By Hasan Afif El-Hasan
The Palestinians in the occupied lands and the refugee camps must have been puzzled by those Palestinian leaders’ declarations and commentators’ peppy articles lamenting the loss of the butchers of Gaza, Kadima-Labor coalition, to the Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu coalition. Have the Palestinian leaders in the West Bank established mystical bonds with the butchers of Gaza who became their only accepted partners for peace? I can’t see the teensiest difference between the policies of the two camps. If there is any difference, it is that unlike Kadima and Labour leaders, Netanyahu practices what he preaches. Netanyahu is a dangerous leader but Olmert, Livni, Peres and Barak are no less dangerous. The only competition among these leaders is the level of the horrors inflicted on the Palestinians and the blood wantonly spilled under their leaderships.
When Peres was the minister of defense under Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin he helped Gush Emunim movement followers launch several settlements next to the Arab population centers in the West Bank. For the Gush Emunim members, the right of the Jewish people to Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) is nonnegotiable. At Peres order, the Israeli army provided water and electricity for Elon Moreh settlers and the military invited the settlers to establish a settlement at the military camp inside the Arab village of Kufur Qadum. The Israeli military declared the main road to the village as Jews-only-road and its Arab residents had to build new road leading to their homes and schools.
Peres personally helped establish Ofra settlement in the West Bank. In 1996 Peres approved and defended the shelling that killed and injured hundreds of Lebanese civilians who had taken refuge at a Fijian UNIFIL compound in Qana village. According to the Human Rights Watch, the death toll was 116 and the injured exceeded 120. And at the recent World Economic Forum in Switzerland, Peres defended Israel’s 22-day offensive against the Palestinian people in Gaza that killed hundreds of children and women and destroyed the civilian infrastructures of the ghettos where 1.5 million live under complete siege imposed by Israel. While Gaza had been under siege and its population was starved the unrepentant Peres said in the Forum “There is no siege against Gaza…..Why do they fight us? There was never a day of starvation in Gaza”. Peres is a sociopath liar and a war criminal, and that does not make him and his cohorts moderates.
How can the Palestinian leaders refer to Tzipi Livni, Ehud Barak and Olmert as moderates? The trio followed a policy of terrorizing the Palestinians who have been under occupation for forty years, building and expanding settlements, Judaisation of Jerusalem, confiscating Arab lands and building the apartheid wall. They carried out the barbarous massacres of the starved and besieged survivors of the 1948 Nakba in Gaza. And they deny the right of return for the refugees living in camps since 1948.
Under Olmert municipal administration in Jerusalem, Arab land was confiscated; public land was sequestrated; Olmert fostered Jews only settlements; and he cordoned off the city Arab inhabitants from their West Bank hinterland. Mayor Olmert and Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered the excavation of the so called “Hasmonean Tunnel” under the Muslim Haram Asharif shrine to facilitate movement of Israelis directly from the Western Wall area to Haram Asharif. The act is part of the plans to Judaize the character of the whole area. And on September 28, 2000, Olmert accompanied Sharon, a man anathematized by the Palestinians as “the butcher of Sabra and Shatila”, in the provocative walking visit to Haram Asharif that triggered the second intifada.
Netanyahu is not the first to ally himself with Avigdor Lieberman the leader of Yisrael Beiteinu Party. Ehud Olmert struck an alliance on October 23, 2006 with Lieberman who became a minister of strategic affairs and a deputy prime minister in Olmert cabinet. Lieberman called for stripping Arab Israelis of their citizenship to make Israel more Jewish, executing lawmakers for talking to Hamas and blanket-bombing of Palestinian population centers, gas stations and banks.
Even before Gaza massacres, Ehud Barak has lots of Palestinian blood on his hands. As a commando, Barak is widely presumed that he personally assassinated many Palestinians including the poet intellectual Kamal Nasir in 1972 and the Palestinian political nationalist Salah Khalaf (Abu Iyad) outside Tunis in 1991. Like Netanyahu, each of Peres, Olmert and Barak declared himself uncompromising on the issue of Jerusalem and the control of Israel’s security borders defined as the borders of historical Palestine.
Much has been written and aired by the US news media and the Israeli propaganda machine about a generous offer to Yassir Arafat by then Israeli Prime Minister Barak and US President Clinton in 2000 Camp David II negotiations. Here are some facts. The Palestinian state offered by Barak would be divided into small lots without territorial continuity or sovereignty. Barak stood firm on maintaining Israel’s sovereignty over the large Jewish settlement blocs that is home to more than 80 percent of the Jewish settlers in the West Bank. The thousands of the settlers who would be evacuated would have to remain under Israeli protection until arrangements could be made to relocate them. Barak map annexed the central Givat Ze’ev/Pisgat Ze’ev/Ma’aleh Adomin bloc dividing the West Bank in two; and Efrat/Etzion/Betar Ilit bloc in the southwest of Jerusalem severed any coherent connection between Bethlehem and Hebron. The annexed areas also included the large settlement of Ariel and some small satellite settlements next to the Palestinian City of Nablus. And the offer keeps under Israel’s control the Jordan River valley and the West Bank underground aquifer.
Yitzchak Shamir appointed Netanyahu as deputy foreign minister in his 1988 government and following Shamir’s defeat in 1992, Netanyahu was selected chairman of the Likud party. Like Olmert, Livni, Peres and Barak, Netanyahu is a strong believer in the Zionist ideology. The central theme of his book, “A Place among the Nations: Israel and the World”, is the right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel (Palestine) in its entirety. He argues that it was the Arabs who had usurped land from the Jews in Palestine, not the other way around; and Israel for its own self-protection must retain security control over all the territory of Palestine.
Benjamin Netanyahu has clinched the nomination to head a coalition that has been described by Arab commentators as a far-right coalition as compared to that of Tzipi Livni-Ehud Barak. Netanyahu has a peculiar plan for peace with the Palestinians. He calls it the “economic peace” plan which does not end the Israeli occupation. It offers the Palestinians a limited autonomy that allows them to police their own population centers while Israel controls borders, air space and its military continues to control overall security. In return, Netanyahu promises improvement of the Palestinians economic conditions by building industrial zones in the occupied lands that would employ Palestinians. He never specified who would finance the industrial projects and who would own them. But since Israel never assumed economic responsibility for the Palestinians under occupation, we can be certain that his proposed industrial projects requires the international community to foot its bill as it has been financing the occupation without holding Israel any responsibility for it.
In Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan, Israel would keep and expand the settlements; East Jerusalem would remain part of Israel; and no refugees would be given the right of return to their homes in Israel proper. He effectively is offering the status quo plus employment for the Palestinian labor as the solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Netanyahu has been firm and consistent in his opposition to ending the Israeli occupation. He is a racist by ideology and actions, so as Shimon Peres, Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak. All Israeli governments, the so called moderates and the right-wing share the same policy toward the Palestinians. Netanyahu’s vision of the Palestinian self-rule of disconnected non-sovereign enclaves in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is not different from the two-state solution offer made by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his Foreign Minister Livni after 12 months of continuous negotiations and fifteen years after Oslo. Shaul Mofaz, Kadima’s number two leader wants his party to join the Likud government under Netanyahu because there is little disagreement between the two parties.
These realities suggest none of the major parties in Israel is for just peace; and the current situation in the occupied land is the natural outcome of a conflict between a weak oppressed occupied people struggling for survival against a strong militant occupier with one of the most powerful armies in the world, a nuclear arsenal, unconditional backing of the world only super-power and ideology of conquest.
-Born in Nablus, Palestine, Hasan Afif El-Hasan, Ph.D. is a political analyst. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.