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This superlative op-ed, which I read at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/29/opinion/29abunimah.html, provides ample evidence to justify my great respect for Ali Abunimah. He’s fearless, uncompromising, articulate, knowledgeable in both historical and current facts, and right:  right for our America, right for Palestine, and, yes, right even for Israel, if only it were capable of regaining its sanity and applying norms of morality, law and justice commonly accepted by the community of man.  If right were to take hold and to prevail in our country, Ali Abunimah would be on the evening news as an analyst/commentator every night, every channel.
Thanks to the New York Times for (unexpectedly, to be sure) offering space to him.

– Robert H. Stiver (stiver-aloha@hawaii.rr.com)
Pearl City, Hawaii

Clinton And Mitchell Announce Resumption Of Middle East Peace Talks


By Ali Abunimah

GEORGE J. MITCHELL, the United States Middle East envoy, tried to counter low expectations for renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations by harking back to his experience as a mediator in Northern Ireland.

At an Aug. 20 news conference with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, announcing the talks that will begin this week, Mr. Mitchell reminded journalists that during difficult negotiations in Northern Ireland, “We had about 700 days of failure and one day of success” — the day in 1998 that the Belfast Agreement instituting power-sharing between pro-British unionists and Irish nationalists was signed.

Mr. Mitchell’s comparison is misleading at best. Success in the Irish talks was the result not just of determination and time, but also a very different United States approach to diplomacy.

The conflict in Northern Ireland had been intractable for decades. Unionists backed by the British government saw any political compromise with Irish nationalists as a danger, one that would lead to a united Ireland in which a Catholic majority would dominate minority Protestant unionists. The British government also refused to deal with the Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein, despite its significant electoral mandate, because of its close ties to the Irish Republican Army, which had carried out violent acts in the United Kingdom.

A parallel can be seen with the American refusal to speak to the Palestinian party Hamas, which decisively won elections in the West Bank and Gaza in 2006. Asked what role Hamas would have in the renewed talks, Mr. Mitchell answered with one word: “None.” No serious analyst believes that peace can be made between Palestinians and Israelis without Hamas on board, any more than could have been the case in Northern Ireland without Sinn Fein and the I.R.A.

The United States insists that Hamas meet strict preconditions before it can take part in negotiations: recognize Israel, renounce violence and abide by agreements previously signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, of which Hamas is not a member. These demands are unworkable. Why should Hamas or any Palestinian accept Israel’s political demands, like recognition, when Israel refuses to recognize basic Palestinian demands like the right of return for refugees?

As for violence, Hamas has inflicted a fraction of the harm on Israeli civilians that Israel inflicts on Palestinian civilians. If violence disqualifies Hamas, surely much greater violence should disqualify the Israelis?

It was only by breaking with one-sided demands that Mr. Mitchell was able to help bring peace to Northern Ireland. In 1994, for instance, Mr. Mitchell, then a Democratic senator from Maine, urged President Bill Clinton — against strenuous British objections — to grant a United States visa to Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein leader. Mr. Mitchell later wrote that he believed the visa would enable Mr. Adams “to persuade the I.R.A. to declare a cease-fire, and permit Sinn Fein to enter into inclusive political negotiations.” As mediator, Mr. Mitchell insisted that a cease-fire apply to all parties equally, not just to the I.R.A.

Both the Irish and Middle Eastern conflicts figure prominently in American domestic politics — yet both have played out in very different ways. The United States allowed the Irish-American lobby to help steer policy toward the weaker side: the Irish government in Dublin and Sinn Fein and other nationalist parties in the north. At times, the United States put intense pressure on the British government, leveling the field so that negotiations could result in an agreement with broad support. By contrast, the American government let the Israel lobby shift the balance of United States support toward the stronger of the two parties: Israel.

This disparity has not gone unnoticed by those with firsthand knowledge of the Irish talks. In a 2009 letter to The Times of London, several British and Irish negotiators, including John Hume, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize for the Belfast Agreement, criticized the one-sided demands imposed solely on Hamas. “Engaging Hamas,” the negotiators wrote, “does not amount to condoning terrorism or attacks on civilians. In fact, it is a precondition for security and for brokering a workable agreement.”

The resumption of peace talks without any Israeli commitment to freeze settlements is another significant victory for the Israel lobby and the Israeli government. It allows Israel to pose as a willing peacemaker while carrying on with business as usual.

As for Mr. Mitchell, since he was appointed Middle East envoy, he has so far enjoyed almost 600 days of failure. As long as the United States maintains the same hopeless approach, he can expect many more.

Original Source: Op-Ed Contributor – Hamas, the I.R.A. and Us – NYTimes.com

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on August 29, 2010, on page WK10 of the New York edition

Ali Abunimah is the author of “One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.”


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2 Comments

  1. Rehmat on the 31. Aug, 2010 remarked #

    On August 22, 2010 – Benjamin Netanyahu and his six cabinet ministers decided that Zionist-regime will reject any preconditions set forth by the Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators (UN, the US, EU and Russia). This was to kill in advance the chances of “the direct negotiation between Bibi and Abbas” was to be held according to one of Ben Obama’s senior officials. The Quartet’s statement laid-down the guadlines for the ‘direct talks’ between the illegal Zionist entity and the non-elected Abbas government without addressing the ‘right of return’ or the removal of illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

    “The representatives of the Quartet reaffirm their strong support for direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians to resolve all final status issues. The Quartet reaffirms its full commitment to its previous statements, including in Trieste on 26 June 2009, in New York on 24 September 2009, and its statement in Moscow on 19 March 2010 which provides that direct, bilateral negotiations that resolve all final status issues should ‘lead to a settlement, negotiated between the parties, that ends the occupation which began in 1967 and results in the emergence of an independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbors”.

    “You need two to tango,” Netanyahu said. “In the Middle East, you need three, and only later can we continue to dance as a couple.” I bet the Zionazis would like the Palestinians to keep dancing for the next 100 years or more until there no Native Muslim or Christian is left in the Occupied Palestine.

    Now, as a “Chosen People” – only Bibi and the rest of the Zionazi thugs have the divine right to put preconditions for negotiation with their Palestinian victims which go like this:

    “The future Palestinian state would have to be demilitarised, recognise Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people and respect Israel’s vital security interests”.

    Only the brainwashed westerners would accept these illogical preconditions. How could an independent and sovereign state could survive without its armed forces? Is there such a country in the West? How could a sensible person ‘recognize’ an occupation of a foreign land as “Jewish state” while most of coutry’s laws are against the teachings of the Jewish Bible (OT)? How could Israel be a “Jewish state” when far more Jews live in United States than in Israel? And who is going to define “Israel’s security interests”? Would Israel’s neighbors (Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Egypt) which all have been invaded by Jewish army during the last six decade, be consulted on that subject?

    http://rehmat2.wordpress.com/2010/08/23/bibi-negotiations-only-on-israels-terms/

  2. Dan on the 05. Sep, 2010 remarked #

    One aspect that might actually be a positive sign about the Mitchel’s comment is that the fact that he even compared the palestinians to the IRA, a group, like Ali explains, that the US supported during their conflict with the britts as much as they did the britts. This may be a sign that the US is recognizing that Hamas isn’t 100% evil and that they are worthy of at least entering into dialogue. Maybe wishful thinking. I hope not, because i agree that the only way for the Israel/Palestine conflict to be resolved is if Hamas is involved in talks and not treated like savage beasts that need to be hunted down and killed as the prim minisiter of Israel put it. This will only accelerate the horrible violent acts coming from both Hamas and Israel.

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