The call for a 'suicide' of the Palestinian political and cultural ethos is just a call for a perpetual occupation.
Telling someone they should commit suicide is one of the meaner tropes of online abusers. Rarely do such messages make it to the New York Times opinion page.
Israel's Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, pulled off this obvious troll in the pages of the paper of record on Monday, calling on Palestinians to kill their own aspirations for nationhood in return for peace from Israel.
However, unlike a dead body, there is no proof of national suicide that the Palestinians can offer Israel, dooming the ‘Deal of the Century’ (now, the ‘Opportunity of the Century’) to failure.
“A national suicide of the Palestinians’ current political and cultural ethos is precisely what is needed for peace. The belief that the Jews have no right to the land and Israel is to be destroyed, which engenders a culture of hate and incitement, needs to end,” Danon writes in the piece entitled What’s Wrong With Palestinian Surrender?
Danon is offering Palestinians a lingering death, which is what Israel has offered Palestinians under occupation for decades, requiring Palestinians constantly be able to prove they are not guilty of being Palestinian. They know that their status as guilty-until-proven-innocent will remain so in the eyes of Israelis, no matter how much cash the Gulf shells out.
There is no way to bribe away racism, fear, and bigoted suspicion that comes under the Israeli system of apartheid.
But that won’t stop Danon from trying. In the article, he continues: “Surrendering will create the opportunity to transform Palestinian society,” and lead to their “liberation,” he added.
The article comes as the US, Israel and Gulf states huddle in Bahrain for a “workshop” on the Deal of the Century, presented by US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who talks about a vague peace plan with an unblinking impassivity. The Palestinian leadership has boycotted the “Peace to Prosperity” confab. No Israeli officials were in attendance, either.
A far more animated figure than Kushner, Danon writes about Palestinians cleansing their "national identity" of the urge to pointlessly resist Israeli rule. It’s an obvious troll, but Danon’s article represents a serious misunderstanding of who is in control over Palestinian identity.
Thanks to the occupation, Israel has helped shape Palestinian identity, too, just as Palestinians have shaped Israeli identity by its resistance to the occupation. The path to a lasting, humane peace depends not just on the decisions of powerful people in distant capitals, but more so on Israelis and Palestinians recognising commonalities between their societies, languages and religions. That is the kind of transformation that is necessary for lasting peace.
Indeed, when it comes to Israelis and Palestinians, it is difficult to imagine a world with one side and not the other, as much as it is difficult to imagine a prison guard without a handcuffed prisoner. Their identities are intertwined, and their relationship defined by who is holding the keys to the handcuffs. Israel doesn't even know where the keys are anymore but can pretend to look for them. And that is what the Deal of the Century is: a surreal charade.
But this is no mere petty theft. Palestinians remain shackled, and incapable of surviving without Israel spoonfeeding them outside aid.
The Deal of the Century proposes a huge sum of aid, paid for by the Saudis, in return for Palestinians abandoning anything Israel considers as resistance. But this shows Danon’s misunderstanding of what Palestinians want. It’s not to feast while in handcuffs. They want the handcuffs off.
That Danon doesn’t recognise that bodes poorly for the success of any peace process.
In his piece, he asserts that Palestinians can follow the model of Egypt’s truce with Israel in 1979, which saw the United States launch an annual bounty of military and economic aid to Cairo. But that relationship was forged in the midst of the Cold War when Washington had a concrete reason to permanently secure Egypt’s patronage away from Moscow. But this analogy is not just irrelevant, given the unique historical circumstances, but also misleading, as the main benefactor from the plan would be Saudi Arabia and its regional ambitions, not the US.
Securing the loyalty of another incarnation of Palestinian subcontractors to Israeli occupation would seem like a major diplomatic victory for Saudi Arabia. A Saudi dependency in the West Bank and Gaza would undermine Riyadh's rival Qatar, which has provided Palestinians with humanitarian aid, and Iran, which has provided Palestinian militant groups with money and weapons.
Removing Iran and sidelining Qatar seems to be Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s grand plan, but it is one that would keep the Palestinians subservient to another state. Danon imagines this as liberation as it would make Palestinians the responsibility of another Arab state, a return to the pre-1967 norm when the West Bank was under Jordanian control and Gaza under Egyptian sovereignty.
Although Danon refers to the United States as being the chief decision maker, Saudi, it seems, is the party with the disposable income. Indeed, Trump, has withdrawn all funding to the Palestinian Authority, destroying whatever meagre reputation his administration might have had as a peace broker.
The whole plan amounts to Israel’s admission of the failure of occupation, and a desperate desire to return Palestinian enclaves back to other Arabs. But there is no way Saudi Arabia can control what Israel might consider a breach by Palestinians of the terms of an imaginary armistice, criteria that can change with the leadership in the Knesset. One of the characteristics of the occupation is its unpredictable application of oppression.
If there is one thing the Oslo Accords taught Palestinians, it’s that Israeli promises do not transfer over between prime ministers. There are just some of the simpler complexities Kushner is not considering, as a novice at international diplomacy who shows no natural gift at it. He presents the Bahrain conference as a "workshop" because this is the kind of meaningless corporate jargon that Kushner thinks is inspiring.
But detached, analytical indifference is not what Israelis and Palestinians need to make peace, although the Times subhead to the essay strongly suggests so: “Knowing when to give up is often the first step to making peace.”
Danon himself might not have written that, but it conveys the most glaring flaw in his proposal for Palestinian capitulation. Forging peace between Palestinians and Israelis themselves requires a renewed passion for understanding and seeing the humanity in one another, a challenge that even prosperity can sometimes assist, but never achieve. That is the kind of transformation Israelis and Palestinians need to realise together. In peacebuilding as in war-making, neither side gets to give up.
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