Ouch! My last column about Israel got some dander up. The gray eminences from my church with whom I have an occasional breakfast sat in solemn disapproval. Several emails denounced me as did this letter to the editor: “Batson misrepresents recent history and demonizes the Jewish state.”
I reserve my real demonization for Benjamin Netanyahu who demonstrably doesn’t want peace. My conclusion is that he wants the West Bank and is biding his time until he can see a way clear to expel the Palestinians there.
Secretary of State John Kerry blamed Netanyahu for the collapse of our efforts to get the two sides together. His aide, Martin Indyk, blamed the Israeli settlement policy that continues unabated.
To all pro-Israeli advocates I ask: Why always, always, always change the topic to Hamas? Netanyahu does that weekly. Yet there sits Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank – ignored. He’s renounced violence. He says he wants to live in peace with Israel. He’s talked sympathetically about Jewish suffering. Yes, he rejected a proposal in 2010, but it was so one-sided that no Palestinian could have accepted it.
Why does Netanyahu keep building settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem? He knows that those are anathema to the Palestinians. They are located in land the whole world thinks should go to the Palestinians. But he keeps building, and filling those settlements with the most fanatic religious inhabitants of Israel.
If Netanyahu wants peace, he would not make humiliating preconditions for peace talks. Netanyahu says he will not negotiate unless Abbas publicly states that Israel is exclusively a Jewish state. That would discredit him in the eyes of his countrymen even before negotiations began. You don’t do that if you want to get to a “yes.” You don’t make your enemy grovel as a precondition. It would open the floodgates for Abbas’ enemies who hate Israel.
Remember, you don’t make peace with a friend; you make peace with an enemy. Ignore rhetoric and get to “yes.” Both sides officially say they want peace, but the evidence is now overwhelming: Netanyahu wants the West Bank, and his charges against Hamas are an intentional distraction.
America’s position needs to change. We follow Israel’s precondition that peace can only come from negotiations between the two parties. This gives Israel a veto over the search for peace. Why not recognize Palestine by allowing it a seat in the U.N.? It might jolt Israel into negotiations.
Finally, let’s talk about Hamas. The key to understanding the logic of firing pin-prick, fly-speck rockets into Israel and receiving overwhelming punishment in return, year after year, lies in social psychology. It’s called “cultural despair.” If you’ve never won; if you’ve always been beaten, why, another beating is OK if you can just get a few licks in. You call it a victory and rejoice. To Americans it seems crazy, but it’s not.
There are signs that Hamas is slowly coming around. A good example is the story of Ahmed al-Jaabari, the head of the Hamas military in 2012. When an independent peace-seeker had worked out a peace deal in October 2012 calling for a long cease-fire, al-Jaabari apparently approved it, having come to the conclusion that armed struggle wasn’t working. Wonder of wonders. But on the first day of the eight-day Israeli incursion into Gaza in November 2012, the Israelis assassinated him.
Bottom line: Israel is in thrall to religious fanatics who want the West Bank, and Netanyahu represents them. The whole world pretty much understands that. But in the U.S. we only hear one side of the issue. I wonder why.
Jack Batson is a former member of the Fairfield City Council. Reach him at email@example.com.