Monday, September 28, 2009

Abbas puts gap between Israel and Palestinians on display at United Nations

Friday's speech to the United Nations by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was a clear demonstration of the gap between Palestinian and Israeli political leaders -- following, as it did, Thursday's address by Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Abbas said Israel was blocking progress toward peace by refusing to comply with Palestinian conditions for reopening peace talks, by refusing to fulfill its obligations under negotiated agreements and by refusing to comply with "hundreds" of U.N. resolutions. "All of these active efforts and initiatives, which have been welcomed and supported by us and by the Arab states, are, however, confronted with Israeli intransigence, which refuses to adhere to the requirements for relaunching the peace process," Abbas said. But Netanyahu said a day earlier that the PA was unwilling even to take the most "elementary" step toward peace of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state. "We asked the Palestinians to finally do what they refused to do for 62 years, say 'yes' to a Jewish state," Netanyahu said. "As simple, as clear, as elementary as that, just as we are asked to recognize a nation-state for the Palestinian people, the Palestinians must be asked to recognize the nation-state of the Jewish people. The Jewish people are not foreign conquerors in the land of Israel. It is the land of our forefathers." The two sides are not even listening to each other -- maybe they do when they're face-to-face at the negotiating table. And, maybe, that explains their reluctance to meet. Any agreement they do reach will likely be of historical proportions and result in region-changing upheaval. Israel will have to give up sovereignty over the homes of 100,000 Israelis on land the Palestinians expect for a state; the Palestinian people will have to give up claims to land they left in 1948 and to Jerusalem. The PA has not even begun to educate its citizens on the realities and responsibilities of peace -- it may not understand them itself. For one thing, the PA does not appear capable of controlling all of the territory that has already been ceded to it. There is a very long way to go -- the current leaders may have to think of the future, not the present, if they truly want to make peace happen. But, remember, Israel, Egypt and Jordan -- formerly bitter enemies -- have reached peace deals that have held together for years.

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