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Israeli theft may mean there will never be a "Palestine"

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Bill Clinton watches as the Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin shakes hands with the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in the garden of the White House after the signing of the deal transferring much of the West Bank to Palestinian control

Bill Clinton watches as the Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin shakes hands with the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in the garden of the White House after the signing of the deal transferring much of the West Bank to Palestinian control

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Bill Clinton watches as the Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin shakes hands with the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in the garden of the White House after the signing of the deal transferring much of the West Bank to Palestinian control

So a bit more of Palestine has slid down the plughole. A thousand more acres of Palestinian land stolen by the Israeli government for "appropriation" is theft, is it not? The world has made the usual excuses and awkward diplomatic coughs.

The Americans found it "counterproductive" to peace, which is probably a bit less forceful than its reaction if Mexico were to bite off a 1,000-acre chunk of Texas and decided to build homes there for its illegal immigrants in the US. But this is "Palestine" (inverted commas more necessary than ever) and Israel has been getting away with theft, albeit not on quite this scale "it is the biggest land heist in 30 years "ever since it solemnly signed up to the Oslo agreement in 1993.

Indeed, we shall all be celebrating its 21st anniversary next week. The Rabin-Arafat handshake on the White House lawn, the promises and handovers of territory and military withdrawals and the absolute determination to leave everything important (Jerusalem, refugees, the right of return) to the end, until everyone trusted each other so much that the whole thing would be a doddle. But this latest land-grab not only reduces "Palestine" but continues the circle of concrete around Jerusalem to cut Palestinians off from both the capital they are supposed to share with Israelis and from Bethlehem. It was instructive, of course, to learn that the Israeli-Jewish Etzion council regarded this act of larceny as punishment for the murder of the three Israeli teenagers in June, the act which provoked the latest Gaza war. "The goal of the murders of those three youths was to sow fear among us, to disrupt our daily lives and to call into doubt our right [sic] to the land," the Etzion council announced. "Our response is to strengthen settlement." This must be the first time that land in "Palestine" has been acquired not through excuses about security or land deeds but out of revenge.

And it raises an interesting precedent. If an innocent Israeli life - cruelly taken - is worth around 330 acres of land, then an innocent Palestinian life - equally cruelly taken - must surely equal the same. And if even half the 2,200 Palestinian dead of Gaza last month - and this is a grossly conservative figure - were innocent, then the Palestinians presumably now have the right to take over 330,000 acres of Israeli land, in reality much more. But however "counterproductive" this might be, I'm sure America would not stand for it. It is Israel which takes land, Palestinians who lose land; that's the way it works. And thus it has been since 1948, and - let us be frank - that is how it will continue.

There will never be a "Palestine" and the latest territorial robbery - massive though it is - is merely another small punctuation mark in the book of sorrow which the Palestinians must read as their dreams of statehood wither. Nabil Abu Rudeineh, the mournful spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said his boss and the "moderate forces" in Palestine had been "stabbed in the back" by the Israeli decision, which is putting it mildly. Abbas has a back covered in knife wounds. What else did he expect when he wrote an entire book about Palestinian-Israeli relations without once using the word "occupation".

So now we're back to the same old game. Abbas cannot negotiate with anyone unless he speaks for Hamas as well as the Palestinian Authority. As Israel knows. As America knows. As the EU knows. But each time Abbas tries to put together a unity government, we all screech that Hamas is a "terrorist" organisation.

And Israel says it cannot possibly talk to a "terrorist" organisation which demands the destruction of Israel - even though Israel used to say the same of Arafat and, in those days, cheerfully helped Hamas build more mosques in Gaza and the West Bank as a counterweight to Fatah and all the other "terrorists" up in Beirut.

Of course, if Abbas speaks only for himself Israel will tell him what it has told him before: that without his control of Gaza, Israel has no one to negotiate with. But does it matter any more?

There should be a special strap headline above all reports of this kind: "Goodbye, Palestine."

(© Independent News Service).

Irish Independent