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Mahmoud Abbas and the Fatah apparently insist on "right" of return for Palestinians and the "right" to take over all of East Jerusalem and re-expel the Jews from there. This realization brings different reactions from different people.

One person wrote, "[N]egotiations always start with something to negotiate."

Not exactly. Those conditions might be the start of negotiations for unconditional surrender, not positions in peace negotiations. Dismemberment of Czechoslovakia, demanded by Hitler in 1938, was not "something to negotiate" and it should never have been negotiated.

Negotiations for peace start with positions about the peace treaty that are to be negotiated, such as borders, security arrangements etc. They cannot start when one side proposes terms that pretty much mean the destruction of the other side. "I want to take over your capital city and flood your country with my people" is a basis for a declaration of war, not the start of peace negotiations.

Suppose that when Poland negotiated peace with Germany after World War II, the Germans had insisted on flooding Poland with all the Germans who were displaced when Poland annexed Silesia? And suppose they further insisted that as Warsaw was occupied by Germany in World War II, it must be "returned" to German sovereignty?

These conditions moreover, were not set forth before negotiations as starting positions. Abbas's conditions were presented in article he wrote in November of 2000, to justify the failure of the Camp David talks. They are his "Red Line" conditions. Even if he wanted to retreat from them, a grim chorus from the other side of the Styx would chant "Traitor!" at anyone who gave up "right" of return" and the "right" to kick the Jews out of Jerusalem again.

Others critics asserted that given the red-line conditions of even the most moderate Palestinian leadership, there was no point in negotiating with Palestinians at all. They do not grasp some realities of the Middle East that impel negotiations.

Firstly, Israel has always been struggling for recognition by the Arab states and negotiations with them. This has been an uphill struggle from the days when Arabs and Palestinians insisted on sitting in separate rooms from the Israelis (or the Zionist representatives before the State of Israel came into existence). Arabs called Israel, "the Zionist entity." Breaking this racist and contemptuous "anti-normalization" norm has taken many years, and the process is not complete. There are still people in the Arab world who support the shunning, and refusing to negotiate bolsters their position. Israel should be ready to meet and to negotiate for peace any time, anywhere.

Second, as long as there are negotiations, there is always the hope that eventually there will be a change in Palestinian Arab society and Palestinian leadership, and that the Arabs of Palestine will one day be willing to live in peace as neighbors of a Jewish state. This change must come about if Israel is to survive. It will not happen overnight, but it will never happen at all if Israel is not willing to negotiate.

Third, the Palestinian leadership and the Arab states have understood what the Israeli leadership did not understand: Most of the real "negotiations" are not between Israelis and Palestinian Arabs, but between the Israeli government and the US and Europe and Diaspora Jews and Israeli citizens in one channel, and between Palestinian leadership, and the US and Europe and Palestinian Arabs in the territories and abroad and the Arab world in the other channel.

The "negotiations" provide a forum for presenting a point of view, making a case, and legitimizing the leadership and its "demands" and positions. Most important, offering to negotiate casts the party in question as peace - loving and probably in the right, while refusing to negotiate paints them as belligerent and inflexible. Even Adolf Hitler understood this, and was happy to "negotiate" with the grateful and foolish Chamberlain. Hitler's willingness to negotiate, never mind the terms offered, was taken time and again as proof of his "reasonableness."

Using the platform of "negotiations" to legitimize their demands, the Palestinians can chalk up the following achievements:
  • "Right" of Return was invented and promoted as a right in international law

  • A spurious Palestinian claim to sovereignty in Jerusalem is gaining increasing acceptance

  • Refusal to recognize the right of a member state to exist, a violation of the UN charter, is gaining increasing acceptability.

  • Any refusal to accede to the demands of the Palestinians, however outrageous, is openly ascribed to the "Israel lobby," legitimizing anti-Semitism.

  • Terrorism is being legitimized as the "right of resistance."

  • A segment of Israeli society now believes that the occupation is the only reason for Arab opposition to the existence of Israel.

In contrast, Israel has not even tried to make a case for the rights of Jewish refugees from Arab lands, to defend its own right to exist in security, to explain the clear danger to Israeli security from a terrorist-dominated Palestinian state, or to present the obvious case for Jewish rights in Jerusalem. Because Israel is unwilling to negotiate, it is pictured as dragging its feet on negotiations in order to prolong the occupation.

Israel must also "negotiate" with our own people, because unless our citizens understand why they are asked to make sacrifices and risk death, and unless soldiers understand what they are defending, they will be unwilling to do their part. We must be convinced, before going to war, that every effort was made to achieve peace. Domestically, in 2001 this was pretty much the case. Ehud Barak is castigated for negotiating when negotiations were hopeless, and for making far-reaching concessions in return for nothing, but that noble failure gave most Israelis the conviction that we are right, that the terror attacks are not due to the "occupation" primarily but to the desire of the Palestinians to destroy our state and our society.

Israel must also "negotiate" with the United States and Europe for the right to defend itself. This was not taken for granted in 2001, when the Tenet and Mitchell reports legitimized Palestinian terror attacks as part of a "cycle of violence" and European officials counseled "restraint" in the face of suicide bombings. If and when the "third intifada," the next round of violence, starts, Israel must demonstrate to its own citizens and to its allies and partners that we did everything possible to prevent it.

Finally, for reasons that have little to do with logic and public opinion, and a great deal to do with petroleum in the Arabian Gulf area and the American problems in Iraq, the United States insists on a "peace process" between Israelis and Palestinian Arabs. Therefore, there is a good chance that the negotiations will take place regardless of Israeli objections. Shouldn't we do our utmost to exploit the negotiations as an opportunity to present our side of the story, rather than trying to skulk in a corner, as though hiding from the wrath of justice?

Ami Isseroff

Original content is Copyright by the author 2007. Posted at ZioNation-Zionism and Israel Web Log, http://www.zionism-israel.com/log/archives/00000383.html where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Disributed by ZNN list. Subscribe by sending a message to ZNN-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by e-mail with this notice, cite this article and link to it. Other uses by permission only.

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Replies: 2 Comments

(Ami for foreign minister!)
Libya, Morocco, Sudan and Iraq already issued invitations to their Jews to return in the 70s. To my knowledge, only one Jew did - and promptly disappeared (this was in Saddam's Iraq). The Arab states know that the Jews would rather go to the North Pole than go back alnd live under their tyrannies. The Jewish refugees issue is a double-edged sword. Much better to use the Jews' refusal to return to encourage the Palestinians to drop THEIR demand to return.

lyn, Thursday, May 10th


You're right - except the point of Jews from Moslem countries. Just imagine that those countries admit that Palestinians' "naqba" was the flip side of Moslem Jews's "naqba" and agree to take their Jews and/or their descendents back - while Israel should accept the Palestinians' "right of return"!

Misha Shauli, Wednesday, May 9th

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