Wednesday, March 23, 2005

"Land for Peace"

Mahmoud Abbas, the candidate supported by the power elites of Israel and the United States, was duly elected in January this year, with the "mandate" given by 28% of eligible Palestinian voters. Abbas and Ariel Sharon agreed to a cease-fire in February. Then what?

"Israel has publicly confirmed plans to build 3,500 new housing units in the largest Jewish settlement in the West Bank, Maale Adumim," says Greg Myre ("West Bank Expansion Confirmed by Israel," New York Times/International Herald Tribune 23 Mar. 2005).

That's the latest clarification of what the "land for peace" formula actually means: Palestinians surrender their land in return for a semblance of peace that Israel allows them.

Why would any Palestinian settle for that? A Palestinian parable of an Israeli prison experience explains how "Palestinian-Israeli bargaining" works:
It was [Samir] Mashharawi ["a rising leader of 39, a politician-slash-security-man," who, like "many Palestinian men of his age," "cut his teeth in the first intifada" and "learned Hebrew in Israeli prisons"] who, one evening in Gaza City, gave me the most elegant description I have heard of Palestinian-Israeli bargaining. Palestinian officials were then negotiating, unsuccessfully, not for their own state but for the Israelis to pull their troops back to their positions before the uprising. Mashharawi recalled how, during one of his terms in prison, he and other inmates demanded chairs and tables. So the Israelis took their mattresses. The Palestinians demanded the mattresses back. "We forgot that we asked for the chairs and tables," he continued. "After a month, they returned the mattresses. And we felt very happy because we achieved something." I said this reminded me of the Jewish story in which a rabbi advises a man to bring a goat into his home; when, at the rabbi's instructions, he eventually takes the goat out, the man's wife no longer finds her house too small. Mashharawi nodded. "Israeli diplomacy," he said, "is based on this idea." (James Bennet, "The Interregnum," New York Times Magazine, March 13, 2005)
Without justice, however, this peace, too, will be short-lived.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good post, Yoshie. The description of "bargaining" is apt. Mustafa Barghouti said as much when he spoke in Detroit last month. The power of the Israeli state to break the best of leaders, getting them to exchange their demands for "chairs and tables" for a dirty mattress is legendary. Barghouti-and Mobadra- seem to think that it will be harder for "leaders" to sell this dirty matress to the Palestinian people if power is more decentralized.

Robert C.