“Saikal wrong on the facts – wrong in analysis” says ECAJ

August 7, 2013 by J-Wire Staff
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Amin Saikal “Peace Still a Distant Dream” (Canberra Times, 1 August 2013) is wrong on the facts and wrong in his analysis.

Peter Wertheim

Peter Wertheim

“His assertion that “The Israelis have given no indication that they are willing to negotiate in good faith on the basis of the principle of land for peace” flies in the face of offers to the Palestinians of more than 90% of the West Bank made at Camp David and Taba in 2000 and at Annapolis in 2008 by former Israeli Prime Ministers Barak and Olmert respectively, not to mention Israel’s complete withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula to achieve peace with Egypt in 1979 and from Jordanian territory when it signed a peace treaty with Jordan in 1994.

Similarly his statement that “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has always opposed this principle” fails to account for the fact that it was Netanyahu, as Israeli Prime Minister, who negotiated the Hebron and Wye River agreements with the Palestinians in 1997 and 1998, pursuant to which Israel handed over control of parts of the West Bank to the Palestinians. Nor does he mention Netanyahu’s recent agonising decision to release 104 convicted terrorists, most of them with multiple civilian deaths on their hands, in order to get the talks restarted.

Saikal criticises Israel’s blockade of Gaza, but fails to mention the findings of the international Panel of Inquiry established by the Secretary-General of the UN under the chairmanship of Sir Geoffrey Palmer of New Zealand, an expert in international maritime law, together with legal experts from Colombia, Israel and Turkey. One of the conclusions to be found in its 105-page report is that Israel’s blockade of Gaza is legal, a measure it has legitimately taken in self-defence.

Settlements and borders are undoubtedly difficult issues, but they should not be exaggerated. It is simply false for Saikal to say that Jewish settlements “occupy more than half of the West Bank” when the correct figure is about 2%. More relevantly, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (August 2009), the territory lying between Israel’s security barrier and the pre-1967 “Green Line” accounts for 8.5% of the total area of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem). Approximately 85% of Israeli settlers live within that area.

Further, the Palestinians are seeking some form of access between the West Bank and Gaza through sovereign Israeli territory. Some allowance would need to be made for this in any land swap arrangement. The size of the territories involved in any land swap would be quite small.

No-one pretends that there are any ready-made solutions to resolve the status of Jerusalem. However, an agreed basis for dividing sovereignty over Jerusalem would not necessarily mean a physical re-division of the city.

The issues concerning refugees, including the 800,000 Jewish refugees evicted from Arab countries after 1948, are also difficult. But creative ideas have been seriously discussed during previous negotiations, and contradict Saikal’s assertion that the parties have not been prepared to demonstrate flexibility on these issues. The question of Palestinian refugees from 1948 takes on a less daunting perspective when one realises the small numbers of them who are still living. Few would begrudge them or their descendants the opportunity to become Palestinian citizens within a State of Palestine. But the descendants of refugees cannot truthfully claim to be refugees themselves. There can be no right of “return” to the territory of Israel for those who were never there.

This would not prevent the parties from agreeing upon a mechanism for refugees or their descendants, whether Palestinians or Jews, to pursue private rights to compensation for lost family property.
Saikal says nothing about the renewed violence in Egypt and the grinding civil war in Syria, which may actually be a reason that talks are going forward. The main forces of extremism in the region, Sunni Salafist groups and the Iranian-backed Shia terror organisation, Hezbollah, are currently having much of their energy sapped in either or both of these quagmires. They now have less time and capacity than they have had in the past to exert influence on the Palestinian side to confront Israel and to refuse any and all compromise with it.

Nowhere is this decline in extremist pressure on the Palestinians more evident than in the current disarray of Hamas, an off-shoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which remains openly dedicated to the destruction of Israel as a State and to the extermination or eviction of most of the Jewish population. Hamas has been brought to the brink of financial collapse, not by Israel, but by the actions of the former Morsi government of Egypt and its successor in closing down many of the “smuggling tunnels” between Gaza and Egypt. Hamas has hitherto derived most of its income from “taxes” levied on goods and weapons coming through the tunnels and from the direct smuggling in of cash, sources which are now much diminished.

