Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s address to both houses of Congress was perhaps the most skilled use of Newspeak since George Orwell invented the term in his novel 1984. (He had help: author and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel reported drafted large sections of the speech.) Just as Orwell’s totalitarian propagandists proclaimed WAR IS PEACE and Israeli government signs placed at the Wall (sorry, fence) at the entrance to Bethlehem greet Palestinians with the blessing PEACE BE UNTO YOU, so Olmert declared in Washington: UNILATERAL REALIGNMENT IS PEACE.
Because of Olmert’s use of Orwellian language (can anyone, including President Bush or members of Congress, explain to us what ‘convergence’ and ‘realignment’ mean?), we must listen carefully to what is said, what is not said and what is meant.
What was said sounds fine if taken at face value. Olmert, extending “my hand in peace to Mahmoud Abbas, the elected president of the Palestinian Authority”, declared Israel’s willingness to negotiate with him on condition that the Palestinians “renounce terrorism, dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, accept previous agreements and commitments, and recognize the right of Israel to exist.” If they do so, Olmert held out Israel’s commitment to a two-state solution.
What wasn’t said? While reference to a Palestinian state sounds forthcoming, two key elements set down in the Road Map defining that state were missing: an end to the Israeli Occupation and the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. “A settlement,” says the text of the Road Map to which Olmert and Bush constantly declare their allegiance, “will result in the emergence of an independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel. The settlement will…end the occupation that began in 1967.”
Olmert’s ‘convergence plan’ (now renamed a ‘realignment plan’ because it sounds better in [Newspeak] English), based on the massive ‘facts on the ground’ Israel continues to impose unilaterally with overt American support, cannot possibly give rise to a viable Palestinian state. The‘Separation Barrier’, which will be declared Israel’s permanent ‘demographic border’, takes 10% of the West Bank. That may not sound like much, but consider this: It incorporates into Israel the major settlement blocs (plus a half-million Israeli settlers) while carving the West Bank into a number of small, disconnected, impoverished ‘cantons’ – hardly the basis for a viable state. It removes from the Palestinians their richest agricultural land and all the water.
The convergence plan also creates a ‘greater’ Israeli Jerusalem over the entire central portion of the West Bank, thereby cutting the economic, cultural, religious and historic heart out of any Palestinian state. It then sandwiches the Palestinians between the Barrier/border and yet another‘security’ border, the Jordan Valley, giving Israel two eastern borders. Palestinian freedom of movement of both people and goods is thus prevented into both Israel and Jordan but also internally, between the various cantons. Israel will also retain control of Palestinian airspace, the electro-magnetic sphere and even the right of a Palestinian state to conduct its own foreign policy.
The Road Map, like international law regarding the end of occupations in general, also insists on a negotiated solution between the parties. Olmert made a great issue of Palestinian terrorism (playing on American sensibilities to this buzz-word), placing pre-conditions on negotiations. Israel is willing to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority, he said, of it renounces terrorism, dismantles the terrorist infrastructure, accepts previous agreements and recognizes the right of Israel to exist (a right Israel has not recognized vis-à-vis the Palestinians). What is not mentioned is Israel’s Occupation which, regardless of an end to terror and negotiations, is being institutionalized and made permanent. For neither security nor terrorism are really the issue; Israel’s policies of annexation are based on a pro-active claim to the entire country. Virtually no element of the Occupation – the establishment of some 300 settlements, expropriation of most West Bank land, the demolition of 12,000 Palestinian homes, the uprooting of a million olive and fruit trees, the construction of a massive system of highways to link the settlements into Israel proper or the tortuous route of the Barrier deep in Palestinian territory – can be explained by security. Terrorism on all sides is wrong (let it be noted that Israel has killed four times more civilians than the Palestinians have), but to demand that resistance cease while an occupation is being made permanent is unconscionable.
Finally, what was meant? In a word: Apartheid. The ‘A’ word was missing from Olmert’s speech, of course, but the bottom line of his convergence plan is clear: the establishment of a permanent, institutionalized regime of Israeli domination over Palestinians based on separation between Jews and Arabs. ‘Realignment’ has replaced ‘convergence’ because of American and European opposition to Israel unilaterally determining its borders. ‘Realignment’ is more conditional, and can always develop into another permanent ‘fact’ over time. So, within 6-9 months according to Olmert’s timeline, the Jews of Israel will attempt to succeed where Afrikaners failed.
And where are the Palestinians in all this? Irrelevant, manipulated, set up, as usual. “Should we realize that the bilateral track with the Palestinians is of no consequence”, said Olmert to Congress, “should the Palestinians ignore our outstretched hand for peace, Israel will seek other alternatives to promote our future and the prospects of hope in the Middle East. At that juncture, the time for realignment will occur. Realignment would be a process to allow Israel to build its future without being held hostage to Palestinian terrorist activities.” Talk about an Orwellian formulation! The election of Hamas has nothing to do with the impossibility of negotiations. Sharon refused to negotiate with or even meet the pliable Abbas, and Israeli governments never negotiated seriously with Arafat. The truth is that Israel has nothing to negotiate. ‘Greater’ Jerusalem is ours, the settlement blocs are ours, the borders are ours, the water is ours, even the sky is ours. What’s left to negotiate?
No, Abu Mazan’s designated role is not as a negotiator. Israel does not need him to broker an agreement; in 6-9 months an apartheid regime named ‘realignment’ will be imposed anyway, thanks to Israel’s ability to delegitimize Hamas (despite the latter’s declared readiness to seek a political accomodation). What Israel needs to successfully execute realignment is merely a coordinator to ensure that the process flows smoothly. The role Abbas played in the Gaza‘disengagement’. Israel hasn’t spent forty years and billions of dollars to leave the disposition of its settlement blocs and borders to the whims of unnecessary negotiations with the Arabs.
Is injustice unsustainable as many critical opponents of apartheid – South African or Israeli – contend? Are Jews indeed history’s exceptions? Thanks to Olmert’s plan of realignent we’ll soon see.