It is duplicitous enough for the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to try to convince audiences outside his own country from time to time that he supports the creation of a Palestinian state. Worse still is that he portrays his efforts in this regard as being constantly thwarted by the Palestinians themselves.
In other words, Netanyahu would have us believe that he is a greater proponent of such a state than those who have been denied it by almost half a century of Israeli military occupation and colonisation.
He reiterated this fallacy on March 22, while addressing the annual conference of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, Washington’s most influential pro-Israel lobby group.
He said he was willing to resume talks on a two-state solution “immediately … anytime, anywhere”, if only his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas was willing to do the same.
This just one day after the Israeli government issued notices to seize nearly 120 hectares of land from Palestinian villages in the northern West Bank, and days after it declared more than 2,300 dunums of land in Jericho as “state lands”, which are then usually granted to Jewish settlers.
Preconditions and obligations
Israel must keep illegally annexed East Jerusalem – whose boundaries have been expanded to comprise some 10 percent of the West Bank – as well as the Jordan Valley, which comprises about another 30 percent.
Whatever is left for a Palestinian state must be “demilitarised” – in other words remain defenceless – and recognise Israel as a Jewish state.
This demand was not made of Egypt or Jordan, and would further imperil Israel’s Palestinian citizens, who comprise more than 20 percent of the population and are already treated as second-class.
If all these criteria – and others – are met, then Netanyahu is all ears, because he knows that the end result would not be a state in any sense of the word. That the Palestinians would not – and could not – accept such a “state” is precisely why he can claim to support its creation, because he knows it will never come to that.
Do not call them preconditions, though – he does not like them, and apparently only the Palestinians have them.
In reality, while Israel’s entail flouting international law, that of the Palestinians – a halt to settlement expansion – is simply adherence to it.
As Saeb Erekat, the former chief negotiator for the Palestinian Authority (PA), told Al Jazeera: “That is an obligation, not a precondition.”
When objective observers point out the obvious, that Israel cannot claim to be committed to peace with the Palestinians while colonising their land, they are subjected to the full fury of Israeli officials.
When UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon did so in January, he was accused of “encouraging terror”.
On the rare occasion when Israel’s own allies do the same – most recently US Vice President Joe Biden on March 20 – they can safely be ignored, because Israel knows these words will never translate to pressure.