Brog's Blog

November 30, 2009

The Two No’s

Filed under: All Posts — brogsblog @ 8:01 pm

As we enjoyed our long Thanksgiving weekend, we received troubling news from the Middle East. On two fronts, good faith efforts were made to diffuse threats to Israel and the United States through negotiation and diplomacy. And in each case, these efforts were flatly rejected. In Israel’s long search for peace and security, such rejection is hardly new. Last week two more “no’s” were added to the large number of rebuffs that have rained down on Israel like so many enemy missiles.
On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made a significant gesture aimed at luring the Palestinians back to the negotiating table: he unilaterally declared a 10-month moratorium on building new homes in the West Bank. Despite Netanyahu’s reputation as a hawk, this was in fact an unprecedented concession. As Defense Minister Ehud Barak, himself a former prime minister, noted: “This step was not carried out in the Olmert government or in the Sharon government, not in my government and not in Yitzhak Rabin’s government either. For the first time, we are suspending all new construction for an extended period and therefore giving peace negotiations a chance.”
In response to this gesture, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas issued a prompt and clear “no.” Speaking from Venezuela, where he was visiting the virulently anti-American Hugo Chavez, Abbas stated that the construction freeze “didn’t bring anything new because the occupation is going to continue in the West Bank and in Jerusalem. The Israeli prime minister had to choose between peace and occupation. Lamentably, he chose occupation.”
In other words, Abbas is refusing to resume negotiations because Israel had not given him what he ultimately seeks in advance of negotiations. Yet the only reason why Israel still controls the West Bank is because the Palestinians have failed to meet their obligation to stop terrorism against Israel. Yes, Abbas’ American-trained security forces have for the first time begun to engage Palestinian militants and defeat them. But they have hardly ended the terrorist threat. According to Israeli sources, the Israeli army typically carries out between 10 and 20 raids into West Bank towns every night to prevent attacks against Israel.
Abbas’ “no” was followed by an even more ominous rejection. On Friday, the International Atomic Energy Agency board of governors voted 25 to 3 to censure Iran for hiding the existence of a uranium enrichment facility near Qom in violation of international law.  Thanks to prodding from the Obama Administration and our European allies, even Russia and China joined us in voting to censure Iran.
In the face of this international resolve, Iran could have said yes to disclosures and negotiations. Instead, it did the exact opposite: Iran issued an immediate “no” to the IAEA and the international community. On Sunday, the Iranian Cabinet responded to the criticism over one illegal uranium enrichment plant by ordering the construction of ten new uranium enrichment plants.
These two “no’s” must serve as a reminder to all of us who support Israel in her struggle for survival. So many in the world and in the media want to believe that Israeli intransigence is the source of all of Israel’s problems – and ours – in the Middle East. This is a lovely dream. If reasonable and civilized Israel is the source of our troubles, then all can be well in the world. But the truth is more troubling. The conflict in the Middle East is fueled largely by the failure of so many in the region to reconcile themselves to Israel’s existence and international law. We may not like this reality. But hiding from it will not change it.

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