Jonathan Zausmer

45 Seconds of Shame

The world was invited to ponder the deafening silence of hypocrisy of the U.N. and its member states many of whom have no semblance of democracy or human rights to speak of, yet find time to condemn Israel and remain silent regarding Iran’s belligerence.

A powerful speech indeed. However as nothing new emerged from it, the dramatic interval of silence offered many 45 seconds of reflection on the hypocrisy, the sophistry and the ignominy of he who delivered that speech, Prime Minister Netanyahu and the scourge of shame, the dismembering of integrity he has brought upon our country, our nation and the Jewish people at large.

He really was an excellent ambassador to the U.N. back in the eighties. Had he stayed there, sprouting impressive platitudes, we may all have been better off. However since then he has excelled in navigating the Jewish state into a dire place of isolation, condemnation and insecurity.

On the eve of a third intifada emerging as we speak, with the blood-letting of innocent people on the roads of occupied territory and in Jerusalem, let us move away for just a moment from the undeniably despicable ethos of violence erupting from a fragmented Palestinian national movement and look within. As the dominant partner in any possible peace agreement, the onus lies squarely on the head of the government of Israel both to supply security and to proactively find an equitable process and road to peace.

Let us take 45 seconds and consider what Mr. Netanyahu has done in this respect.

­Lost opportunity

One of the most dramatic events of the last few years has been the advent of the Arab Peace Initiative (API). This initiative essentially runs parallel to the Geneva Initiative which bases a possible resolution of conflict on 1967 borders and a vision incorporating the four corners necessary for any peace agreement: security; borders; Jerusalem; refugees. The Abbas government made it clear that in the event of a peace agreement, established blocs of Jewish settlement over the green line would be acceptable providing that equitable land swaps could be made. With this principle in place the road forward to working with the API was opened. The opportunity here essentially brings an end to conflict and opens up the vast majority of the Arab world into an arrangement of peace with Israel, though not perfect, vastly better than the current status. Certainly trade, recognition and full diplomatic relations with a myriad of Arab states would defuse much of the tension. Netanyahu has ignored this initiative, as he has ignored any headway ever made by negotiations previous to his leadership and overtures during his leadership. Aside from a post-election zig-zag informal discussion where he mentioned the pros and cons of this plan, he essentially has ruled out the entire concept of initiative, dialogue, interaction, mutuality from his word view. Much like Putin, he believes that bullying is negotiation. The thing is, he isn’t Putin and Israel isn’t Russia. Let’s think about that for 45 seconds.

Rubbing salt in the wound

At every turn, Netanyahu has supported, enhanced and created settlement in occupied territory: somehow, every U.S. initiative was almost always met by more West Bank housing approvals. Any security breach or act of terror was met by compensating settlement needs for more housing in occupied territory. Any court ruling against construction on private Palestinian land and the consequent requirement to dismantle illegal housing is met by planning extensive new building projects often way beyond the so called blocs of consensus. The facts speak for themselves. Netanyahu and his previous governments with Labor and impotent center parties such as Yesh Atid abiding (and in doing so proving a limp fig leaf for this provocation), have taken the Greater-Israel plan to a new level, effectively closing down any real option for peace or negotiation.

There are some who claim that it is all reversible – and in fact, geographically and demographically it is, because the 700,000 settlers are mainly condensed into East Jerusalem and the larger settlement blocs. However a string of remote settlements disrupt future contiguity of a Palestinian state and more profoundly, the consistent settlement program accompanied by rampant settler violence by its extreme fringes, has driven Palestinian public opinion against a relatively mild Abbas government and has eviscerated the heart from what was until recently, a substantial body of opinion within the Palestinian thinking that a two state solution is the road to the future. The majority support for a two state solution by Palestinians, consistently monitored by PSI (The Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research) has fallen below 50%. Likewise, support for Abbas has crumbled. His vision of a non-violent diplomatic struggle for statehood has lost its foothold.

The security contractor

As the second intifada subsided and following Arafat’s death, the GDP per capita in Israel was then approximately $20,000. It had hung there ­–even dropped – during the terrible years of suicide bombings and unmitigated terror. When Abbas took the helm, radical changes and reforms were undertaken. Retraining and organization of the police and security services within the Palestinian Authority was done in the spirit of the Bush Roadmap. The intifada ended and over the years a broad network of tight coordination and cooperation with Israeli security forces was formed. The premise of the Abbas regime was non-violence, negotiation with Israel and neutralization of extreme elements such as Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. In fact during the last ten years, the PA has been the security contractor for Israel. During this time Israel’s GDP per capita rocketed to almost double that of 2005 estimated today at $37,000. From the day-to-day bombings that occurred in Israel’s cities between 2001-2005, we have since enjoyed, comparatively, a blanket of security courtesy of the Mukataa. Not only have Israelis prospered these last years from cheap West Bank labor, they prospered from security administered by the Palestinians themselves. This reality is about to end and we are witnessing its death throes. What has the Abbas government got to show for its non-violent platform? They are further away from statehood than ever; Abbas and his government bear the brunt of abuse and scorn of Israel, delegitimized as a partner, accused of terrorism. With zero achievement towards statehood, and widely regarded by his own people as a quisling of Israel; with settlement expanding and settler violence unchecked, together with Israel’s refusal on any whim to transfer Palestinian tax money as “punishment” for his U.N. initiatives, the emasculated Abbas is beaten, knees buckling, reeling on the ropes, old and weakening and now merely a convenient punching bag who can be accused of anything at any time. He is no saint, nor is he blameless, but consider for 45 seconds who preceded him and who is about to follow, now that he is rendered feeble and ineffective.

Netanyahu’s Verwoerd moment

The last elections afforded us the chance to finally hear first-hand, the truth: no to a two-state solution. The Bar Ilan speech was revealed publicly as a lie. The attempt to reverse that position later, to correct that impression and to talk of peace and cooperation in the speech to the U.N., is no more than the temerity of a hypocrite. The facts are not only visible on the ground but have been stated – they cannot be rubbed out by corrective oratory nor by theatrical silence. They scream out. Think about that for 45 seconds. Or maybe step back from the Ciceroan rhetoric and consider Netanyahu’s Verwoerd moment only months ago: “Arabs are going en masse to the polls. Left wing NGO’s are bringing them on buses…” he said, hours before polls closed during the last elections. The subtext: There is no greater danger than Arabs – and the “left” (anything from the center-left opposing his party) are by default traitors and collaborators. Who would believe that racism, fear and propaganda, fester just skin-deep in he who claims leadership of the Jewish people at large? These words are now engraved in the public record, indelibly marking and staining not only he who spoke, but tarnishing a nation, a people, an ideal. These words have brought shame and disgrace to Israel and have ironically serviced the interests of all those who talk of Israel as an apartheid state.

They say that an addict needs to reach rock bottom before help can be administered effectively. But the opiate of settlement and chest-beating ultra-nationalism, coupled with the need to nurture pain rather than find its remedy, seems more poisonous a cocktail than the worst of drugs. And as with any addiction, the entire family is being torn apart. It will take more than 45 seconds to remedy that.

About the Author
Originally from South Africa, Jonathan made aliya in the seventies, and lived and worked on a kibbutz for several years. He has a graduate degree in business from Boston University and is a managing partner of an Israeli based business. He was a co-founder of the Forum Tzora peace action group and participates in the Geneva Initiative workshops. He is the author of the book “Valley of Heaven and Earth”.