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Entries in Gideon Levy (3)


Israel: Masquerade of "Proximity Talks" and Settlements (Levy)

After the announcement of the planned construction of 1,600 Israeli housing units in East Jerusalem, Haaretz's Gideon Levy put the absurdity on paper by declaring there is someone to blame now: Israel’s Interior Minister Eli Yishai:
Here's someone new to blame for everything: Eli Yishai. After all, Benjamin Netanyahu wanted it so much, Ehud Barak pressed so hard, Shimon Peres wielded so much influence - and along came the interior minister and ruined everything.

Israel-Gaza: EU Endorses Goldstone Report

There we were, on the brink of another historic upheaval (almost). Proximity talks with the Palestinians were in the air, peace was knocking on the door, the occupation was nearing its end - and then a Shas rogue, who knows nothing about timing and diplomacy, came and shuffled all the proximity and peace cards.

The scoundrel appeared in the midst of the smile- and hug-fest with the vice president of the United States and disrupted the celebration. Joe Biden's white-toothed smiles froze abruptly, the great friendship was about to disintegrate, and even the dinner with the prime minister and his wife was almost canceled, along with the entire "peace process." And all because of Yishai.

Well, the interior minister does deserve our modest thanks. The move was perfect. The timing, which everyone is complaining about, was brilliant. It was exactly the time to call a spade a spade. As always, we need Yishai (and occasionally Avigdor Lieberman) to expose our true face, without the mask and lies, and play the enfant terrible who shouts that the emperor has no clothes.

For the emperor indeed has no clothes. Thank you, Yishai, for exposing it. Thank you for ripping the disguise off the revelers in the great ongoing peace-process masquerade in which nobody means anything or believes in anything.

What do we want from Yishai? To know when the Jerusalem planning committee convenes? To postpone its meeting by two weeks? What for? Hadn't the prime minister announced to Israel, the world and the United States, in a move seen at the time as a great Israeli victory, that the construction freeze in the settlements does not include Jerusalem? Then why blame that lowly official, the interior minister, who implemented that policy?

What's the big deal? Another 1,600 apartments for ultra-Orthodox Jews on occupied, stolen land? Jerusalem won't ever be divided, Benjamin Netanyahu promised, in another applause-winning move. In that case, why not build in it? The Americans have agreed to all this, so they have no reason to pretend to be insulted.

The interior minister should not apologize for the "distress" he caused, but be proud of it. He is the government's true face. Who knows, perhaps thanks to him America will finally understand that nothing will happen unless it exerts real pressure on Israel.

What would we do without Yishai? Biden would have left Israel propelled by the momentum of success. Netanyahu would have boasted of a renewed close friendship. A few weeks later, the indirect talks would have started. Europe would have applauded, and Barack Obama, the president of big promises, would even have taken a moment away from dealing with his country's health-care issues to meet with Netanyahu. George Mitchell, who has already scored quite a few diplomatic feats here, would shuttle between Ramallah and Jerusalem, and maybe Netanyahu would eventually have met with Mahmoud Abbas. Face to face. Then everything would have been sorted out.

Without preconditions, certainly without preconditions, Israel would have continued to build in the territories in the meantime - not 1,600 but 16,000 new apartments. The IDF would have continued arresting, imprisoning, humiliating and starving - all under the auspices of the peace talks, of course. Jerusalem forever. The right of return is out of the question, and so is Hamas. And onward to peace!

Months would go by, the talks would "progress," there would be lots of photo ops, and every now and then a mini-crisis would erupt - all because of the Palestinians, who want neither peace nor a state. At the very end, there might be another plan with another timetable that no one intends to keep.

Everything was so ready, so ripe, until that scoundrel, Yishai, came and kicked it all into oblivion. It's a bit embarrassing, but not so terrible. After all, time heals all wounds. The Americans will soon forgive, the Palestinians will have no choice, and once again everyone will stand ceremoniously on the platform and the process will be "jump-started" again - despite everything that the sole enemy of peace around here, Eli Yishai, has done to us.

Israel-Syria: The War of Words Continues...

Responding to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's declaration that he was prepared to meet with Syrian President Bashar Assad immediately and without preconditions, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem told the pan-Arab newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat that Israel must first declare its intention to withdraw to the 1967 borders before any Syrian-Israeli talks can take place.

Israel-Syria Dialogues: Hopes vs. Realities

The Syrian foreign minister said that there is no point in "putting the cart before the horse" and that "Israel must withdraw from the occupied territories before Syria and Israel can meet".

Despite the exchange of threats between Damascus and West Jerusalem last month and the trilateral meeting of Hezbollah's Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Assad in Syria on 25 February, Israel's training exercise "Firestones 12", which took place in northern Israel last week, conspicuously omitted simulations of war with Syria. Instead, the Israel Defense Forces fought mock battles in preparation for clashes with Hezbollah in Lebanon or Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The army also cancelled emergency call-up drills for large numbers of regular forces and reserves, fearing Syria might mistake such a move as mobilization for war.

