Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Prime Minister Netanyahu: “My Donkey Has Three Legs.”

In the elementary school –Annie Besant School - I attended in Mangaluru, India, when I was in the fourth grade, we had a learned, kind, patient teacher who regaled us with stories to make or illustrate a point. Each of the stories he told had a seed of wisdom, a grain of truth, a moral value, a point to remember, and a lesson to learn. We would all listen to him in silence, our mouths half agape, in awe of his abundant wisdom and vast knowledge. Among the dozens of his stories that I still remember vividly even now, one story is relevant to Israel’s Netanyahu today. It’s titled, “My donkey has three legs”.

The story is short and simple: In a school in a small village, a teacher asked his first grade pupils, “How many legs does a donkey have?” A dozen tiny hands were raised by students very eager to answer the question. There was a consensus. They all agreed that a donkey has four legs, except for a boy named Krishna, who shouted that donkeys have only three legs. “Why do you say that donkeys have three legs?” asked the teacher, and showed Krishna a picture of a donkey. “Now tell me, how many legs does a donkey have?”
“Three,” said Krishna, “because, we have a donkey at home. It has three legs.”
The teacher turned away from Krishna, and said,“A sane, wise man must not argue with a stubborn, unreasonable man, a man who refuses to see.”

To resolve the long simmering conflict between Israel and Palestine, President Obama asked Netanyahu to dismantle all illegal outposts and freeze settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Mr. Netanyahu responded, saying that Israel will not freeze the settlements, and that, instead, it would build 1450 more houses in the Adam settlement. President Obama asked Netanyahu again to freeze the settlements. Netanyahu responded by announcing that his government has decided to allow construction of 20 settler residences at the site known to the Palestinians as Karm al-Mufti (Vineyard of the Mufti) in East Jerusalem. In his Bar-Ilan speech, Netanyahu had pledged that his government will not be confiscating privately-owned Palestinian land anymore. But he has changed his mind again. His administration is considering confiscating privately-owned Palestinian land near the West Bank settlement of Ofra, to build a new sewage treatment plant for the residents. This announcement was made by the state prosecutor, in response to a High Court petition filed by a resident of the West Bank town Ein Yabrud and the human rights association Yesh Din.

When confronted by such obstinacy, what can President Obama do? The answer is quite simple. Cut off the almost unending flow of US tax-payer dollars into the Israeli coffers (about 3.9 billion dollars per year in economic and military aid). He will see instantaneous results, and he will even hear a change in Netanyahu’s pitch and tone. It’s time to stop the unending haggling over the settlements with the intransigent Israeli government. Mr. George Mitchell need not fly all over the world pretending to negotiate to bring peace to ME. Why waste valuable jet fuel?

Instead of wasting time negotiating with unreasonable politicians, President Obama should announce that his administration has recognized the State of Palestine as bounded by the internationally recognized 1966 (pre-1967) borders, and ask the United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution recognizing the state of Palestine also. This is essentially what Mr. Javier Solana, EU High Representative and the current EU president, has suggested that President Obama should do. The old roadmap for peace died on the day Netanyahu became Israel’s Prime Minister. I believe that now Solana’s suggestion is the only road that will lead to peace in the Middle East.

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