Actions Speak Louder than Words
Political pundits are all asking the same question these days about Israel: what will Netanyahu do? Will he continue the peace process? Will he trigger violence again like he did in 1996, when he opened the tunnel near the Al-Aqsa mosque without coordinating with the Muslim Waqf? Will he hurt the relationships between Israel, the US, and Europe?
It has been interesting watching many Israeli officials racing to defend Netanyahu’s administration and his extremist Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. This list of staunch defenders has grown to include current Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Ehud Barak, and even the well known peace supporter President Shimon Peres. They all are scrambling to reassure the world that the rightist government will be supportive of the peace process, despite recent speeches and violent threats made by key players in the government, including Netanyahu and Lieberman.
In the last few weeks Netanyahu himself has backed off his pre-election promise to discontinue peace negations, instead stating that he will proceed with the negotiations. It is a small consolation for Palestinians, however, that Netanyahu has chosen to join the never-ending peace process which seems to lead to nowhere more often than not.
A few months ago, Palestinian-Israeli MK Dr. Tibi told me that as a physician he had a “diagnosis” for the disease that is preventing the Israelis and Palestinians from reaching an end to the conflict. The disease is the process, he said, and the politicians have fallen so deeply in love with the process that they have forgotten that there should be peace at the end of it. Foreign Minister Livni has commented that we should continue negotiating, but not hurry to come up with a resolution here. Dr. Tibi has a different perspective. “Well, this conflict is sixty years old, how much longer should we wait?”
At this point, Mr. Netanyahu is looking to avoid international criticism by continuing the “peace process”. He still can build more settlements, and it is being reported that he already agreed to build 3000 new units in East Jerusalem, demolish more homes in East Jerusalem, continue the closure on Gaza, and continue other occupation policies. This is not a new policy. The Kadima-Labor government of the last three years continued building settlements in the West Bank, started the closure in Gaza, continued building the Separation Wall, confiscated Palestinian land, and continued the occupation. However, the Kadima-Labor government was labeled pro-peace because they were willing to negotiate and make great speeches supporting peace, even while adding more checkpoints within the Palestinian territories than ever before.
It is time to demand higher standards from Israelis and Palestinians who profess to be “pro-peace.” It is time to demand that the Israeli government be willing to end the occupation, dismantle the settlements, and end the racist policies it has instituted against the Palestinians. It is time to demand that the Palestinians be united in supporting a lasting peace with Israel, end an era of violence, reform corruption, and heal division within their own ranks. It is time for the world to hold both the Israeli and the Palestinian governments accountable for their actions, and to not be satisfied with empty declarations and political posturing. It is time to expect real negotiations from both sides, with the goal of ending the conflict. Then, with higher expectations in hand, the world can hope for a real peace to take shape.