SINCE the founding of the state of Israel, successive Israeli governments have done their best to ensure the question of a Palestinian state remains perpetually in limbo.
Commenting on Israel's disengagement from Gaza, former Israeli PM Ariel Sharon's spokesman Dov Weisglass said: "It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that's necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians."
At the recent Arab summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia revived the Arab Peace Initiative. It was described as "revolutionary" by Israel, yet it is already five years old and says what existing United Nations resolutions, the US, EU and rest of the world already advocate: land for peace.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert maintains that more negotiations are required before a final settlement can be agreed on. The negotiations he speaks of have been the "get out of jail free" card that every Israeli prime minister has used since negotiations began.
"Whenever Arabs come up with clear, frank and transparent decisions toward peace, (Israel) rejects them," Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said. "This does not show a country that wants peace."
Said Olmert: "We are not deluding ourselves — they want us to return to the 1967 borders and implement the right of return."
One wonders at Olmert's surprise because this is what the United Nations has said countless times since 1948 and 1967. Readers should be mindful that this is the only platform for a just and sustainable solution to the question of Palestine and more broadly Middle East peace.
Olmert can say the words, but it is now up to the international community to play its role as a facilitator, not just a mute mediator.
Israel has unabatedly and unapologetically continued its illegal land-grabs resulting in the scenario we face now; Israel cannot tell the Palestinians where Israel finishes and Palestine begins.
Israel is the only country on Earth without defined, fixed borders. Therefore, how can Israel demand Palestinians recognise Israel? It exists. One need only look at an atlas. A better question and one that begs to be asked is: When will Israel recognise Palestine?
On September 9, 1993, the late Yasser Arafat, on behalf of his people, stated in a letter to the late Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin the right of the state of Israel to exist in peace and security. As a result of this declaration — and the Oslo Peace Accords — a Palestinian state should have already been established. Sadly, that has not been the case as there are two further requirements that Israel — and the world — has determined must first be fulfilled. Namely, cease all acts of violence and honour all pre-existing agreements.
The absurd irony is that Israel has violated all its obligations, including doubling the number of settlers and settlements in occupied Palestine in the years after the accords were signed. In the ensuing years, Israeli home demolitions, military raids on civilian homes, land and water theft, basic human rights violations, collective punishment, arbitrary arrests, the blocking of free movement and access to education and the building of the separation fence (read apartheid wall) all pass without question.
There is no doubt that the time is ripe for a legitimate and just peace. Just last week, Olmert said: "I would take advantage of this important opportunity to invite to a meeting all Arab heads of state, including, of course, the king of Saudi Arabia, whom I regard as an important leader, in order to engage in dialogue."
It is time for Israel not to miss the opportunity it allegedly craves, and the world needs — full recognition and diplomatic relations with the entire Arab world. The price — justice for Palestine; the reward — peace and security for all.
Moammar Mashni is a member of Australians for Palestine.