Even former leaders of Israel’s Mossad secret service agree that making a true peace with the Palestinians – rather than the ‘deal’ Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu seek to impose on them – is the only long-term solution, writes Kenny MacAskill.
Last week I met, Dr Husam Zomlot, Palestinian Ambassador to the UK. It was a great pleasure on my part and kind on his given the pressures facing him with President Trump’s supposed “peace plan” just recently published.
It was at the Palestinian Mission which isn’t in any of the fashionable districts of ambassadorial London. Instead it’s a more modest affair in West London, doubtless reflecting the financial plight of the Palestinian Authority, as much as their people. Arabic coffee and some sweets the height of opulence there. But the warmth of my reception more than made up for the lack of grandeur.
He was an interesting and remarkably pleasant man. Indeed, he told me he had previously been Ambassador in Washington DC which can’t have been easy but equally shows the high regard his country has for him, to hold two such prestigious and pivotal postings.
At the outset, I made some small talk about a past meeting that I’d had with the Israeli Ambassador which was an altogether different affair. That took place at St Andrews House a few years back and although not under cover of darkness, it might as well have been. The Israeli Emissary was in town and it seems that he had been on diplomatic manoeuvres across the UK and Ireland.
A meeting with the First Minister had been requested which was unwanted by Bute House, given the condemnation that was ongoing of Israeli actions in Gaza. Declining a meeting in its entirety would have been insulting and damaging to relations, never mind that there was no good reason to cease diplomatic engagement.
Accordingly, with the First Minister having a ‘diplomatic’ conflicting commitment, I was put forward as the Scottish Government host. To be fair the Ambassador had done his homework and was therefore knowledgeable and charming even though I never warmed to him. I can’t recall if it was at a weekend or late in the evening, but a normally busy office was dolefully quiet.
The two aspects that I do recall and related to Dr Zomlot was firstly, Israel’s desire for a football friendly with Scotland. Whether that was driven by his awareness of my keen interest in the game or a genuine desire I know not. Anyway, I simply demurred and stated that it was a matter for the SFA, though I knew that there would be little desire for it at Hampden. Playing them next month in a major Euro qualifier’s one thing, a friendly with limited drawing power – other than in organised demonstrations – quite another.
More illuminating was the other subject of discussion which related to international arrest warrants. This was at a time of discussion in Spain and elsewhere over Judge Garzon who was bravely granting arrest warrants for the likes of Pinochet in Chile.
Although my discussions were limited, I formed the distinct impression that the Ambassador was trying to see where there may be safe havens as pressure mounted on Israel over its actions in Palestine. Indeed, also elsewhere as the Lebanon and Mordechai Vanunu can testify to.
True peace deal is only solution
Palestinian officials though have no such fears even if the international world is doing little to support them in the face of what is Trump’s diktat, not deal. The tale of woe related by Dr Zomlot was heart-breaking.
Palestine’s being crushed. This charade doesn’t provide any balance of fairness and instead crushes the lifeblood out of an already challenged people. It’s a land grab that creates a form of ‘Bantustan’ for Palestine.
It’s entirely unacceptable to the Palestinians and it’s no wonder that they’ve severed relationships with the USA. What’s the point of engaging with someone slowly strangling you to death? So, it’s bleak times for them and the Palestinian administration is itself under pressure as economic challenges grow through Israel’s blockade.
I felt powerless listening as I have been when all too often seeing news clips of attacks on Gaza and land grabs by Israeli settlers. Though, I was heartened by Dr Zomlot’s encouragement to continue to protest the plight of Palestine which I will gladly do.
The situation’s unsustainable in the long term though, for I also remember watching a documentary where former Shin Bet and Mossad leaders all said that making peace with the Palestinians was the only long-term solution. They were old men by then and looking like kindly grandads though no doubt their past activities told a different story. Only some far-right zealot and not a security expert demanded the apartheid policy now being pursued.
Trump’s “Peace Treaty” is a sham and Netanyahu one of the few international leaders who can make the US President appear benign. However, Israel is rotting from within because of its behaviour and change will come. Until then Palestine must be supported.