Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Why does Abbas try to convince Nigerians, not Israelis

From JPost, 25 September, b:

Instead of trying to persuade Israelis that Palestinians are ready for statehood, PA President Abbas tries to convince UNSC members.

The problem with the Palestinian bid at the UN, former Kadima lawmaker Tzahi Hanegbi said Friday in a Channel 2 discussion, is that instead of trying to persuade the Israeli public that the Palestinians are ready for statehood, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is trying to convince Gabon, Nigeria and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Those three countries are among the 15 current members of the UN Security Council, nine of whom must vote “yes” to a resolution calling for Palestine to be admitted as a full member of the UN, before the matter can be kicked over to the General Assembly for its certain approval.

But even if Gabon, Nigeria and Bosnia-Herzegovina vote with the Palestinians, along with six other states, the move won’t fly, since the US has pledged to veto it. But, never mind, the Palestinians are going full speed ahead, ignoring the pleas of the most sympathetic US administration in recent memory to their cause, thereby alienating that administration. Abbas’s tactics baffle, as did his speech to the UN on Friday.

Israelis yearn to be understood, and accepted. Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, an implacable foe who launched a surprise attack on the country on its holiest day in 1973, turned the tables completely with the simple gesture of flying to Jerusalem in 1977.

Soon thereafter he received back from Israel the entire Sinai Peninsula.

Had Syria’s Bashar Assad, before his current troubles, invited Ehud Olmert or even Binyamin Netanyahu to Damascus to eat humous and talk peace, he would have won Israelis’ hearts and paved the way for sweeping concessions.

Part of peace is breaking down psychological barriers. Simple human gestures go a long way toward breaking those barriers.

Israelis, traumatized by Jewish history – both ancient and modern – need their confidence built, their fears allayed, their concerns appreciated and understood. We need gestures. Abbas’s words to the UN provided little.

While Israeli leaders, including Netanyahu during his speech at the UN, consistently articulate an understanding of Palestinian yearnings, the Palestinians rarely voice any understanding of Israel’s – not its yearning, nor its fears, nor its connection to the land.
“Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, I come before you today from the Holy Land, the land of Palestine, the land of divine messages, ascension of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the birthplace of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him), to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people in the homeland and in the diaspora, to say, after 63 years of suffering of an ongoing Nakba: Enough. It is time for the Palestinian people to gain their freedom and independence,” Abbas said toward the end of his address Friday.

With that seemingly innocuous paragraph, Abbas revealed the glaring gaps between the sides.

If Abbas cannot even acknowledge that the Holy Land is not only the birthplace of Jesus and the location of the ascension of Muhammad, but also holds a certain allure for various reasons to the Jewish people, then peace is farther off than the 12 newly allotted months spelled out in the Quartet’s recent formula for restarting negotiations.

It has been said that for the Jewish people today, “Temple denial” – or the denial of a Jewish connection to Israel – is more pernicious even than “Holocaust denial.”

In the end, it is the Jews who will carry the memory of the Holocaust through the centuries, even with the deniers, while the rest of the world will forget, just as the Jews – rather than the rest of the world – has carried other tragic episodes of our history through the ages. That is our responsibility.

But denying the existence of the Temple, or the Jewish connection to the land, is to deny the basis of Jewish identity, because connection to the land is such a fundamental part of that identity.

Genuine peace will only be reached when both sides recognize that the other side is there to stay, and has a historical right to be there. If one side believes the other is an interloper, with no rights to the land – then there can never really be peace, just an agreement until the interloper either fades, or is pushed, away.

While the Palestinians are busy trying to convince Gabon, Nigeria and Bosnia-Herzegovina, they have failed to convince Israel that they respect any Jewish historical claim to the land. And without that, the Palestinians will have a hard time convincing the Israeli public that an affirmation of their rights does not mean a denial of our own.

And, whether they like it or not, ultimately what the Israelis think about their statehood bid is more important than what Gabon, Nigeria and Bosnia- Herzegovina think, because in the end the Israelis are the ones who are going to have to agree to it.
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