Friday, September 24, 2010

Day 267- Trust

Dear Mr. President,

Your speech to the UN general assembly about the prospect of peace between Palestine and Israel was difficult to hear, even as it was unsurprising. The way you glossed over any mention of violence by Israel against Palestinians demonstrated to any one listening that the United States continues to turn a blind eye to the very real suffering Israel has inflicted. It is so insulting to refuse even to acknowledge the needless loss of life and senseless destruction of Israel's occupation while using the most manipulative imagery possible to condemn the rockets fired from Gaza. ("This time, we will think not of ourselves, but of the young girl in Gaza who wants to have no ceiling on her dreams, or the young boy in Sderot who wants to sleep without the nightmare of rocket fire.") You perpetuate the idea that Palestinians might be oppressed, but Israelis live in constant fear of their lives- conveniently ignoring the inarguable fact that dramatically more Palestinians die at the hands of the Israeli military than Israelis are killed by Hamas. To allow that disparity to go unacknowledged while condemning Palestinian violence is the kind of gross misrepresentation of reality that I usually expect from FOX news.

While I admire your optimism in believing that the peace talks should continue even if the settlement freeze is allowed to expire, I don't see how you can reasonably ask the Palestinians to accept this. These peace talks are based on the idea that each side can trust their enemy to hold to its promises, to keep its word. That kind of trust is the only way any agreement will be reached or any lasting peace could ever be established. Stepping up construction on illegal settlements in territory that any reasonable final agreement will have to belong to the Palestinian state is the ultimate confirmation of the Palestinian's fears that Israel's appetite for land will never allow them a state of their own. (I say stepping up and not resuming because the settlement freeze has only slowed construction and never actually stopped it.) The Palestinians have, for six decades, watched their land erode to Israeli control. They have seen it taken by military force, by racist and unjust laws, by the construction of the apartheid wall. They have seen their neighbors and their children shot for harvesting crops on their own land. They have seen their water supplies dwindle to water Israeli crops. They have seen roads diverted around settlements that certain races are not allowed to drive on. They have been choked off from relatives living on the wrong side of arbitrary lines or with ID cards of the wrong color. They have had attempts at commerce and education foiled by checkpoints and blockades. It is a miracle that the current Palestinian leadership has summoned the good faith to talk, to suspend disbelief and allow for the hope that the land they have now might remain in Palestinian control. Allowing settlement construction to continue is a testament by the Israeli government that it has no interest in peace. That it has no intention of allowing the Palestinians their own state. It is a betrayal of trust these negotiations will not recover from.

You may ask all you wish for the talks to continue even if the freeze expires. It will come to nothing. You are likely using every diplomatic tool in your repertoire to try and convince the Netanyahu administration to extend the freeze as an act of goodwill. As Israel's closest ally and largest provider of military aid, our influence ought to be enough to accomplish this. I think, however, so long as you continue to demonstrate that we will not be practically tough on our ally, that we are not willing to revoke the military aid and to do more than verbally admonish their worst acts, Israel has no incentive to take the US or the peace talks seriously. I was a skeptic from the beginning about these talks, but you have asked us to hope. You asked us to trust that these men negotiating are serious about peace because they see it is their moral obligation and in the interest of their people. Trusting words is difficult in the best of circumstance, but trusting those words in the face of actions and policies that directly contradict them is downright foolishness. Israel must demonstrate a willingness to give up many of these settlements, that they can be trusted to obey international law and the terms of any future agreement. Expanding settlement construction now will only prove that the trust of the Palestinian people was in vain.

Respectfully yours,


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