Applying Deborah Orr’s moral arithmetic to assess the value of ‘chosen’ Jewish apartments

A guest post by AKUS

Israel should never underestimate the guile of the Palestinians and the cunning they exhibit in laying Israel open to new charges of racism.  Their latest effort is worthy of Deborah Orr herself who first claimed to know the racist motives behind Israel’s agreeing to swap one thousand Arab prisoners for Gilad Shalit.

Ever since President Obama made his way to Cairo and torpedoed the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and a good deal more in the Middle East with his outreach speech, the Palestinians have had one immutable demand that they insisted must be met before peace talks could resume. 

This demand was a “red line” that would never be crossed. It was no less than a “sacred issue”: A precondition that, if not met, would mean that no Palestinian leader would ever sit down at the negotiating table with an Israeli leader; A demand  that caused the world to condemn Israel from the halls of the UN to the Parliament of Iceland for its  blind obduracy, deliberate obfuscation, typical Jewish intransigence and Talmudic standing on meaningless principles.

I refer, of course, to the Palestinian refusal to negotiate with Israel unless it agreed to never, ever, under any circumstances whatsoever, build a single apartment on the holy ground of the non-existent state of “Palestine”. A precondition to resumption of talks that those stiff-necked Israelis absolutely refused to accept.  The result, to the immense satisfaction of the Palestinians, was accusations from Washington to Wellington that Israel was preventing peace from breaking out.

Remember the cries of racism that accompanied Israel’s unwilling agreement to exchange 1,024 Arab prisoners for one Jewish prisoner? Any other nation, it was hinted, would have insisted on parity. One prisoner for one prisoner. Nothing, Deborah Orr made clear in the Guardian, showed the “obscene”, racist nature of Israeli society more clearly than its belief that “the lives of the chosen are of hugely greater consequence than those of their unfortunate neighbours”.

Imagine my shock when reading that the Palestinians have come up with an even more diabolical scheme than agreeing to accept 1,000 prisoners in exchange for one Israeli soldier.

The Palestinians are now willing (apparently) to stop fussing about Israeli building apartments (which would only take place in a few years for the most part from what I understand) in exchange for freeing 100 prisoners. They are willing to cross the “red line”, surrender a few “sacred grains of sand”, drop their immutable precondition. Yes, they now say – “Israel can build apartments in exchange for Palestinian prisoners and then we will resume negotiations”

So now we have to apply Orr’s math to this new offer to understand its impact. The world – or at least the Guardian and its pro-Palestinian readership – will be asking:

How many Palestinian prisoners are equivalent to one Jewish apartment in the eyes of the racist Zionist entity?

Let’s say Israel has plans for 10,000 apartments on the books. Let’s imagine that Israel would agree to release 100 prisoners as the Palestinians demand.  That might be a ratio that is not too damning to Israel – 1 Palestinian equals 100 apartments. The world might even approve.

But of course we all know that Israel has the PR sensitivity of a bull in a china shop. Suppose Israel thinks it would be a well-received PR move to make a goodwill gesture to its Palestinian neighbors that would satisfy the Quartet, Obama, Hillary, Leon Panetta, the UN and everyone else by going beyond what the Palestinians have asked for. Typically unaware of the PR disaster awaiting it, suppose Israel proposes to raise the ratio to 1:1 and offers to release 1,000 prisoners, not 100,  in exchange for 1,000 apartments, not 10,000? What if Israel also refuses to build any more apartments till the Palestinians agree it can release more prisoners?

Does that mean people like Deborah Orr could claim that the “chosen” think that one Arab life is only worth one Israeli apartment, not 100 apartments? Would the Arabs then refuse to accept their own offer as a shameful slight to their honor?

Where does the Palestinian proposal leave the USA and the Quartet? After all, they blindly bought into the belief that it was those apartments that were the reason the Palestinians could not and would not return to negotiations. Doesn’t the new offer make them look just a little foolish?

President Sadat famously counseled that one should learn the rules of the oriental bazaar before venturing into the arena of Middle Eastern bazaar diplomacy. Will this sudden volte face by the Palestinians do anything to teach the Obama administration and the Europeans how poorly they understand the high-stakes world of Middle East diplomacy and that they should leave the bargaining to the experts on the ground?

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