Saturday 17 September 2011

Sitting round waiting for the phone to ring

This afternoon I sat by the phone for 30 minutes expecting the BBC to call me. In vain.

I listened to Any Questions and was frustrated and angry to hear the panel suggest that Israel is the hindrance to peace in the Middle East and that President Obama should therefore not exercise the US veto when the PA President Mahmoud Abbas asks the UN Security Council to recognise a Palestinian State on 23 of this month.

As soon as the programme finished, I called Any Answers to say I wanted to make a point. A young woman who sounded like she was suffering from terminal boredom answered.

‘Any Answers...’

‘Hello. I’d like to respond to the question on Palestinian statehood.’

‘What’s your name?’ I told her.

‘Where do you live?’ I gave her the information.

‘What do you do?’ I told her I was the General Secretary of a Christian charity.

‘What’s your point?’ I said I disagreed with the panel and that Israel has been the one party in the peace process that has actively pursued peace.

‘And what’s point are you’re trying to make? That President Obama should veto any UN vote to recognise a Palestinian state until the Palestinian Authority is willing to make peace with Israel.’

‘Right.... and will you be near your phone between two o’clock and half past two?’ I would be.

‘Alright... stay by your phone and someone from Any Answers might call you.’ Click.

I stayed by the phone but no one called me. As I listened to the programme, listeners wanted to talk about the Euro and its imminent collapse, trade unions, pensions, rogue traders and spoilt unhappy children.

Oh well… And I’d prepared so well.

What I wanted to point out was that Israel has made all the running throughout the peace process. It was the Jews that agreed to the United Nations Partition plan in 1947; the Arabs turned the plan down.

Following the Six-Day War when Israel captured the Sinai from Egypt, she handed it back to Egypt in return for a guarantee of peace. Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat was later assassinated by the Muslim Brotherhood for making peace with the Israelis. Now there is talk in Egypt about tearing up Sadat’s peace agreement.

In 1996, Israel made peace with Jordan.

Israel has withdrawn from Palestinian towns and cities; she has removed checkpoints; she has provided water and electricity to Palestinians and allowed humanitarian aid to be transported into Gaza.

Israel has dismantled Jewish settlement and forcibly removed thousands of its own citizens from Gaza in 2005. The Palestinian response to that major peace effort was to increase aggression against Israel.

Israel Prime Minister announced to the US congress earlier in the year that he will be the first to welcome a Palestinian state if President Abbas is prepared to recognise a Jewish state. Abbas has refused to do so, making it clear that an independent state of Palestine will be Jew-free.

The Palestinian authority must do something to merit statehood. I can think of nothing that the Palestinians have done since Oslo to further the peace process.

However, Mr Abbas knows he is in a win/win situation. Whatever the outcome of his bid for Palestinian statehood he cannot lose. If he fails to persuade the UN Security Council to support him, or if the US vetos a pro-vote, the PA will continue to receive billions of dollars in US aid while the nations step up their boycotts on Israeli goods.

As Barry Rubin observes so perceptively:

Will the United States cut off all aid? Of course not. Will it make them more unpopular at home? No. If it kills talks with Israel? That’s good. They don’t need or want them. If it delays the creation of a real state? Since the PA can’t and won’t negotiate for a compromise agreement it doesn’t matter. The PA will get a huge majority in the General Assembly and that will seem a diplomatic victory. If the United States vetos, the PA has an excuse for not succeeding.

If you don’t confront the reality of why a country or group act the way it does–and why a weak Western policy makes radical behaviour possible – any discussion of the issue is a waste of time.

(Read Rubin’s blog here)

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