For a few moments, it seemed the words of praise showered by Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi ) Netanyahu on the many countries that extended help to put out the big fire on the Carmel would put a temporary stop to the hysterical "Oy vey, they're delegitimizing us" campaign.
But by the time he appeared at a conference Sunday on "The fight against the delegitimization of Israel," the prime minister had managed to forget the fire and was talking once again about events of May 1948. He analyzed the source of "the attacks on our legitimacy" not in the context of the events of 1967, but rather, in the context of the events of 1948. "The attacks are on the existence of the state of Israel," he asserted.
Is it possible that the man who served as Israel's ambassador to the United Nations doesn't remember that in 1947 the organization declared by a large majority (33 to 13 with 10 abstentions ) the establishment of the State of Israel? Hasn't he heard that more than eight years ago, members of the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference offered Israel full recognition and normal relations in return for a withdrawal from the territories occupied in 1967 - not the territories Israel occupied in the 1948 war?
"Throughout history, the attacks have intensified mainly when Israel used its right to self defense," Netanyahu declared. But Bibi is old enough to remember the waves of sympathy and the many volunteers, both Jews and non-Jews, who crowded the airports to help Israel in the Six-Day War. It doesn't make sense that the son of the famous historian, Professor Benzion Netanyahu, is unfamiliar with the provision in U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 that urges Israel to withdraw to borders that are both safe and recognized.
Bibi's main message was that there's no connection between hatred of Israel and the occupation, the conflict with the Palestinians and the government's willingness to conduct serious negotiations.
As a service to Citizen Netanyahu, here is a selection of quotes from the (Hebrew ) website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs:"As a result of the Oslo peace process, the Gulf states demonstrated interest in relations with Israel for the first time since 1948. In May 1996, Israel opened a trade office in Oman and Qatar."
It continues: "After Palestinian terror broke out anew in 2000, relations cooled and the offices of the Israeli trade mission in Oman were closed." (Not a word about the war Netanyahu and his cohorts waged against the Oslo peace process and the increase in the number of settlers from 110,000 on the day the Oslo agreement was signed to 300,000 today. )
Choosing the path of peace
Another noteworthy quote from the ministry's site: "The establishment of full diplomatic relations between Israel and the Holy See can be considered an important step in an historical process of change in the Church's attitude toward Jews and the Jewish people." (This did happen in December 1993, three months after the Oslo agreement ).
"In 1994, Morocco, Mauritania and Tunisia chose the path of peace and reconciliation by establishing diplomatic relations with Israel. After the renewal of acts of Palestinian terror in 2000, Morocco and Tunisia broke off diplomatic relations with Israel. Nevertheless, trade and tourism ties have continued as have ties in other areas."
Deputy Foreign Minister Netanyahu was a senior member of the Israeli delegation to the international peace conference convened in Madrid at the end of 1991, on the basis of Resolution 242. The Foreign Ministry reminds him that the conference "led to public bilateral talks, which reached their climax in an official agreement with Jordan in 1994 (in the wake of Oslo )."
In his day, Bibi boasted (rightly ) that thanks to Israel's embarking on the peace process, its flag has been unfurled in Beijing and New Delhi. They continue to wave there today despite Netanyahu's delegitimization of that process.
Judging by the VIP seating arrangement at the Muqata meeting hall in Ramallah, Maj. Gen. (res., as of this week ) Amram Mitzna is the newly crowned leader of the Israeli peace camp. The former head of the Labor Party (perhaps also future head? or head of of extra-new Meretz? ) was seated in the best spot at the center of the stage, touching distance from his host, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The Palestinian elders attending the meeting with the Israeli peace-seekers remember him as GOC Central Command in the days of the first intifada. The major general's pips have turned Mitzna, among Ehud Barak's chief supporters, into the flavor of the month for the Israeli left.
Among those greeting Abbas was Yariv Oppenheimer, the head of Peace Now, who also supported Barak and tried to join the Labor list for the Knesset. A sign of recent turmoil on the left is the e-mail exchanges between him and Gush Shalom leader Uri Avnery, who has been actively promoting a boycott of goods produced in the Jewish settlements.
In response to Avnery's scathing attack of the heads of Peace Now for meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon of Yisrael Beiteinu, Oppenheimer wrote: "What with so many condemnations and boycotts, it's the left that is now being boycotted by so many of its former supporters." The flight of Meretz voters to Kadima, he said, casts doubt on the ability of the left to win public support.
What, then, is there left for the public in Meretz (or Labor )? What is Mitzna offering the confused left that isn't available in Kadima leader Tzipi Livni's platform?
At a recent meeting of Peace Now leaders, one of the founders of the movement, whose name has become a hallmark of the fight against the occupation, said: "We've been active for 30 years, and we had hoped to create a better state and society, but we are a terrible failure."
The desire to take refuge in the warm bosom of the consensus is blurring the left's identity. On Sunday, at the Muqata, the Palestinian leadership brought a little color to the pale cheeks of the Israeli left. But who will pick up the gantlet? A bearded hero back from the desert?
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