In his visit to the U.S., Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told U.S. President Barak Obama that he would never compromise on Israel’s security, as Obama pressured him to reach an agreement with the Palestinians. “Israel has been doing its part, and I regret to say that the Palestinian’s haven’t,” stated Mr. Netanyahu. To ceaselessly repeat a wrong mantra doesn’t make it the truth.
Despite his claims about his concern for peace, Mr. Netanyahu’s actions betray his lofty words. During operation Cast Lead he ordered the lethal attack against thousands of civilians –many of them women and children- in Gaza, as well as the uninterrupted building of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. Both actions have been strongly condemned by the international community.
To state that Israel is trying to reach a peaceful agreement with the Palestinians while continuing the uninterrupted building of settlements in Palestinian land is an offense to truth. To target minors for attacks and to commit crimes against Palestinian civilians that are considered war crimes is not the way to reach peace with the Palestinians.
To destroy Palestinian homes and to uproot Palestinian olive trees –a source of livelihood for the Palestinians- is also not the right way to search for peace. To claim that only Israelis are interested in peace is to ignore decades of abuse suffered by the Palestinians at the hand of the Israelis.
As Netanyahu was blaming Palestinians for the lack of progress in the peace talks, Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics released data that showed that Israel had doubled settlement construction in 2013 as compared to 2012.
According to the report, the number of new construction projects in the settlements increased from 1,133 in 2012 to 2,534 in 2013. Palestinians have repeatedly stated that settlement expansion on Palestinian land makes a mockery of their aspirations to an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.
In addition to these actions that are contrary to creating an atmosphere for peace, Israel has never ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), an arms control agreement which outlaws the production, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons and their precursors. During Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, Israel used white phosphorus over densely populated areas, which Human Rights Watch claimed was evidence of war crimes.
As a warning to Mr. Netanyahu, President Obama said that it would be harder for Washington to defend Israel against efforts to isolate it internationally if U.S.-led peace talks didn’t succeed. “What I do believe is that if you see no peace and continued aggressive settlement construction and…if Palestinians come to believe that the possibility of a contiguous sovereign Palestinian state is no longer within reach, then our ability to manage the international fallout is going to be limited,” Obama told Bloomberg View.
It is possible that, given the circumstances, the Palestinians will not obtain what they justly deserve from Kerry’s proposal. And it is also possible that the Israeli government -not necessarily most of the Israeli people, who are as desperate for peace as the Palestinian people- will not get what it desires. But there is a historic urgency to reach an agreement before it is too late to accomplish it.