While the crisis in the Crimea has somewhat overshadowed him, Israel's Prime Minister has again this week goaded the Palestinians to do something he knows they can't - recognise not just Israel's right to exist which they did years ago, but now refer to Israel as the Jewish state.
I opened a newspaper today to see a ‘cartoon’ by Jewish political cartoonist Yaakov Kirschen who goes by the name of ‘Dry Bones’.
What got me first was whether I had read this cartoon the wrong way because, just as Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was delivering his ‘same-old-same-old rant about Iran, demand the world abandon discussions in favour of more crippling sanctions, demand the impossible of the Palestinians etc.’ to the American pro-Israeli lobby group AIPAC, cartoonist Kirschen produces a little gem that just about sums up the mentality of the web that Netanyahu has created and which will catch him, possibly sooner than later.
The cartoon has some goofy looking guy note that the “painful concessions demanded of Israel include uprooting Jewish communities and pulling out of the West Bank”.
Next frame, same Mr Goofy is apparently “listening for the painful concessions demanded from the Palestinians”.
Frame three, stupid guy still listening.
Frame four idiot still has his hands to his ear.
The point is obviously to convey through the most simple of mediums that Israel is giving up everything and the Palestinians, well, nothing. It is commonly called propaganda.
Who knows how successful US Secretary of State Kerry will be in trying to formulate a way forward for that thing which people in his position still dutifully refer to as the Middle East Peace process.
What we have seen in the last few weeks however would have the bookies paying out nothing for a bet on failure.
Not because Kerry is otherwise occupied in the somewhat dubious diplomacy of keeping the Crimea as part of the Ukraine. (The US crying out for protection of the Ukraine’s sovereignty sends a pretty confusing signal to the citizens of Iraq and Afghanistan without even mentioning drones.)
But back to Bibi.
All the while Netanyahu smiles and speaks to the world in soothing, reasoned tones, he’s doing everything he can to sabotage the Two State Solution.
He, like the cartoonist, tries to make it all look so simple. Israel is the only one to suffer. The Palestinians are the only ones who win.
Netanyahu goads the Palestinians to “...recognize the Jewish state. No excuses. No delays, it’s time”.
If he were an honest man he would admit that he knows darned well why Palestinian negotiators can not recognise Israel as a Jewish state.
The demand is a relatively recent addition to the Israeli checklist for ending its illegal occupation and Netanyahu knows it can’t be met because that would mean Palestine abandoning the 1.5 million Palestinians who live in Israel (20% of the population).
They and their descendants are the people who managed to avoid the ethnic cleansing that made way for the created state of Israel, and conceding Israel to be a Jewish state would further entrench the second class citizenship they endure within Israel.
Palestinians in Israel are discriminated against in every aspect of their life - the money allotted to their education is a quarter of what is spent on Jewish students, their development budget is set at 4% despite being 20% of the population of Israel; they are denied building permits for an ever increasing population and if they build, the state bulldozes their homes; their few representatives in the Knesset (Israeli parliament) are routinely subjected to racial abuse; they are forbidden from buying land designated as for Jews only...the list goes on.
Netanyahu proclaims Israel as the only democracy in the region. It is his trump card when drumming up sympathy, particularly from the US and Canada.
Yet Israel is not a democracy. At best it is an ethnocracy which legislatively and culturally favours one group over another. It institutionally discriminates.
You can’t have a democracy when 20% of your citizens are subjected to other laws.
As writer Ben White quotes in ‘Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy’ a report by former UN special Rapporteur on adequate housing put it thus:
“Nationality status in Israel is not linked to origin from or residence in a territory as is the norm in international law. Rather, the basic theocratic character of the Israeli legal system establishes ethnic criteria as the grounds for the enjoyment of full rights ...”
Lev Luis Grinberg (the founding chair of Ben-Gurion University’s sociology and anthropology department) further in the book highlights the hypocrisy of the concept “democratic Jewish state” which “privileges Israel’s Jewish citizens” while “progressively marginalizing the Arabs”.
It is a process commonly referred to as racism or apartheid.
President Obama has revealed the essence of his conversations with Netanyahu when trying to gently push him to do the right thing, asks him “if not now, when? And if not you Mr Prime Minister, then who?”
And while Netanyahu listens he knows his government is busy passing legislation that intensifies the discrimination and the occupation. New law divides Arab Christian Israelis from Muslim Israelis - the reason to further divide the Palestinian community in Israel. The Israeli government is careful to avoid reference to Palestinian Israelis, referring always to them as Arabs.
It is just another little tactic designed to disappear Palestine.
The other issue that must play on Netanyahu’s mind when he sits with Obama, or Kerry, or whomever, is that he is tenuously holding together an extreme, hard core right wing religious coalition which features amongst its numbers settlers - those who illegally occupy Palestinian land. That you can live in another country and still be a member of the Knesset doesn’t seem to matter if you are Jewish. On that same basis a Palestinian from the occupied territories should be eligible for election to the Knesset. Imagine that!
Netanyahu’s coalition is absolutely opposed to a Palestinian state, protest loudly about any talk of a settlement building moratorium, and Netanyahu knows they will abandon him if he dares to concede an inch in the so-called negotiations.
His own Defense Minister has called him politically naked, and stated that the conflict with the Palestinians cannot be resolved.
The blunt message in all this is that Bibi Netanyahu is holding on to his personal political survival. It trumps Middle East peace.
He is under the thumb of those who intend to complete the original Zionist project - to take all the land and disappear the original occupants. And they have the gall to call Kerry “messianic”.
If Israelis re-elect such a group of zealots, they surely must know that this situation cannot remain the status quo - even if after 20 years of ‘peace talks’ it feels that way.
Many are beginning to voice concern about the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. They have cause to worry because BDS is gathering steam for the simple reason that the world is growing sick of this apartheid regime which continues to devour another people’s country.
Israelis need to do the job Netanyahu is clearly incapable of.