So they tell us the Palestinians and Israelis are meeting in Jerusalem to discuss peace. There might be some papers signed, and there might even be a ceremony one day.
Now there are a lot of reasons to believe that these talks will lead nowhere. There is no real evidence that the Israelis are in any way interested in the Palestinians having any kind of state of their own. Settlement expansion in East Jerusalem and the West Bank is on the rise, and it is because the Israeli prime minister is pushing it. Let’s be clear. Benjamin Netanyahu is not giving in to right-wing Israeli groups. He is their leader.
Now, we Palestinians might kick and scream a little bit, and we even pretended for a second that we wouldn’t attend the negotiations. But of course we were going to attend. We don’t have anything to lose at this point. Twenty years after the Oslo Accords, there is less of the West Bank to go toward a future state, and Palestinian rights are more marginalized than ever. Probably nothing will come of any negotiations, but at least the negotiators will get a hassle-free trip to Jerusalem, and trust me, those are hard to come by.
I have a feeling they are not really doing anything. I can only imagine what they are discussing:
Israeli Negotiator: “Anyway, what do you want to do today?” Palestinian Negotiator: “I think there is a ‘Godfather’ marathon on TV today.” Israeli: “I’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse.” Palestinian: “I’m not falling for that again… haha!” Israeli: “Can’t blame me for trying… Anyway, what time do you want to start ‘negotiations’ tomorrow?” Palestinian: “I’m free anytime… Well, not really ‘free,’ if you know what I mean.”
Of course, these negotiations are not going to produce any sort of long-lasting settlement. There might be some papers that get signed, and there might even be a ceremony. But I saw that twenty years ago too. I remember that day. I was 16 years old, and my history teacher actually took me out of class and let me watch the signing ceremony on live TV in the library. I was the only Palestinian in the school, and my parents were demonstration-loving, well-educated, and loud. In other words, they were Palestinian too. So my heritage was no secret in our white suburban community. When I played soccer in as a child, my dad even insisted that my jersey number be “1948.” “But baba, it’s only supposed to be two digits,” I pleaded. “Well, I was supposed to have a country, so…” He had a point.
I sat and watched Clinton, Arafat, and Rabin stand on the White House Lawn, and all I could remember thinking was, “Wow, Rabin and Arafat never looked that short on the news before.” And I remember feeling conflicted. My parents were never in love with the PLO, and they were afraid that this agreement might be a disaster. But then again, there we were, on TV, shaking hands with the President of the United States of America. And who could say “no” to that? I mean, I watch Kim Kardashian on TV, and she seems like a self-centered, immoral, attention-grabbing woman who just makes one bad decision after another. But if she asked me out…
But back to today. Benjamin Netanyahu’s entire tenure has been predicated on the idea that the Palestinians are not worthy of any rights whatsoever. He is a champion of settlements on Palestinian land. He has appointed ministers who are gloriously anti-Arab racists. He makes coalitions with parties that believe the Palestinians have no rights in Israel, Jerusalem, or the West Bank. He consistently refers to us pesky Palestinians as a “demographic threat.”
We are less than human to the Israeli prime minister. One would imagine that, given his record, for America to think that he would allow any sort of real deal to occur is foolish. But America knows who Netanyahu is. They know he only sees Israel as existing in a Middle East where she must be in a constant state of war, ready to defend herself against an everlasting threat of annihilation by her neighbors. America allowing Benjamin Netanyahu to portray himself as someone who is even remotely interested in peace is perhaps the worst injustice of all.
Well, unlike the thinner and less-bald 16 year-old version of myself, I’m not conflicted about peace talks anymore. I know these are going nowhere, but the Israelis have shown up to them nonetheless. And all of it to satisfy America. So Israel will talk, and she might even sign some papers, and there might even be a ceremony. But just because your kid shows you a wet toothbrush doesn’t mean he actually brushed his teeth. You have to lean over and smell his breath.