Asking questions, bringing balance, confronting predjudice

Never Mind Iran – stop ignoring me!

Friday’s attack by the Israeli Air Force (IAF), which killed some top baddies in Gaza, has sparked a stronger than usual response in rockets fired back (92 in two days). This has included longer range Grads as well as the shorter range rockets. Fortunately Israel’s “Iron Dome” anti-missile defence system has proved itself by preventing 25 of them from landing in heavily populated areas, but there was one serious injury and a number of moderate and light injuries from the attacks.

Earlier last week, PA president Mahmoud Abbas composed a missive to the members of the “Quartet”, which was christened “the mother of all letters”! It is understood that it reiterated Palestinian demands that Israel must meet before talks could possibly begin again. Israel wasn’t actually on the list of recipients for the letter; apparently it is to be sent to them after the West has had a good read.

The contents of the Abbas letter don’t need a crystal ball, they are pretty predictable by now. The question is, having effectively written more talks out of their agenda, why is the PA suddenly raising the topic again – and why such a heavy reaction to the IAF attack on two terror leaders?

Both are attempts to stop the West forgetting about the Palestinian agenda and focusing on the much more real threat of a nuclear Iran. How dare America, Europe and the rest of the world pay more attention to Iran than to Palestinian demands and needs?! This petty posturing and need for attention actually puts the Palestinian issue in its true perspective and I hope the world sees that and reacts accordingly.

Without minimising for one minute the deaths and injuries that have occurred on both the Palestinian and Israeli sides of the conflict, geographically, historically and numerically the issues and struggles taking place in an area about the size of Wales are dwarfed by other more serious situations in the world. They are dwarfed by Darfur, by Rwanda, by Azerbaijan, by the Kurds and by Kashmir to mention just a few of the many territorial and cross-cultural disputes in the world from both past and present. In fact the fuss and diplomatic effort put into the Palestinian conflict are unjustifiably high pressure when we see the situation in the light of what else is going on in the world.

But if the diplomatic effort was directed elsewhere; if the pressure on Israel to compromise her security was applied elsewhere; if the vast sums of international funds fed into the bottomless pit of the PA were directed to other worthy causes, perhaps ordinary Israelis and Palestinians could get on with their lives and with each other!

Well, right now some of the effort is being redirected; redirected towards a situation far more serious on a regional and global level than whether the Palestinians can or should have a state. Iran is grabbing the headlines and the attention of the international community as her regime struggles to continue its nuclear plans in the face of stiffening sanctions and an increasing threat of military action from Israel (backed at least verbally by the US).

Both the PA and Hamas would rather force a wedge between Israel and the US through political posturing and acts of terror than see Netanyahu and Obama talking about Iran and not about them. So the “mother of all letters” and the extra volume of rockets from Gaza are not the sabre-rattling of military powers, they are toy-rattling by attention-seeking children whose carers have gone to tackle the burglar coming in through the window!

Not only have the Palestinians temporarily lost the West’s attention but they have also lost the attention of their Arab neighbours, who are rightfully facing up to the biggest regional threat for decades, a nuclear Shia Iran.

Personally, I hope the Palestinians continue to lose the West’s attention. I hope the West starts to see the Palestinian conflict in its geopolitical context and says effectively, “Sorry, we’ve got more important things to deal with; sort your own problems out.” If that were to happen, I believe that the Palestinians would have to make compromises in their position that they should have made a long time ago and a real peace process could take place that would allow Israelis and Palestinians to live together in the same land as neighbours and not as enemies. Pipe dream? I hope not!

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