Bantustan…..? Yes…..But Defanged!

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A speech of a refusenik –” filled with a series of nos!

No right of return for Palestinian refugees!
No Jerusalem for Palestine!
No recognition of Hamas!
No sovereign independent Palestinian state!
No! No! No!

Far from being a groundbreaking new policy initiative, Israel’s rightwing PM Netanyahu recast shallow old Zionist yarns into a narrative that lacked depth, courage and vision.

In a smoke and mirror speech, forced to respond to Barack Obama’s demands on Israel to place an immediate freeze on settlements and to accept the legitimacy of Palestinian rights in the shape of two-states, Netanyahu failed to pull any rabbits out of a hat.

In what appears to be a speech directed more at rightwing zealots in his coalition government and hardline Zionist settlers, whom he referred to as “principled”, Netanyahu may have miscalculated the levels of exasperation amongst influential sectors within America and Europe.

This much is clear from comments and analysis from western capitals that swiftly concluded that Netanyahu made no major detour from Zionist ideals apart from subscribing to a watered down version of a ghetto that he repeatedly qualified as a “demilitarized” entity.

The three challenges he outlined at the start of his speech, not surprisingly included Iran as an existential threat, alongside “economic recession” and “peace” itself. Quite ridiculous to regard “peace” as a threat, yet it demonstrates how successive Israel regimes have found political utility in displaying security vulnerability.

It’s a built-in rationale of Israeli politics to justify all manners of oppressive conduct against Palestinians including refuting all obligations flowing from International Conventions pertaining to human rights. It’s used once again, though this time in an effort to take the sting out of pressure from the Obama administration.

If former US president Jimmy Carter is to be believed, Obama will not change his position on the two-state solution and settlements. Indeed, he warned that if Netanyahu refuses to comply on these two issues, Israel and the United States would be on a collision course.

Prepared to meet with Arab leaders anywhere anytime to “talk peace”, Netanyahu insisted that he was more willing to engage with unelected dictators in Cairo, Amman and Riyadh than with the democratically elected leaders of Palestine –” Hamas –” whom he dismissed as “terrorists”.

In fact he demanded that Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority must oust Hamas from power in the Gaza either in remarkable ignorance of a new transparent political context in a post-Bush era or in open defiance of Obama who has become a symbol of “anti-Semitism” in rightwing Israeli circles.

The only other reference to Gaza was bewailing the fact that Shalit’s capture and detention had gone on for three years. No hint or clue that in pursuit of peace, Israel would lift the siege on Gaza, whose Occupied people are according to Carter “literally starving” and being “treated like savages”.

Netanyahu’s failure to provide an adequate response to Obama’s commitment to a global audience to bring about a complete halt to settlements, which he described as key obstacles to any peace agreements, has ironically strengthened Hamas more than Abbas’ small elite of impostors.

It’s futile for Israeli leaders and supporters to believe that the world will continue to turn a blind eye to legitimate Palestinian aspirations that are regularly quashed through despicable brute military means. Netanyahu’s spineless efforts to seek justification and global sympathy for a Jewish state’s right to exist on stolen land reveal that 61 years after the dispossession of Palestine, Israel remains at a crossroad.

What happens next is an all-important question facing Obama: will he permit Israel to continue marching in an opposite direction when the end of an era of colonialism demands that it conforms to policies of decolonisation?

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