Israel's prime minister is engaged in a public relations exercise. Meanwhile, it is business as usual, as his army plans a wide ranging assault against Gaza, reports Khaled Amayreh from East Jerusalem
Instead of giving the Arab peace initiative serious consideration, the Israeli prime minister has been indulging in a public relations exercise in an attempt to downplay the Arab world's attempt to reach out its hand to the Jewish state. He hopes to distract international attention away from Israeli intransigence.
Despite the Arab world presenting Israel with an olive branch that includes peace and the normalisation of relations in exchange for ending the occupation, Israel's response has been outright rejection.
In an attempt to dilute his obvious contempt towards this peace gesture Ehud Olmert has engaged in a game of subterfuge, claiming Israel is interested in peace but only via direct talks with Arab leaders. The claim comes when the Israeli government continues to refuse to engage in talks with the democratically elected Palestinian government.
In an interview in Time Olmert said that should the King of Saudi Arabia agree to meet him he would be surprised by Israel's magnanimity and desire for peace.
"I can tell you that if I had an opportunity to meet King Abdullah -- which I have not -- he would be very surprised to hear what I have to say."
Olmert described the Riyadh summit as "evidence of change", saying he would be willing to participate in a regional summit, the suggestion being the region's problems have nothing to do with Israel's 40-year-old occupation of Palestine but are caused solely by the non- recognition of Israel.
Olmert's words are nothing more than double speak. The Israeli premier knows that without giving up the spoils of the 1967 War and allowing for the repatriation of the refugee, the chances of a durable peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and also with the Arab- Muslim world at large, are next to nil. Yet Olmert thinks that spin can replace true statesmanship. He is unwilling to pay the price for peace but instead indulges in diversionary tactics, extolling the need to hold direct discussions with Arab leaders.
Israel has been engaging in peace talks with the Palestinians for 15 years and with the Arabs for decades to no avail. What point can there be in holding further discussions beyond trying to cajole or bully the Arab side into accepting the occupation and colonisation of Palestinian land by Ashkenazi supremists?
Israel and the Palestinian Authority have been talking since 1993 yet instead of ending the occupation and recognising the Palestinian people's right to freedom, independence and basic dignity, the Israeli state has been busy building more Jewish colonies on stolen land, erecting more apartheid roadblocks and checkpoints and transforming Palestinian population centres into concentration camps.
Olmert doesn't stop at refusing Arab and non-Arab peace overtures. He also wants to ignite a civil war among Palestinians and would like to see Arab states augment Israel's callous blockade of Gaza.
Recent opinion polls show Olmert's approval ratings at an unprecedented low of two per cent. When 98 per cent of Israelis do not trust their leader, how can anyone else be expected to do so?
His call for direct talks with the Arab world should be viewed as yet another evasive tactic, a use aimed at buying time and diluting the overall Arab discourse vis-à- vis the Palestinian cause. Olmert is also very weak politically with a majority of Israeli pundits predicting that his hobbled together government is unlikely to survive to the end of the year. That weakness could hold many problems for the Palestinians as Olmert is tempted to pursue further military adventures and engage in political posturing in a doomed attempt to secure public support. Indeed this week the Israeli chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, said that Israel was planning to launch a far- reaching incursion into the Gaza Strip to "prevent Hamas from growing stronger".
The real goal, however, is more likely to be to destroy the Palestinian government, murder Palestinian officials, particularly those affiliated with Hamas, and destabilise the Palestinian arena which has been enjoying a modicum of stability and normality following the signing of the Mecca Accord on 8 February and the formation of the new Palestinian national unity government.
Another key but undeclared goal of a fresh Israeli invasion into the largest open-air prison in the world is to try to locate and liberate the Israeli soldier captured nine months ago. A successful mission of this kind would be a great morale booster for Olmert and his government.
Olmert is likely to continue to recite his calls for peace and repeatedly express his sincere and heart-felt desire to hold talks with Arab leaders. Meanwhile his government and army continue to rape the Palestinian people and steal chunk after chunk of their homeland. It is a strategy that will continue for as long as world leaders are willing to remain silent in the face of Israeli recalcitrance.
This week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel made another pilgrimage to Israel to ask for further atonement for the Holocaust. Merkel, who only met non-Hamas members of the Palestinian government, blamed the Palestinians for everything from the stalled peace process to crippling Western sanctions on them. One Palestinian official described Merkel's behaviour as "brazen and shameful".
"This woman, like all German leaders since [Konrad] Adenauer, feels enslaved by the Jews. I believe that even if Israel carried out a fully-fledged holocaust against the Palestinians, German leaders wouldn't even protest... German political whoredom seems to know no limits."