by Oudeh Basharat
Jul. 17, 2013 (TSR) – Prepare the stalls! The Middle Eastern bazaar, as Henry Kissinger dubbed the Arab-Israeli negotiations, is coming. And there’s nothing better than conducting them in a tent, as Israel‘s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is suggesting ? so that the sand will remind us that the desert is the same desert.
And while the stalls of the others will include all the latest innovations in the marketplace, such as recognition and normalization, Netanyahu’s merchandise won’t change: from the demand for recognition of a Jewish state, to continued construction in the settlements, and up to stories from his happy childhood ? 2,500 years ago ? in Judea and Samaria, the places where Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David and Solomon, Isaiah and Jeremiah walked.
And when asked for a gesture ? for example, releasing Palestinian prisoners, a kind of special offer to attract buyers ? he refuses. The defenders say that there’s no contradiction between the state’s Jewish nature and its democratic nature. To that there is no more suitable reaction than the duck speech made by Netanyahu himself: “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then what is it?”
Well, the quacking is with us in all walks of life, from institutionalized discrimination to the plan to uproot the last of the Bedouin tents in the Negev. At the moment our duck is quacking in the guise of a monstrous highway in Beit Safafa in southeast Jerusalem. Another scene from the film “Avatar.”
That’s why the issue is not the title “Jewish state,” it’s the implementation. And before anything else, it’s the bad intentions. One hadith (proverb) of the prophet Mohammed says: “Deeds are examined by the intentions behind them.” And when good intentions are absent, and when decency wanders to distant lands, every word is superfluous. In 1948 the United Nations decided to establish two states. The decision was based on the right to self-determination of both peoples, but they were not talking about establishing states whose essence is contrary to the principles of the civil state.
We can assume that in their worst nightmares the authors of the UN resolution didn’t dream that future generations would use the term “Jewish state” as a tool to cause the failure of any progress towards peace. The proof of that is that the leaders of the country over the years, while they regretted the fact that the Arabs did not recognize the state, did not demand the addition of any word to define it.
Moreover, the peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan were not conditional on the acceptance of the definition “Jewish state.” Today, when the entire Arab world declares its recognition of Israel and even its willingness to normalize relations with it, Netanyahu is demanding, as an ultimatum, an upgrading of that recognition.
In addition, there has never in history been the absurd demand that an outside party sign on to the definition of the character of the other party. Did the Soviets, during the Cold War, condition any agreement with the Americans on recognition of their communist character?
The absurdity is even more blatant: Israel is placing Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas ? who needs permission from the occupation officer each time he crosses the threshold of his home to leave it ? in charge of the wording of Israel’s definition. Among other things, Abbas has to confirm that the Arab citizens of the state will be counted as present absentees when the identity of the state is defined. That they will function in their homeland as “foreign of face and hand and tongue,” as Abu Tayeb al-Mutanabbi said 1,000 years ago.
But do not despair. When Mahmoud Abbas recognizes this absurd demand on Tuesday, Netanyahu will complain that the hardhearted Arabs don’t attach the word “habibti” (my dear friend) after the word Israel. No doubt he will want to change the name of the state to “Israel Habibti” in the Arabic language.
Incidentally, the duck speech that Netanyahu delivered a year ago was directed at former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. A president who was mainly a curse to his people, even before he was a curse to others. Ahmadinejad has left the stage, but ducks will always quack.
Prepare the earplugs; when the quacking gets louder, peace fades out.
This Op-Ed was Originally Published on Haaretz