestinian people and the policies it continues to pursue.
Imagine, Madame Ambassador, you are a Palestinian. You would be the descendant of one of the 700,000 Palestinians who were evicted from, or fled from, areas in 1949 that had been allocated to the State of Israel, or occupied by Jewish forces during the fighting, and could quite possibly still be living in a deplorable refugee camp. At the time, and to deter any attempt to return to your village, Jewish forces razed your home after you left and declared your village part of the then newly established Absentee Law which claimed your village henceforth to be the property of the Israeli government.
As a path toward peace, Yassir Arafat agreed to sign the Oslo Accords with Prime Minister Rabin in September 1993 even though it offered only a vague promise of self-government after five years. Unbeknownst to the Palestinians at the time, Israel intended this agreement to function as a civilian arm of the its military occupation forces, making Arafat’s PLO unwittingly Israel’s enforcer in the occupied Palestinian territories. The Accords called for limited autonomy in parts of Gaza and Jericho in the West Bank, neither of which ever materialized.
As a Palestinian, and you still owned a house or an apartment, it could, with scant notice, and at the discretion of the authorities, be demolished to make way for an illegal Israeli settlement. As if that indignity was not enough, you would then be handed a bill to clean up the demolition site or pay a stiff fine.
As I explained in Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with both Sides, in case you haven’t yet read it, you would, as a Palestinian, also be subjected to subtle, bureaucratic and legal restrictions which would entangle you in a web of closures, work discrimination, restrictions on movement, displacement through exile, limits on planting of crops and their sale.
With the construction of Israel’s Separation Wall, you would be one of the millions of Palestinians affected on a daily basis by the barrier’s route, preventing you access to primary urban centers where essential services such as hospitals, schools, markets and places of worship are available.
The areas in the Wall’s path include the most fertile in the entire West Bank and contain just about all of the region’s water resources. If your father was a farmer, he would need permission from Israeli forces to access his land and tend to his crops.
As a Palestinian, you suspected all along that the wall had little to do with security but then Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert confirmed you suspicion when he admitted that the Wall’s purpose was to maximize the number of Jews in East Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank, while minimizing the number of Palestinians.
So, Madame Ambassador, Israel’s survival as a democracy, a questionable status as an occupying force, is dependent on the concessions it is willing to make to ensure peace with the Palestinians, not the other way around.
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