Thursday, March 04, 2010

Is Netanyahu Doomed to Repeat History?

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at the Cabinet meeting today and said:

I welcome the developments that, I hope, will lead to the start of talks upon [former] Senator George Mitchell's visit to Israel next week. He is doing very important work, which we appreciate. We welcome the start of talks, even if they are proximity talks.
In the end, our goal is to try and reach a peace agreement with our Palestinian neighbors via direct talks, but we have always said that we do not necessarily insist on this format. If this is what is necessary to start the process – Israel is ready. I think that there is international recognition that this Government wants to start a peace process and I tell you that we also want to complete it."

"Proximity talks"?

As we can readily recall,

...the British called for a conference of Arabs and Jews to discuss various scenarios. The St. James Conference, also known as the Round Table Conference of February 7 - March 17, 1939, brought together Arab and Jewish delegations, each with their own internal differences.

On the Jewish side, both Zionist and non-Zionist groups within the Jewish Agency organized under the leadership of Chaim Weizmann. The Arabs were led by the mufti Hajj Amin al-Husseini, and included the more moderate party of the well-known al-Nashashibi family. In addition to the Arabs of Palestine, the Arabs of Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Transjordan, and Yemen were also represented.

From the start, the conference was fraught with difficulties. The Arab delegates refused to meet directly and formally with the Jewish representatives, since they did not recognize the legitimacy of the Jewish Agency. As a result, the British were forced to negotiate with each delegation individually.

British proposals at the conference were met with resistance on both sides. Since no agreement was reached, the British formed its own policy. As they had suggested at the conference, only 75,000 Jews would be allowed to immigrate over a period of five years. This quota would be filled to capacity only if economic conditions permitted it. Another provision authorized the regulation of further land purchases in Palestine by Jews.

These policies were stated formally in the White Paper of 1939, resulting in a storm of protests by Zionists throughout the world.

There were even some who think that the conference was no more that a calculated plan to enable Britain to present itself as an "honest broker" -- sound familiar? -- although she was in fact already committed to a conciliatory policy towards the Arabs, in face of the upcoming Second World War. Specifically, Britain knew the Arabs would reject the idea of partition -- and needed a forum to demonstrate that it was an unworkable option before officially relinquishing the option.

If you open Shmuel Dothan's "A Land in the Balance" to pages 254-259, you'll learn that as early as September 1938 the Zionist leadership was sliding into despondency as they realized that the British had "decided against the Zionist cause". Weizmann, having met with the Colonial Secretary Malcolm MacDonald fiver time over the summer, realized that

Britain could not have the Arabs turning to the Germans and Italians in protest over its pro-Zionist policy.
Simply put, the British had decided to establish an Arab state. And today, the Americans haveve decided again to do that, something to be called "Palestine". A Jewish national home in the area was to be evaded.

Today, Israel is in the territory originally assigned by international law to become the reconstituted Jewish national home and again, as 71 years ago, we have a "friend' that wishes to eject us from that land. Then what was to be be halted was Jewish immigration and now, it's the residency of Jews in the Land of Israel that is to be stopped.

The Arabs that came to St. James Palace simply refused to engage in face-to-face negotiations and their delegation included as we saw, politicians from five other Arab countries just as today, it was the Arab foreign minsters council that allowed Abbas to go 'forward'.

If Netanyahu yields on this issue, will he find himself in the position of Weizmann - crying over the failure to achieve a basic Zionist goal?

1 comment:

Kae Gregory said...

Hopefully tomorrow or the next day he will come up with a plan to throw grit in the gears. He's actually done that pretty effectively since he took office, imo.