For the longest time, Israeli governments have explained their resistance to Palestinian statehood by pointing to the Palestinians’ and the Arab world’s democracy deficit.
The dishonesty of that explanation has now been exposed to even the most credulous by the reaction of Israel’s government to the democratic revolutions sweeping the region. We are now told by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government that the overthrow of Tunisia’s and Egypt’s rulers and the challenges to other regional autocrats, whose regimes provided Israel with a certain stability by repressing forcefully popular Arab anger over Israel’s occupation policies, no longer allows Israel to accede to risky “concessions” that a peace accord entails.
So that while until now it was the region’s democratic deficit that supposedly prevented Israel from ending its occupation, now it is the region’s surfeit of democracy that stands in its way.
It is hard to believe there is today even a single head of state anywhere who still does not understand that Israel’s settlement project in the West Bank — secretly encouraged, financed and protected by successive Israeli governments and the IDF — never had a purpose other than to secure permanent Israeli control of Palestine from the Mediterranean to the Jordanian border. Even Chancellor Angela Merkel, who not so long ago pledged Germany’s unflagging support for Israel’s quest for security, recently told Netanyahu that no one can any longer believe anything he says about Israel’s interest in peace.
It is therefore hard to understand those who believe that the democracy revolutions in the region are a reason to urge Israelis and Palestinians to resume direct talks. Direct talks have not been resisted by Netanyahu, for they have served as an ideal cover for the continued expansion of the settlements — falsely holding out the promise that the controversy over the settlements will be resolved as soon as agreement is reached and a border has been set. So why waste time arguing about a settlement freeze now?
But the border is the one subject that Netanyahu refuses to discuss in these direct talks. If he were to disclose where he intends to draw that border, his intention to retain control over the entire West Bank and prevent the creation of a viable and sovereign Palestinian state would be exposed for all to see.
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