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August 1, 2001
A word on the Beilin-Abed Rabbo

By Ali Abunimah


Former Israeli justice minister Yossi Beilin and Palestinian minister Yasser Abed Rabbo co-authored an article in the New York Times today (below) in which they call for a return to negotiations, based on "an end to bloodshed, an end to occupation, a return to negotiation and the realization of peace between our peoples."

These are very good principles and with things as bad as they are, statements like this, act as an important reminder that there is an alternative path to war--perhaps. The statement is all the more significant since many Israelis who once identified themselves as "doves" are now openly aligned with the Sharon government. But I can't help feeling that the words of Israeli Labor party "leftists" such as Yossi Beilin ring wholly unconvincing.

When they are out of office (as Beilin is now), such figures have had a tendency to sound like your best friend and greatest advocate, the better to convince Palestinians, and the world that only with them in office will the "peace process" flourish. When they get into power, however, they are the ones signing off on the demolition, settlement expansion and land confiscation orders, and protesting that the "Israeli people have their red lines," which of course include strong reservations about a full and complete withdrawal from the occupied territories and the recognition of Palestinian rights, especially the rights of Palestinian refugees. Worse, they do this while wearing the mantle of pursuers of peace this escaping scrutiny and criticism from an international community that is either taken in by the act or simply desperate to keep them in office for fear of worse.

We have been through this cycle so many times before. The Labor party's protestations that they wanted a true peace were never so strong as they were following the first Intifada, and again following Netanyahu. What we got instead were more settlements, more bypass roads, more bantustans, more humiliation and frustration. What evidence is there that Beilin has learned the lessons of this Intifada? Cheap statements from Israeli opposition politicians seeking office weigh little against the record of devastation and massive land expropriation carried out by the governments of Rabin, Peres and Barak. Intifada means no going back to playing the Israeli left's shell game.

Ali Abunimah
The writer is an analyst based in the United States.