When Israel went to war against Hamas in late December of 2008 parts of the international media were quick to condemn Israel’s use of white phosphorus weapons. At the time, the IDF responded to the claims by reiterating “that it uses weapons in compliance with international law, while strictly observing that they be used in accordance with the type of combat and its characteristics” (see more). The arms unit of the International Committee of the Red Cross also confirmed that the use of white phosphorus was regulated by humanitarian laws which required “parties to a conflict to discriminate between military objectives on the one hand and civilians and civilian objects on the other. The law also requires that they take all feasible precautions to prevent harm to civilians” (see more).
The facts were essentially ignored by many in the media and one of our local broadsheets trotted out the white phosphorus story including unfounded accusations of war crimes against Israel on more than one or two occasions in the aftermath of the war.
It seems that those who were quick to charge Israel with those war crimes over the use of white phosphorus have now gone into a shell. They were nowhere to be seen or heard yesterday when the news filtered through that at least two of nine mortar shells fired into Israel on Wednesday by Palestinian terrorists were phosphorus bombs (see more). This adds to the incredible deafening silence over the pledge by Hamas and 13 other terrorist organisations operating in Gaza, to step up “more effective attacks” to derail the current direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestine Authority. This week alone, fourteen rockets have been fired into Israel including one GRAD rocket. According to the IDF spokesman 150 rockets and mortars have been fired at Israeli territory since the beginning of 2010 and over 440 since the end of Operation Cast Lead in January 2009 (see more).One wonders on whose level of morality the firing of even one missile specifically targeting civilian populations is acceptable?Putting all of the elements together – Hamas’ deadly covenant, its new alliance with 13 other terror groups, the use of white phosphorus weapons – we are witnessing a terrible situation, and one which is widely ignored by the rest of the world. When a group of people can say things like “there is no solution for the Palestinian problem except by Jihad” and “Israel will exist, and will continue to exist, until Islam abolishes it”, and then hurl a few thousand rockets over the border, I would tend to believe that they are intent on doing exactly that. When a law states that a group must take “all feasible precautions to prevent harm to civilians” and Hamas fires rockets specifically aimed at civilians, then the world has a real problem.
On a different note, as Jews from all around the world welcomed in the Jewish New Year, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at the weekly Cabinet meeting about his aspirations for a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
He declared, “A peace agreement is based – first of all – on the recognition of Israel as the national state of the Jewish people. The conflict between us and the Palestinians, as opposed to other conflicts that were resolved by peace agreements is over the same piece of ground. We say that the solution is two states for two peoples, meaning two national states, a Jewish national state and a Palestinian national state. To my regret, I have yet to hear from the Palestinians the phrase ‘two states for two peoples’. I hear them saying ‘two states’ but I do not hear them recognising two states for two peoples” (see more).
It is not the first time an Israeli Prime Minister has articulated these thoughts, but it does tell us three very important factors. Firstly, it notes a shift in language from the Israeli Prime Minister; a national state for Jews and not a “Jewish State”. The difference is subtle but important. Secondly, it acknowledges outright that the conflict between the Palestinians is a conflict about land. Thirdly, that the only solution to the conflict about land is two states for two peoples.
Last year when Netanyahu gave a foreign policy speech at Bar Ilan University he drew criticism for not being able to utter the words “two state solution” when talking about his vision of peace.
A recent campaign by the Geneva Initiative has seen Palestinian leaders such as Saeb Erekat, Jibril Rajoub and Yasser Abed Rabbo appearing in commercials on Israeli television, addressing the Israeli public and informing them that they have a peace partner. Gadi Baltiansky, the director-general of the Geneva Initiative’s Israel headquarters stated, “we are carrying out a campaign of leaders, the Palestinian leadership. With the message of two states for two peoples. We are arguing that it’s important to reach a permanent settlement, urgently” (see more).
Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh has asked what a lot of us were thinking: “What is wrong with funding a campaign directed toward the Palestinians with a message that talks about peace, coexistence, compromise and cooperation with Israel? Is there not also a need to address the Palestinians about the need for peace and compromise?” (see more)
He also points out that what these leaders are saying in English to the Israelis and indeed the entire world is in stark contrast to what they are saying to their own people in Arabic. This disparity needs to be addressed. For too long we have been swallowing the bitter pill of Arafat’s days of doublespeak. Both sides need to recognise the national aspirations of the other side, and more than that, they need to be able to acknowledge these aspirations not to President Obama, not to the United Nations, not the world media, but to their own people in a language they can understand.
Best wishes over the fast and Gmar Hatima Tova.