[This piece was originally published on the Times of Israel]
According to a recent interview in the Washington Post, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would “sit in a tent halfway between Ramallah and Jerusalem” in order to resume the peace process. Asserting his committed opposition to preconditions, Netanyahu told the Palestinians to “just get on with it” and sit down at the negotiation table.
Thank goodness that we have a Prime Minister so committed to the peace process, especially on the heels of recent anti-Peace comments by high ranking coalition members like Naftali Bennett and Danny Danon. As was made apparent by this recent interview, and by his statements chiding Bennett and Danon, Netanyahu, unlike his expansionist colleagues, is committed to the peace process. He is so committed that he would sit in a tent halfway between Jerusalem and Ramallah. All that he asks is that the Palestinians drop their “preconditions” (namely a request for a settlement freeze). Doesn’t this prove that Netanyahu is seriously committed to peace?
Netanyahu is many things, including a brilliant rhetorician and a master politician. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not and has never been committed to peace with the Palestinians. Netanyahu, Danon and Bennett are on the same political side (and part of the same political coalition). And all three are equally committed to ensuring that there will never be a meaningful, genuine peace deal reached with the Palestinians.
In a forgiving read on politics, Netanyahu found Danon’s and Bennett’s statements to be politically convenient platforms to prove his Peace Process Bona Fides. In a more cynical read, the Netanyahu and his team orchestrated the entire “dispute.” I’ll leave the choice of whether to view Israeli politics forgivingly or cynically up to the reader. What is important is this: that we who genuinely believe in peace not fall victim to Netanyahu’s deceptions, and that we remember that commitment to the “peace process” and commitment to peace are two different -and often diametrically opposed- things.
Let us begin by breaking down Netanyahu’s charming “tent” pledge and getting to know the area Netanyahu was referring to when he said “halfway between Ramallah and Jerusalem.”
Option 1: Netanyahu’s Peace Process Tent would be located in Area C. Area C makes up the majority of the West Bank (over 60%) and is under complete Israeli civil and security control. In addition to Palestinians living in Area C being denied even the most basic civil services from the Israeli authorities, they are under constant threat of forced expulsion. Meanwhile, Israel continues to expand settlements in this area, often beginning in the form of… you guessed it: tents.
Option 2: Netanyahu’s Please Process the Peace Process with Me Tent will be located in the middle of occupied East Jerusalem, in which Israel, like Area C, Palestinians are generally denied basic services while Israeli settlements continue to expand.
Option 3: Netanayhu’s Peace Out Peace Process Tent would be located at the Qalandiya checkpoint (which separates occupied Palestinian territory from more occupied Palestinian territory, see map above), where thousands of Palestinians are sorted, separated, privileged and humiliated by their possession or lack of appropriate Israeli-issued identity cards and by the whims of teenage Israeli soldiers.
Suddenly, when we look at the area between West Jerusalem and Ramallah, the Palestinian precondition that Israel freeze settlement growth and activity before negotiations resume doesn’t seem so absurd. In fact, the label of “absurd” seems to fall instead on the Israeli government’s suggestion that the Palestinians should “just get on with it” and sit down at the negotiation table while Israel continues to build settlements on virtually every dunam of unused (and many, many dunams of actively used Palestinian land). At this rate, Israel will have de facto annexed most of the West Bank by the time said negotiations get rolling, and certainly by the time any agreements are implemented, ie., exactly what Bennett and Danon are advocating. The only difference between their way and Netanyahu’s is that the latter will be given a carte blanche to continue the process of annexation, occupation and unilateral takeover with a minimal amount of international criticism. The name of this carte blanche will be “Peace Process.”
Netanyahu is not committed to peace. He is committed to the Peace Process. If an Israeli politician were seriously committed to peace, a settlement freeze would be the least they could do to prove that. Until such a politician comes along, those of us who truly support peace must do our part by exposing and opposing Netanyahu’s (and his allies’) rhetoric of “Peace Processing.”