Saikal advocates western engagement with Hamas, which would re-empower it when it is at its weakest, and undercut any move on the Palestinian side towards an historic settlement with Israel, an outcome fraught with difficulty but which Israel and all western governments desire, even if Saikal does not.”

Peter Wertheim is the Executive Director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the national peak organisation of the Australian Jewish community. 

Comments

5 Responses to ““Saikal wrong on the facts – wrong in analysis” says ECAJ”
  1. Gil Solomon says:

    I agree with Paul.

    It is time that Israel and Diaspora so called “leaders” got up off their knees and called the situation as it is.

    Jerusalem is not holy to Islam.
    As a matter of fact Arabs play soccer on the Temple Mount and to even talk of dividing sovereignty is insanity, simply because it could never work. The only reason that Arabs are in control of the Temple Mount today is because of an absurd halachic ruling after the 1967 war, a ruling that is not universally accepted today together with an appeasement mentality adopted by Israel at that time and continues to this day.

    To imply that dividing sovereignty without a physical re-division of the city is an option worthy of consideration is beyond comprehension.

    These supposed “peace” talks are aimed at once and for all separating Jews from the sons of Ishmael and any shared sovereignty will do just the opposite.

    To those Jews who propose this nonsense, so much for the injunction “If I forget thee O Jerusalem”.

    The bottom line is that the mess Israel finds itself in today is of its own making. It has, over the decades, been appeasingly merciful in victory, never once saying to the vanquished that they unconditionally surrender or else. On the contrary Israel has succumbed to international pressure and propaganda time and time again and ended every conflict prematurely and inconclusively.

  2. Otto Waldmann says:

    What Saikal, hardly an objective academic, hardly a reliable intellectual, as he extrapolates and purposely omits relevant, important facts and conclusions, follows is an ideological line, one which is comprehensively identical to the Palestinian political line of intransigent enmity toward Israel and all matters Jewish.
    Having said that, the issue of an Israel prepared to make concessions to a highly unreliable Palestinian negotiating contingent, could not be logically sustained.
    Peace and negotiations thereof cannot be seen as an isolated event. The nine months allocated to the negotiations cannot result in a genuine peace with a Palestinian party heavily engaged in a conflictual position toward Israel. What/who Israel confronted during the open conflicts in its region, what Israel has experienced in the years following the 1948 watershed in the region, the 1967 open conflict, what Israel is experiencing right now on a daily basis from the core Palestinian populace WHEREVER it resides, has not altered toward any positive direction at all. If anything the elements of conflict at all levels, physical and ideological have intensified and continue to be amplified to the extent that “negotiations” toward a reliable, genuine peace between the two conflicting parties is simply IMPOSSIBLE.
    No one can engage in any geo-political arrangements, any kind of statehood structures of reliability within a conceived Palestinian formal entity under the prevailing conditions so strongly preserved within the Palestinian entity.
    Borders can only be negotiated with a reliable, safe neighbor, administration of territories can only be accepted as independently conducted by Palestinians only if the administration can be trusted 100% by the other side of the negotiation process. Israel has no reasons to accept a “peace” which, in real terms cannot be defined as “peace”. Israel cannot accept to ease or abandon its security practices versus a populace determined not to exercise any reliable attitude toward the negotiating partners.
    Simply put, from ANY angle Israel and the Palestinians are still well defined enemies. For ALL intents and purposes all Palestinians aim at is the establishment of a state legally allowed and capable to wage nothing but conflict against Israel. They have said that all along and they are still saying it through a multitude of reliable channels. Those sitting at the “negotiating” table cannot be trusted to pursue peace, therefore peace is still not tenable , whatever pressures notwithstanding.
    Based on all those factors, a certain Prof. Saikal’s musings/analysis are stridently irrelevant and, before anyone wasting time and ink engaging with the academic in any dialectics, one should remind him politely that we are doing it only because we enjoy enormously watching the humiliation of a redundant pseudo-academic effort worthy only of derision.

