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December 8, 2012

Dear Benjamin Netanyahu, please don’t spoil the party

By Abdulatif Al-Mulhim

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the most talked about political subject. And no matter how much you study it or read about it, it will still be uncharted mysterious waters.

It is the biggest dilemma for any world leader, politician, historian or just a humble columnist because no matter what you say or write, someone will be angry. But he only thing that many people around the world agree on is that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has to be ended.

In my humble opinion, at this stage three parties can contribute to solving the problem: the United Sates, Palestinian Authority and Israel. And at this stage let us not talk about the past. What happened has happened and there is no way we can go back. But it is always better to be late than never.

The first time I heard of the name Benjamin Netanyahu was in 1976. An American classmate of mine (Fred) mentioned his name, but the main talk was about his brother Yonatan, who was killed in the rescue operation at Entebbe, Uganda. The event was the talk of the world. Time had passed and on Aug. 2, the Iraqis invaded Kuwait.

I called the same classmate and told my classmate that Benjamin Netanyahu was the luckiest political figure in the world. He was given carte blanche to talk the world and he was exposed to the world. In the 1990s, when you are on CNN, it was like being on Twitter, Facebook and your name is on the contact list of every e-mail account in the world. And yes, Mr. Netanyahu was the luckiest political figure at the time.

I have written many articles about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and tried to be very straight forward as much as I could. And after each article about the Middle East conflict, I receive hundreds of e-mails, and the people who contacted me wanted the conflict to be solved. From the e-mails, every Israeli, even former Israeli soldiers who sent me replies to my articles told me enough is enough. And just few days ago, a breakthrough in the conflict was achieved. It was a small step, but, in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict no matter how small the step, it is taken very seriously. On Nov. 29, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to accord Palestine, none-member observer state. One-hundred-thirty-seven countries voted yes, nine voted against and with 41 abstentions.

The world was full of joy and people were now optimistic that there can be a two-state solution and the world was hoping for a long lasting peace. At a time when the whole world was partying and full of joy, Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu spoiled the party. He announced the go ahead to build 3,000 new homes on occupied territories. Now the whole world said, well, here we go again.

Many people, including Israelis, thought the building such settlements would be ab obstacle to any peace negotiations. On Dec. 3, I saw an article written by Professor Alon Ben-Meir who is born in Iraq and in his article, the professor said, “One would think that Prime Minister Netanyahu and his cohorts would one day come to their senses and realize that there are limits to which they can defy the international community, including the United States, without serious, if not perilous, repercussions for the state of Israel. As long as he is in power, Netanyahu has no intention, now or ever, to allow for the establishment of a functioning and independent Palestinian state.

“His talk of a two-state solution is nothing but an empty slogan designed to mislead the international community, and tragically he is leading the Jews’ third commonwealth to a historic disaster akin to the destruction of the Second Temple. Those Israelis from the left and center of the political spectrum must wake up and stop him in his tracks before it’s too late. Otherwise, they will be judged as harshly and mercilessly as history will judge Netanyahu by not preventing the looming disaster from destroying the Jews’ last refuge.”

The above part of my article is written by a professor who is well known for his drive to achieve peace in the Middle East, and had a taste of the agony when someone had to leave his home. He left his home in Baghdad and ended up going to school in Tel Aviv.

I am not sure what are the intentions and plans of Prime Minister Netanyahu after the election if he wins or when he wins. There are many issues in Israel that needs to be solved either internal or external. But, it is clear that Mr. Netanyahu is using the security issue as his main goal to win the next election.

Yes, security issues are important, but, we have 64 years of issues many people want to solve. Now, it is the time. The world will not tolerate seeing a problem dragging for such a long time regardless of what happened in the past. I said at the beginning of my article, I will not talk about the past. Let us evaluate the future. And it is clear to many analysts that going ahead with the settlement will complicate any future negotiations.

The Palestinians and Israelis have to get back to the negotiation table. We are now in the 2012 and the year 2013 is around the corner. Palestinians and Israelis must put aside any differences and start serious negotiations for the sake of the future generations.

For the past six years the Israelis and the Palestinian youth were growing up in state of alert not in a state of tranquility. The Palestinians and Israelis lost many lives and nothing was resolved. So, why not try the tone of peaceful negotiations and the removal of any obstacles to any upcoming peace negotiations. Violence will only bring more violence and it does worth it to try any peace approach. Mr. Netanyahu should not ignore the voices of the world.

Abdulateef Al-Mulhim is Commodore (Retd.) of Royal Saudi Navy.