Talking About Talking With Palestinians Won't Solve Occupation

As long as Lieberman’s initiative contains nothing of substance, no ray of light that the Palestinians could grasp at to justify direct talks with Israel, his idea will remain empty prattle.

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Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman at a memorial ceremony for soldiers killed during the 2006 Second Lebanon War, June 6, 2016.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman at a memorial ceremony for soldiers killed during the 2006 Second Lebanon War, June 6, 2016.Credit: Gil Eliyahu

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman is proposing a new initiative: holding talks with Palestinian intellectuals, businessmen and academics in an effort to promote Israeli-Palestinian dialogue while bypassing Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

It should be said upfront that this is a welcome initiative. Any dialogue, whether official or unofficial, between Israelis and Palestinians holds out hope for better understanding between the parties.

Nevertheless, Lieberman’s initiative, which is accompanied by a bizarre plan to set up an internet news site that will depict reality from the Israeli standpoint, raises several questions. What can the defense minister talk about with the Palestinians when, at the same time, the government is continuing to build in the settlements, arrest activists who aren’t suspected of terrorism just because of their political activity, try people for incitement when they make harshly critical statements about Israel on Facebook, and hold the bodies of dead Palestinians suspected of committing terror attacks in cold storage in defiance of rulings by the High Court of Justice?

In the 1980s, Israel thought it could create an alternative Palestinian leadership by bypassing the PLO and setting up what were known as the Village Leagues. The initiative proved an embarrassing failure, both because the league’s leaders turned out to be corrupt and because they were accused of collaboration with Israel. They carried weapons with the authorization of the Israel Defense Forces and even used them against civilians.

If the defense minister intends to revive this very old idea, he ought to first learn its lessons. For as long as Lieberman’s initiative contains nothing of substance that is new, no ray of light that the Palestinians could grasp at to justify direct talks with the defense minister or his envoys, his idea will remain empty prattle.

The defense minister is mistaken if he thinks that setting up an internet site in Arabic (at a cost of 10 million shekels, or about $2.6 million) or inviting Palestinians for talks can serve as an alternative to substantive diplomatic discussions.

Instead of spouting pointless ideas, Lieberman would do better to reconsider the idiotic tactics of the occupation, propose an acceptable diplomatic plan and, at the very least, order a series of humanitarian measures. All that would make it clearer than any internet site or propagandistic talks that his intentions are serious.

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