Posted by Emily Gian on 12 April 2012 at 12:30pm:
Two days ago, Australia’s new Foreign Minister, the Hon Bob Carr, released a statement on Israeli settlements, which seems to be in response to a bid by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to find a way to stop the demolition of several buildings in unauthorised outposts within the West Bank and to find a legal solution to this issue (see more).
While reiterating the Australian Government’s call for both sides to “show restraint and comply with their obligations under the Quartet’s Roadmap for Peace”, FM Carr chose to specifically single out the settlements as a “counterproductive to the peace process”. He continued that the Israeli Government’s announcement was ‘an unhelpful development at a time when both sides need to take action to build trust and confidence’ and that “these announcements will not help efforts to bring both parties back to direct negotiations”.
FM Carr is correct in that the issue of the settlements has been a sticking point in negotiations for many years.
The Quartet’s Roadmap, which was laid out back in 2003, stated that the Government of Israel should immediately dismantle settlement outposts erected since March 2001, and consistent with the Mitchell Report, also froze all settlement activity including “natural growth of settlements”. This was required to follow the implementation of Phase I of the Road Map which laid out certain requirements on the part of the Palestinians, namely that the “Palestinian leadership issues unequivocal statement reiterating Israel’s right to exist in peace and security and calling for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire to end armed activity and all acts of violence against Israelis anywhere. All official Palestinian institutions end incitement against Israel”.
We are now nine years down the track and, given the conduct of the Palestinian leadership in both Gaza and the West Bank, it should be obvious that we are no closer to an implementation of Phase I than we were back then.
There are many issues that are holding back the peace talks and that have stood in the way of this elusive peace negotiation that is in the best interest of all parties, but by focussing solely on the settlements, FM Carr and others are only looking at one part of the problem.
For example, last month PA Minister of Social Affairs Majida Al-Masri, urged for Palestinian unity between rivals Fatah and Hamas “so that we will be able to stand against the occupation, to halt its activities against our prisoners, and to turn to the struggle for the liberation of Palestine – all of Palestine” (see more).
In case some are in need of a geography lesson, the liberation of all of Palestine does not mean the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but all of Israel. If that is the stated position of a Minister of the Palestine Authority (Israel’s peace partner), then how important is resolving the issue of the settlements to the Palestinians, if at all?
The same attitude is reflected throughout Palestinian popular culture, with four songs currently being played PA-controlled television listing Israeli cities such as Haifa, Lod, Be’er Sheva, Tiberias, Sfat and Ashkelon as parts of Palestine (see more). I find the inclusion of Be’er Sheva and Ashkelon on this list particularly interesting considering Palestinian rockets are constantly aimed at these cities. But I digress. The point here is that this happens on a daily basis on Palestinian television, in mosques and in the media, and but yet Israel is consistently singled out for being the obstacle to peace.
There is also the continued issue of the glorification of Palestinian terrorists who have carried out some of the most heinous attacks against Israelis, such as the recent celebration of Dalal Mughrabi, who was responsible for the murder of 12 children and 25 adults. The Political and National Orientation Authority, an educational structure under the PA, referred to her a “person who fulfilled her obligation towards her land and homeland” (see more).
The Quartet, which met in Washington yesterday issued a statement and at least seemed to have more balance on the issues. It called on the PA to “continue to make every effort to improve law and order, to fight violent extremism, and to end incitement”. Turning to Israel it “expressed its concern over ongoing settler violence and incitement in the West Bank and calls on Israel to take effective measures, including bringing perpetrators of such acts to justice” (see more). This is a more balanced approach than that which our FM here in Australia is taking.
Of course, the EU did not call on the PA to bring perpetrators of incitement to justice, but given that much of the incitement occurs in the PA media itself, such a call might have been somewhat embarrassing.
The Quartet did condemn “rocket attacks from Gaza and stressed the need for calm and security for both peoples”. The Quartet knows that the rocket attacks are also extremely detrimental to the cause of peace. They should be condemned and the failure to do so should be of concern to all of us.
I have no doubt that our FM meant no harm with his statements, but I think it is vital that anyone who comments on the Middle East does so with a more nuanced approach. Blaming Israel is just going to give the Palestinians more reasons not to return to the negotiating table and renew their efforts to win UN recognition (see more).
In other news, as we near the end of Pesach, we turn our attention to some other very important events in the Jewish/Zionist calendar! Please check out the flyers in the sidebar of this email for Yom Hazikaron, the Yom Ha’atzmaut Concert and Yom Ha’atzmaut at Luna Park which will be taking place on 24, 25 and 26 April 2012. Please mark these dates in your diaries and book tickets to each event as they are selling fast! Do not miss this opportunity to show your support for Israel in a positive way.
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