In recent days, Israel has been embarrassed by remarks made by senior officials, which appear to contradict the commonly-pushed government stand on the conflict with the Palestinians. One official went so far as to call on the government to stop misleading the Palestinians, and the rest of the world, regarding a Palestinian state and Israeli settlements.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, meanwhile, is preparing for his fifth visit to the region this year in an effort to bring the Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table. He has told both sides that if his efforts fail they risk losing any possibility of finding a peaceful solution.
However, it has to be said that if Kerry and the rest of the international community do not believe that the peace process is already dead then they are sorely mistaken. A child can tell from Israel’s actions on the ground and statements from its leadership that the Zionist state has no intention of working towards peace.
Last week, Deputy Minister of Defence Danny Danon told the Times of Israel that the government is not committed to a two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 borders. “Look at the government: there was never a government discussion, resolution or vote about the two-state solution. If you will bring it to a vote in the government – nobody will bring it to a vote, it is not smart to do it – but if you bring it to a vote, you will see the majority of Likud ministers, along with the Jewish Home Party, will be against it.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed Danon’s remark; he told a conference in Bar-Ilan University as long ago as 2009 that he accepts the notion of a two-state solution on the basis of a demilitarised Palestinian state with Palestinians recognising Israel as a “Jewish state”. He vowed recently to cooperate with the US government to restart peace talks as long as these conditions are met.
According to International Relations and Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, there are some members of the government who oppose the two-state solution but insisted that “the entire cabinet” backs Netanyahu’s efforts. Danon, though, said that Netanyahu knows that Israel will never reach an agreement with the Palestinians.
Days after Danon’s remarks, Likud MK Yariv Levin, who is the new co-chair of the Caucus for Eretz [Greater] Israel in the Knesset, wrote on his Facebook page: “We will act to strengthen our hold on all parts of Eretz Israel, and will safeguard the settlement enterprise out of faith and the knowledge that exercising our rights to this land is our duty but also the best guarantee for Israel’s security.”
According to the Knesset Website, the goal of the caucus is “strengthening the state of Israel’s hold over the all parts of Eretz Israel, especially Judea and Samaria [the occupied West Bank] and the Jordan Valley.” Other goals, according to the website, are promoting and legalising settlements in the West Bank.
Danon knows that he can stir things up on such matters. Ahead of US President Barack Obama’s visit in April, he told the media, “When he [Obama] looks left and right, he will see that there really is no one to talk to… Netanyahu has invited Mahmoud Abbas many times for negotiations. I am not optimistic about this issue.”
Danon continued, “We will act within [Israeli] law to strengthen the settlements in Judea and Samaria [West Bank], in the Negev and in the Galilee.” He also insisted that this is the aim of Netanyahu’s government. “In the US they understand the democratic process very well. There were elections [in Israel] and a nationalistic government was chosen under Benjamin Netanyahu.”
The sub-text was clear: by visiting Israel, the US president will be promoting and legalising settlement in the West Bank because it is an official policy of the new Israeli government. This is the way that Israel will be able to annex ever more of the West Bank with quasi-official US approval.
With regards to the Palestinians living in the occupied territories, Danon is clear. He told Israel’s Channel One TV that there will be no Palestinian state, whether Kerry goes to Israel or not. “Israel will seize the empty [sic] Palestinian lands in the West Bank and will transform Palestinian residential areas into settlements. Jews are no longer settlers in the West Bank. Israel will make Palestinians settlers and put them in residential compounds. Then, it will allow Jordan to administer them. That’s all.”
According to the far-right deputy minister his are genuinely-representative views agreed with by the Knesset and the government. He called on both to make this clear to Israelis and the world community.
In the light of such a clear exposition of what are very extreme views on the conflict, it is hard not to conclude that Danon does indeed represent the official view and that Israel is not interested in peace with the Palestinians. The official, but unstated, policy seems to be that the Palestinians will either be expelled from their own land or herded into what will surely come to resemble concentration camps. The irony of a state full of Jews doing that to another people is lost on people like Danon.
Looking at the relevant positions of the US and European Union, it is quite feasible that they are working towards the retention of the status quo. Some Arab states also appear to be keen on this “option”. What else can we assume when we see Israel breaking international laws and conventions with impunity while the US supports it militarily, financially and politically? Israel is, literally, allowed to get away with murder.
I would suggest that it is time for the Arab states and the EU to drop their hypocritical stance; for John Kerry to stay at home; and for Obama to understand that he is going to end his political career with failure in the Middle East.
Finally, the UN should stop selling the Palestinians short. This would include giving full support to one of its most respected officials, Professor Richard Falk, instead of condemning him for standing up against Israeli aggression in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Politicians need to be honest with the people who elect them. Let’s put the charade that is the “peace process” to one side and deal with reality. Israel is intent on taking as much of Palestine as possible with as few Palestinians on it as it can manage. The sooner that the Americans, Europeans and, yes, the Palestinians admit that this is the case, the sooner we might come closer to a genuine agreement based on peace and justice.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.