In a profile of Israeli journalist Gideon Levy of Haaretz, who has chronicled Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory for decades, Johann Hari of The Independent evokes his thoughts on the peace process.
He starts with Oslo: “Levy believes the greatest myth – the one hanging over the Middle East like perfume sprayed onto a corpse – is the idea of the current “peace talks” led by the United States. There was a time when he too believed in them. At the height of the Oslo talks in the 1990s, when Yitzhak Rabin negotiated with Yassir Arafat, ‘at the end of a visit I turned and, in a gesture straight out of the movies, waved Gaza farewell. Goodbye occupied Gaza, farewell! We are never to meet again, at least not in your occupied state. How foolish!’ Now, he says, he is convinced it was ‘a scam’ from the start, doomed to fail. How does he know? ‘There is a very simple litmus test for any peace talks. A necessity for peace is for Israel to dismantle settlements in the West Bank. So if you are going to dismantle settlements soon, you’d stop building more now, right? They carried on building them all through Oslo. And today, Netanyahu is refusing to freeze construction, the barest of the bare minimum. It tells you all you need’. He says Netanyahu has – like the supposedly more left-wing alternatives, Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni – always opposed real peace talks, and even privately bragged about destroying the Oslo process. In 1997, during his first term as Israeli leader, he insisted he would only continue with the talks if a clause was added saying Israel would not have to withdraw from undefined military locations’ – and he was later caught on tape boasting: ‘Why is that important? Because from that moment on I stopped the Oslo accords’. If he bragged about ‘stopping’ the last peace process, why would he want this one to succeed? Levy adds: ‘And how can you make peace with only half the Palestinian population? How can you leave out Hamas and Gaza?’.”
He continues: “These fake peace talks are worse than no talks at all, Levy believes…
Gideon Levy says: ‘If there are negotiations, there won’t be international pressure. Quiet, we’re in discussions, settlement can go on uninterrupted. That is why futile negotiations are dangerous negotiations. Under the cover of such talks, the chances for peace will grow even dimmer… The clear subtext is Netanyahu’s desire to get American support for bombing Iran. To do that, he thinks he needs to at least pay lip-service to Obama’s requests for talks. That’s why he’s doing this’ … In Israel, the nation’s ‘town square has been empty for years. If there were no significant protests during Operation Cast Lead, then there is no left to speak of. The only group campaigning for anything other than their personal whims are the settlers, who are very active’. So how can change happen? He says he is ‘very pessimistic’, and the most likely future is a society turning to ever-more naked ‘apartheid’. With a shake of the head, he says: ‘We had now two wars, the flotilla – it doesn’t seem that Israel has learned any lesson, and it doesn’t seem that Israel is paying any price. The Israelis don’t pay any price for the injustice of the occupation, so the occupation will never end. It will not end a moment before Israelis understand the connection between the occupation and the price they will be forced to pay. They will never shake it off on their own initiative’.”
This profile of Gideon Levy can be viewed in full here.