    • Otto Waldmann says:

      It has just occurred to me that certain apparent inconsistencies must be clarified.
      I stated that “peace” cannot be attained with an enemy. It does make sense at first reading. Peace is a process that is implicitely between conflicting parties. Yes and NO. No in the case that the conflicting parties remain comprehensively unaltered in their actual pre-conflict situation.
      Israel is confronted by an entity which is principal in aiming at a conclusion of the conflict which would provide it ( the Palestinians ) with a status they do not have, a status which can only be afforded fully by Israel’s approval. The “free” Palestine the Palestinians are demanding depends on Israel withdrawing from all forms of territorial/ administrative control of the space Palestinians want to create as their own completely independent State. That includes the lifting of all rghts of control Israel still maintain over Gaza etc.
      The untenable peace is rendered so by the fact that, if Israel would accede to the current Palestinian regime(s)/negotiators, NOTHING in the composition of the Palestinian leadership and entire socio-political morphology would change, agreement points of any nature notwithstanding. Save the radical changes – changes seen as conclusive – of a system of enmity toward Israel pervasive, dominant throughout the entire body politic, social, cultural of the current generic called Palestinian identity .Such real changes must occur BEFORE the notion of peace can be genuinely approached !!
      Hand shakes, photo ops., speeches etc. mean nothing from a contingent proven highly unreliable in understanding/accepting the genuine , true notion of PEACE.
      Simply, at this historic juncture nobody within the Palestinian body politic qualifies !!!
      The realistic gestation period for such an outcome (!!) is much longer than the arbitrary nine months. We need GENERATIONAL alterations in all relevant respects.

  3. Paul Winter says:

    Saikal is no academic. That his partisan ramblings are tolerated by the Uni of Canberra sullies its status as an institute of higher learning. But that is a minor matter.

    I could not believe that however, that the ECAJ’s Executive Officer talks about some airy-fairy division of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is Jewish forever! End of story! The Palestinian Arabs can have the traditional mohammedan capital in that region:Ramallah. It is nonsensical that because the local eight century rulers claimed that Jerusalem was the place of the furthest mosque to which the “prophet” had flown in a dream, that it now becomes the third holiest place in Islam, so holy that the Jordanians never bothered to move there or to improve it.

    It is also beyond belief, that any sharing would be contemplated, bearing in mind how mohammedans behave with regard to Jews and how they desecrate holy places.

    There are no settlements; some Jews who have emerged from ghettos are engaged in nation building. There is no “Palestinian” land; the 21% of the mandate that the Brits didn’t hand over to the Hashemites is Jewish. If the Israelis are prepared to let the local Arabs have self-government in demiliterised enclaves, that is fine. The local Arabs, the bulk of whom migrated there very recently, have no moral or legal claim to statehood, the more so as they are bloody-handed racists.

    Instead of finessing how best Israel should negotiate, every Jew should encourage a weak kneed Netanyahu, to hand terms that suit Israel to the local Arabs on a take it or get nothing basis. Israel has the right of every victor in a defensive war – the land it conquered is the price the mohammedans have to pay for their aggression. The powers that are pressuring Israel need to be told that when they do nothing to prevent war, they have no right to call for peace when their proteges are put back into their kennels from time to time. Just remember, there would have been no 6-day war if the USA had not reneged on its 1956 promise to keep the Staits of Tiran open and if the UN had not caved in to Nasser’s demands.

  4. ben eleijah says:

    The claim that Israel offered 90 per cent is not backed by any document or promise. The offer was for a de-militarized statelet without control over borders, air space, wavelengths and with key areas remaining under “indefinite” Israeli control.

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