Netanyahu's Ongoing Acquisition of Lands by Force

Since 1991 Madrid international peace conference, tens of thousands of dunams of land belonging to Palestinian farmers have been 'acquired by force.'

And now for the million-shekel question on the game show, "1 vs. 100:" Which of the three leaders said, "Most of the UN member-states originate from conflicts, but I don't believe in acquiring lands by force"? Was it Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin or Benjamin Netanyahu?

The statement was made 20 years ago at a relaxed press conference given by then Deputy Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for Arab correspondents during the international peace conference in Madrid. Since that day, tens of thousands of dunams of land belonging to Palestinian farmers have been "acquired by force" (a whitewashed variation of "stolen" ); thousands of olive trees have been destroyed; and dozens of mosques have been torched. In two terms as prime minister, Netanyahu helped - through actions and by overlooking - to establish and expand more than 100 outposts, and he is still going strong.

Amos Biderman
$imageCaptionAmos Biderman

At that same event, documented by Channel One cameras, the rising young star (then 42) of Israeli politics, suggested "dropping empty slogans" in favor of focused negotiations. Following the conference, the five rounds of bilateral talks in Washington - between the government of Yitzhak Shamir and Syria and Lebanon, and also the Jordanian-Palestinian delegation (separately ) - focused on slogans. The Israeli delegations rejected any effort to discuss borders and proposed that Palestinians settle for limited autonomy.

The main difference between the 1991 version of "the peace process" and the 2011 version is that then, Bibi only handled the right's public relations. Today, he is also responsible for the right's policy. Then, Shamir wore out the Palestinians in negotiations over the composition of their delegation. Today, Netanyahu is wearing them out in negotiations over the basic guidelines of the negotiations (the 1967 borders and territorial swaps).

From the perspective of the United States, too, the differences are not great. The first President Bush and Secretary of State James Baker did indeed drag Shamir to the Madrid Conference, and pressured him into freezing construction in the settlements. But, then, as today, the Jewish organizations mobilized "Israel's friends" on Capitol Hill to stop the administration; ahead of the conference, the United States presented Israel with "a letter of guarantees" in which it undertook not to support the establishment of a Palestinian state, and stated that "it is not its objective to bring the Palestinian Liberation Organization into the process or to bring Israel into a dialogue with the organization."

Some 20 years on, the same Jews and "friends of Israel" are swaying Obama not to vote in the UN in favor of recognizing a Palestinian state, and even to bar it from obtaining the modest consolation prize of membership in UNESCO.

Dr. Saeb Erekat, who has headed the Palestinian negotiating team in recent years, is also a veteran of the Madrid Conference. Five years ago, a short time after Kadima defeated the Likud, headed by Netanyahu, Erekat told me that "without Madrid, we wouldn't have made it to Oslo." And added: "Shamir did not understand what we understood - that things would evolve naturally and those who try to stop the process will disappear."

In recent weeks, and more so since the Gilad Shalit deal, Erekat's optimism has been waning, and he even advised President Mahmoud Abbas to hand over the keys to the government offices in the West Bank. After all, as far back as 20 years ago, Bibi said he opposed the acquisition of lands by force. If he continues to adhere to Shamir's broad vision from the days of the Madrid Conference - "the sea is the same sea and the Arabs are the same Arabs" - they will willingly give him the lands, along with the responsibility for all the people living there.

Incitement and ideology

We were informed over the weekend that Deputy State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan has asked the police to open an investigation into Ben-Gurion University of the Negev lecturer Dr. Eyal Nir, following complaints voiced against him in the wake of things posted on his Facebook page. Nir wrote after the "the march of flags" by right-wing advocates in eastern Jerusalem that he "calls on the world to come and help break the bones of these bastards." Indeed, a call for violence is a violation of the law that the authorities cannot ignore and let by.

Because Attorney Nitzan decided to act so decisively against incitement to violence, I compiled for him a brief but representative collection of reactions to an October 5 article by Prof. Yishai Rosen Zvi on the Ynet news website. The article criticized the indifference of enforcement agencies to the violent assault on peace activists in Anatot:

"The leftists don't belong here... Let them be slaughtered one by one. That's what most of us would like;" "They should have bashed their faces so that their mothers wouldn't recognize them. They really should've lynched those bastards;" "I would also have gone and bashed in the heads of those leftist scumbags, the perpetuators of the kapo Jews and collaborators with Islamic terrorism."

Such gems can be found in abundance on Facebook pages.

When Dr. Nir arrives at the police station, he may be received by one of the policemen, residents of Anatot, who instigated the violence against the activists. In a letter he sent to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, along with photographs, attorney Michael Sfard cites the names of the policemen who struck the activists.

Perhaps Nir will meet policeman Meir Rotter, whose name is well known to readers of right-wing sites. In one article, Rotter urged right-wing activists to come on Fridays to Sheikh Jarrah and confront Solidarity members. Around a year ago, attorney Leah Zemel filed a complaint against Rotter with the police on behalf of the activists. Nir might also run into him in the corridors of the Jerusalem police station.