"This piece originally published in Arabic translation by Al-Hayat"Al Hayat is one of the leading Arab papers, but it often holds pro-West and pro-Saudi views. That being said, it has been described as "a decidedly Arab nationalist paper" by the New York Times. Regardless, this little factoid makes one wonder exactly whom the intended audience is. As you can see, this article appears to be a criticism of Israel's leaders and media, but the fact that it was published in an Arab newspaper and then the Huffington Post would indicate otherwise. Let's move on. Siegman talks about some (relatively) ancient history, that of a kerfuffle regarding US commitment to Israeli positions vs final status agreements. After his first couple of paragraphs things get interesting:
"It is not only Israeli columnists who have played fast and loose with the history of this conflict. So have Israel's leaders. This past week (October 6), during a visit to the city of Lod, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that "Palestinians waited 9 months and more out of 10 months, and set a precondition right off the bat even though they committed to no preconditions." There is no other way of describing this statement than as a lie. The Palestinian insistence that the negotiations' starting point should be the existing agreements to which both Israel and the Palestinians signed onto is not a "condition." Israel's insistence that these agreements be ignored is a condition. It is therefore Israel that imposed conditions for the negotiations, not the Palestinians."Siegman engages in some pretty hefty verbal gymnastics here to justify Palestinian intransigence. He is saying that Palestinians preconditions really aren't preconditions, they are simply justified demands that Israel should have adhered to anyway without incentive. Similarly, Israel's claim that the Palestinians negotiate without preconditions is, in fact, a precondition, because it means that the Palestinians should ignore existing agreements. Is your head spinning yet?
The truth is that there is no existing agreements that say that Israel must freeze settlements during the entire course of the negotiations, there is only Palestinian demands that they do so. It's a pretty clever trick that Mr. Siegman is using when he claims that Israel refusing to accede to Palestinian conditions is a condition of their own. It's like he simply expects us to forget what both sides did and what the term "condition" means. Which is rather ironic considering his continuous accusations of "deception" in this article.
Of course in the end none of it matters because he did not address the key point of Netanyahu's statement: The Palestinians did wait for nine months out of ten for no good reason, and they demanded an Israeli...something while offering nothing of their own in return. And then they whine and complain when Israel continues not to give them settlement freezes for nothing. Siegman is clearly of the camp that believes Israel should make concessions (or whatever he wants to call them) to the Palestinians not because that's the way that negotiations work but because "it's the right thing to to do." Even if making those concessions get people killed.
Siegman then attempts to bust the myth that the Palestinians only take from Israel and never give anything in return. Let us see what he has to say about that:
"Palestinians have made a concession to Israel that is entirely unprecedented. In 1988, the PLO agreed formally to recognize the legitimacy of Israeli sovereignty within the 1967 armistice border, an area that includes fully half the territory that had been recognized as the legitimate patrimony of Palestinian Arabs in the UN Partition Plan. This reduced the Palestinians' territory from 43 to 22 percent of Palestine while enlarging Israel's territory from 56 to 78 percent."Wow. That's what Mr. Siegman considers to be "an unprecedent concession." The PLO being willing to accept Israel's existence? Ignoring for the moment that this isn't even true ("We plan to eliminate the state of Israel and establish a Palestinian state." Yasser Arafat, Stockholm, 30 January, 1996) it is incredibly hypocritical given what Mr. Siegman was just complaining about in his previous paragraph. He considers Israel freezing the settlements not be a concession because they should have done so anyway? Fine, but then he can't also say that the PLO recognizing Israel is a concession because they should have done so anyway! The double standard here is clear.
We can also see in this paragraph that Mr. Siegman is holding fast to the Palestinian narrative in which all of "Palestine" is "theirs." And even though they did not accept the UN Partition Plan in 1948, somewhere down the line the land that was supposed to be granted to them had they accepted it became theirs after it was already lost. All of this is used to spin history to make it sound as if the Palestinians not trying to wipe Israel out is somehow a massive concession on their part, because they are giving Israel land that isn't theirs and was never theirs. I truly expected better from an educated man like Mr. Siegman, especially one who is getting so hot and bothered about Israeli "deceptions."
This is getting a bit long so I'm going to break it into two posts.