Israel's Dubious Speech on Peace

  • 4 May 2008


At a time when talks of peace are dominating the political scene in the Middle Eastwith Israel purportedly making an offer of peace to Syria through Turkish intercession, and an apparent climb-down by Hamas from its position through Egyptian mediationIsrael's recent dubious statements have raised new questions on its sincerity towards peace. Three recent Israeli statements confirm this dubiousness in Israeli position. First, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said that Israeli army was preparing itself for a possible war to annex 'Syria-occupied' Golan Heights. The other dampener was a statement by Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz, who ruled out any negotiations with Syria on the Golan Heights and averred that a withdrawal from the territory would lead to an Iranian presence over it. The third devious comment was made by Israeli premier Ehud Barak, who said he was uncertain about ever reaching an agreement with Palestinians without the use of force. Thus, he raised fears of a possible reoccupation of the Gaza Strip by Israel.

What does this mean? It simply points to the fact that Israel is not serious about its commitment to peace. It is creating confusion by asking some of its leaders to talk of peace to ward off international pressure, while it is allowing others to speak of war in order to avert any likelihood of reaching a settlement. This is a familiar Israeli tactic that it usually employs while confronting any serious political situation.

Israel has its own distinctive version of peace, which is quite different from the Arab and the internationally recognized understanding of peace. Israel wants to impose peace on its own terms, and enforces the rationale of fait accompli. Still, it audaciously presents itself as a champion of peace before the whole world. However, the threats of war issued by Israeli leaders belie such posturing and contradict all Israeli affirmations for a peaceful resolution of issues.

If Israel is serious about achieving a peaceful settlement of its problems with Arabs, it should respect all Madrid Conference references and respond to the calls of the international community and the big powers. It should heed the recent stand taken by the Quartet (that consists of the United Nations, European Union, the United States of America and Russia) that has called for an immediate Israeli freeze on the building of new settlements in the West Bank, the dismantling of settlements built since March 2001, and an end to the blockade imposed on Gaza Strip.

The road to peace has been laid out with clear benchmarks and goals. However, Israel continues to wriggle its way out of them, and continually issues dubious and contradictory statements. For this reason, international pressure has to go beyond its usual expressions of concern, regret or condemnation and should translate into forcing Israel to bear its responsibilities and desist from making dubious statements and manipulations.