But in line with Haaretz's Gideon Levy's article "Israel Does Not Want Peace," it can be said that Israel seeks no talks to resolve the problem; instead, it suspends this possibility while never missing any chance of upholding Damascus's hostility. At the end of the day, Syria is bound to play the "bad guy" for Israeli officials, isn't it?

Israel-Syria Dialogues: Hopes vs. Realities

Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett, who served in the CIA, the National Security Council and the State Department during the Clinton and Bush administrations, declare on their website that Syrian President Bashar Assad told them two weeks ago that the U.S. policy in the Middle East has been wrong for the past decade and has created a vacuum that improved the regional strategic standing for Iran, Syria, and Turkey.

Meanwhile, following Haaretz's report that Syria was prepared to make "gradual peace," the Israeli Prime Minister's Bureau said Wednesday that Benjamin Netanyahu is willing to meet with the Syrians immediately and without preconditions.

Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy responds: "Israel Does Not Want Peace":
Israel does not want peace with Syria. Let's take off all the masks we've been hiding behind and tell the truth for a change. Let's admit that there's no formula that suits us, except the ludicrous "peace for peace." Let's admit it to ourselves, at least, that we do not want to leave the Golan Heights, no matter what. Forget about all the palaver, all the mediations, all the efforts.

Let's face it, we don't want peace, we want to run wild, to paraphrase an Israeli pop song from the '70s. Don't bother us with new Syrian proposals, like the one published in Haaretz this week that calls for a phased withdrawal and peace in stages; don't pester us with talk about peace as a way to break up the dangerous link between Syria and Iran; don't tell us peace with Syria is the key to forging peace with Lebanon and weakening Hezbollah. Turkey isn't an "honest" broker, the Syrians are part of the axis of evil, all is quiet on the Golan - you know how much we love the place, its mineral waters, its wines - so who needs all the commotion of demonstrations and evacuating settlements, just for peace?

It's not only the current extreme right-wing government that doesn't want this whole headache, and it wasn't only all of its predecessors - some of which were on the very brink of withdrawing from the Golan and only at the last moment, the very last moment, changed their minds. It's all the Israelis - the minority that is really against it and the majority that doesn't give a damn. They'd rather pretend not to hear the encouraging sounds coming out of Damascus in recent months and not even try to put them to the test.

Everyone would rather wave the menacing picture of Bashar Assad alongside Hassan Nasrallah and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, his partners in the axis of evil, with the hummus and the bulgur. That on its own should have made Israel try 10 times harder to make peace. But in Israeli eyes, the picture of the banquet, as one Israeli paper termed the "modest meal," is worth more than a thousand words. After that, do you really expect us to give up the Golan? Don't make us laugh. We'll make peace with Micronesia, not Syria.

When the Syrians talk peace, it is all "empty words," "deception" and a wily way of getting closer to the United States. But when Assad poses with the president of Iran, that's the truth, that's Syria's real face. Even when he merely says, on the same occasion, that Syria must prepare for an Israeli attack, he is immediately accused of "threatening" Israel.

Do you want proof that we really don't want peace with Syria? Well, there has not yet been one Israeli prime minister who has said that we do. Because, after all, the order would have to be the opposite of the usual Israeli haggling. A prime minister who really wanted to achieve peace would have to say one terribly simple thing: We undertake in advance - yes, in advance - to hand back the entire Golan in exchange for a full peace. But no, not one prime minister has declared readiness to leave the Golan - right up to the last grain of sand, as we did in Sinai - in exchange for a peace like that which we have with Egypt.

Why on earth do we always have to hold onto this card so it can be played last? And what kind of a card is it, anyway? What kind of end does it ensure? After all, if the Syrian reply is negative, nobody will make us leave the Golan Heights. And what if the reply is positive? Why not start off with a promising, invigorating declaration, one that will give the Syrians hope and thereby at least put their intentions to the test.

But we are not the only ones who don't want peace. The United States has turned out to be a true friend that extricates us from every briar patch. It doesn't want peace enough either, praise the Lord. It's a fact: Washington is applying no pressure. Here's another marvelous pretext for doing nothing - America isn't pressing us and the redeemer will come to Zion, in the words of the prophet Isaiah. Yet we are the ones who have to stay in the dangerous and menacing Middle East, not the Americans; we should be more interested than anyone in preventing another war in the north, in creating a new relationship with Syria and then with Lebanon, and in weakening Iranian influence; in trying to integrate, at last. An Israeli interest, no? And what do we do to advance it? Half of nothing.

So what is there left to do? At least admit the truth: We do not want peace with Syria. That's all there is to it.