Here we go again! Evet Lvovich Lieberman, the Moldavian who became Avigdor Lieberman when in 1978 his religion qualified him uniquely for instantaneous Israeli citizenship, is demanding the removal of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
In a letter to the Mideast Peace Quartet on August 21, Israel’s foreign policy chief, who once branded the premise of the Mideast peace talks as flawed, called Abbas “an obstacle to peace”.
In a clear sign of a dysfunctional government, the Israeli prime minister’s office issued a statement, distancing Benjamin Netanyahu from the foreign minister’s letter, saying: “It does not represent the position of the prime minister or the government.”
Two days later, speaking to Israeli public radio, an unrelenting Lieberman accused Abbas of waging a “diplomatic terror” campaign. He was referring to a Palestinian initiative to obtain UN recognition of a state on 22 per cent of historic Palestine.
Lieberman’s disingenuous remarks were another example of Israel’s interminable and contrived attempts to distract the international community from the drifting 20-year-old peace process.
When Yasser Arafat refused to waiver on fundamental national principles, such as the rights of refugees and the status of Jerusalem, during Bill Clinton’s theatrics at Camp David in 2000, Israel decided that Palestinians must change their democratically elected president.
To achieve that, in March 2002 it laid a long siege on Arafat’s compound in Ramallah, and in June the credulous then-US president George W Bush went along with the charade, calling for a “new Palestinian leadership”.
Following the suspicious death of Arafat in 2003, Abbas was elected president. At the time, he was described by Israeli and American leaders as “pragmatic” and a “peace partner”.
For years, Israel continued to flout America’s road map for peace by indulging with impunity in an illegal settlement programme and erecting an apartheid wall, suffocating the fledgling Palestinian economy.
In early 2006, Palestinians held their second open democratic election. In an expression of frustration over the lack of progress with the peace process, the electorate voted for Hamas to lead the Palestinian parliament.
Rejecting the results of Palestinian democracy, Israel cajoled the Quartet and demanded that Hamas, not just the Palestinian government, must recognise Tel Aviv or face international isolation. The reciprocal recognition of Palestinian rights to a state of their own was never requested from or by Israeli political parties and governments.
Succumbing to Israeli and international pressure, one year later Abbas deposed the democratically-elected government and appointed a new caretaker administration.
The peace marathon hit another snag following the election of Benjamin Netanyahu in 2009 for his second stint as prime minister of Israel. He immediately rejected the established understandings reached by the Palestinians with his predecessor, and insisted on resuming negotiations from scratch.
Netanyahu, who once said that a Palestinian state “must never be established”, was elected under the Likud Party charter, which rejects “the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan River”.
On the other side, Palestinians have over-committed themselves to the process by giving up, ahead of peace talks and without reciprocity, 78 per cent of Palestine.
The spineless Quartet must stop deluding itself, end Israel’s Sisyphean negotiations and demand all parties to fulfil the same peace stipulations.
Otherwise, the Quartet’s member states should be prepared to support the Palestinians’ “diplomatic terrorism” at the UN General Assembly when it starts its session next month.
The absence of Israeli accountability remains the crux of the peace predicament in the region.
*Mr Kanj writes frequently on Arab issues and is the author of Children of Catastrophe, Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America. His articles can be read at www.jamalkanj.com. This article was first published by the Gulf Daily News newspaper