Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mustafa Barghouti: It's Now or Almost Certainly Never...

IMEU

It's now or almost certainly never. If Obama lacks the political will to stand up to Netanyahu now, he will lack the capacity later. And by the time Obama leaves office, it will be too late to salvage anything more than an archipelago of Palestinian Bantustans. We Palestinians seek freedom, not apartheid, and not the sort of Potemkin villages on the West Bank that Netanyahu is trying to package to the West as visionary economic boomtowns for desperate Palestinians. Yes, we want economic improvement, but the best way to achieve that is through control over our own lives, borders and resources.

Israel's new foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, claimed in an April interview that "America accepts all our decisions." I was in Washington in February and did not find that to be the case. The Obama administration, I was pleased to hear, planned to be in neither the Israelis' nor the Palestinians' pocket. That is all we Palestinians have ever asked.

Yet, just as in the '90s, Netanyahu believes that he is the world's driving force and that a Democratic president should be following his lead. In his memoir, former lead American negotiator Dennis Ross quoted an exasperated President Clinton as complaining that Netanyahu comported himself as though he thought Israel, and not the United States, was the superpower. That doesn't appear to have changed. How else to explain the recent assertion by Israeli officials that before Israel will address core Palestinian-Israeli negotiating issues, the United States must deal - apparently to Israel's satisfaction - with Iran's nuclear program?

The false Iran-Palestine linkage troubles me because its Israeli boosters think that Iran is an immediate concern, and Palestinian freedom can once again be kicked down the road. Danny Ayalon, Israel's deputy foreign minister and a representative of Lieberman's extremist Yisrael Beiteinu party, said in April that "the Iranian clock should be measured in months," but the Palestinian timetable "is open-ended."

What Ayalon, Lieberman and Netanyahu fail to grasp is the world's increasing recognition that they are attempting to dictate the timetable for another people's freedom. This is unacceptable in the 21st century.

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