New York         Dr. Cesar Chelala

As the Middle East peace talks face another standstill, Israel’s Prime Minister, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, is quick to blame the Palestinian side. And most of the Western press dutifully parrots Mr. Netanyahu’s lies.

Palestinians have been guilty of stalling the peace talks, too, but for different reasons. The main weakness of Palestinian higher officials has been a consistent lack of efficiency in portraying the rights of the Palestinians, while often being enmeshed in internecine battles that have only debilitated them further. Netanyahu might be devious, but he is no fool. He has skillfully taken advantage of the Palestinians’ Achilles heel.

As usual, the ones with most to lose are the ones who are most powerless: the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who lost their homes, their land, their freedom of movement and their livelihoods, crushed by the ruthless advance and greediness of Israeli settlers. In addition, Palestinians were betrayed by a complacent international community (such as the members of the European Union) that only very late in the process realized they had to take action to help bring justice to the Palestinians.

Netanyahu claims that the Palestinians have consistently refused to discuss security issues with the Israelis. Does he ignore that Palestinians presented a detailed security proposal to then U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell? Does he ignore that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has repeated, on several occasions, that he is willing to demilitarize the territories and to allow an international force such as the Multinational Force and Observers in Sinai–or even U.S. troops- to deploy in a future Palestinian state?

Netanyahu also insists on the Palestinians’ persistent refusal to recognize a Jewish state. Does Netanyahu ignore that the 1988 Palestinian declaration of independence recognized UN Security Council Resolution 242 and referred to Israel as a Jewish state?

If this assessment is considered an exaggeration, I invite the reader to tell me what the Netanyahu government has done to the stop in hostile acts on the part of the Palestinians. It is the Palestinians who are made to look with impotence at the increased grabbing of their territories and to the construction of settlements on their land, a process that hasn’t stopped despite promises and agreements to the contrary.

That Netanyahu has been primarily responsible for the lack of peace is claimed now by no other than Simon Peres. Speaking to Israel’s Channel 2 News, Peres said that he and Palestinian President Abbas had reached a draft agreement on “almost all issues” and that a final accord was being prepared after several secret meetings in Jordan.

However, according to Peres, Netanyahu asked him to wait three or four days hoping that Quartet Representative and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair could negotiate a better deal. “The days went by and there was no better deal,” said Peres. Netanyahu had effectively stopped a potential agreement.

Why Netanyahu could have relied on a person like Tony Blair is beyond comprehension. Blair was not only totally inefficient as the Envoy of the Quartet to the Middle East, but has been complicit in the most disastrous wars in recent times. Since the moment he was designated as an envoy in 2007, we would need a magician to find any accomplishment of his regarding the complex situation in the Middle East

According to Peres, during their talks Abbas had made important concessions. In Amman, Abbas had agreed to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, a fundamental demand of the Netanyahu government that had hindered any progress on the negotiations taking place at the time.

Over the last several years, Netanyahu has insisted that the Israeli government had no real partner for peace among the Palestinians. His opinion is not shared by Simon Peres who has clearly indicated that Abbas is a real partner. “I’ve known Abu Mazen [as Abbas is known] for 30 years…and the truth is he has fought terror with the resources that he has,” said Peres.

In 1883, the Italian writer Carlo Collodi created a character called Pinocchio, who grew used to telling lies and fabricating stories. He is known for having a nose that becomes longer when he is lying. If Mr. Netanyahu continues misrepresenting the truth, he runs the serious risk that his nose will also grow longer,

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award.


Copyright 2007