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Mulder: only first-hand perspective can aid Mideast solution

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Freedom Front Plus leader Dr Pieter Mulder, who recently visited Israel and the Palestinian territories as part of a fact-finding mission - consisting of leaders of opposition parties in the South African government - highlighted the complexity of the Middle East issue in an even-handed opinion piece early this week in the Afrikaans daily, Beeld.
by OWN CORRESPONDENT | Sep 26, 2015

What lends credence to the piece is that Mulder hasn’t tried to become an expert on a solution, after a weeklong “crash course” in Mideast policy. He counter-balanced objections made by Palestinians with “open questions” posed by Israelis. It is a piece devoid of venom or of blanket apportioning of blame to both sides.

He kicks off his article on an interesting note. If you live with the reality of a country “under siege” by militant groups in neighbouring territories, bomb shelters are so much part of your everyday existence that you don’t actually notice them, although they always are very much just under the surface of your subconscious mind.

“Why are there shelters about every 50 yards?” he asked his Israeli guide.

“Because it takes 22 seconds for a Hamas missile to travel from Gaza to here. You can’t move further than 50 yards in 22 seconds...”

Dr Mulder mentions a colourful “concrete snake” in a little play park. The children there know that if the message “tzeva adom” [red colour] comes over the loudspeaker, they have to crawl into the “snake” - which is also a bomb shelter.

In the West Bank, the group visited Dr Nabil Shaath, one of the main negotiators during the Oslo Accords.

“The Israelis last year killed 2 000 Palestinians in Gaza,” Shaath told them. “They don’t mind bombing mosques and houses; they steal our water and give us nothing.”

Shaath believes in a two-state solution, but poses the question: “Who will get Jerusalem?”

Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s minister of energy and water supply, alsospoke to the group. He reiterated that his country also believed in a two-state solution. He denied Shaath’s statement that Israel is “stealing” Palestinian water.

“We provide the Palestinians with water from five desalination plants in Israel. We even supply water to Jordan. Israel is the world’s foremost authority on desalination,” Steinitz said.

Steinitz did not deny that many civilians died in the latest Gaza war, but pointed out that Hamas fired their rockets from mosques and private homes in Gaza and Israel had to take out those launching pads, in the process causing civilian deaths.

“The Palestinians know they can never win militarily, but use these civilian deaths in a propaganda war to gain the world’s sympathy.”

Mulder said the group asked Steinitz why Israel doesn’t negotiate post-haste with the Palestinians on peace. “With whom should we negotiate?” Steinitz countered. He said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was elected in 2005 for a four-year-term, but it’s now 10 years later and no new elections have been held.

Some Palestinians contend that only Abbas’ close family still support him!

Mulder writes that the whole Middle East is “a pressure cooker of change”. He points to the devastating civil war in Syria; the chaos in Yemen with attacks by Saudi Arabian-led forces spearheading those attacks; at present there is a life-and-death struggle in the Muslim world between Sunnis and Shiites.

The artificial borders drawn by the colonial masters after the First World War are not helping matters and are collapsing, with a natural reversion along more natural religious and ethnic lines. The irony does not escape Mulder that the Muslims fleeing the Middle East hotspots don’t flee to other Muslim countries, but to Europe. This is also aided and abetted by the radicalisation of Islam by groupings such as Islamic State, Hamas, al-Qaida and many more.

“How do you negotiate with people whose aim is to wipe you off the face of the earth?” Steinitz wanted to know from the group.

To counter the often-stated canard that Israel is “an apartheid state”, Steinitz said: “How can it be an apartheid state if 1,7 million Israeli Arabs - 21 per cent of the population - have a parliamentary vote. Joint List, the third largest party in the Knesset, represents them.”PICTURED ABOVE are Dr Pieter Mulder, Freedom Front Plus; the Rev Kenneth Meshoe of the ACDP; Dr Mangosuthu Buthelezi of the IFP; Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat; Mosiuoa Lekota of Cope; Bantu Holomisa of the UDM; and Ben Swartz, national chairman of the SAZF.

Holomisa FULL - group picture
PICTURED ABOVE are Dr Pieter Mulder, Freedom Front Plus; the Rev Kenneth Meshoe of the ACDP; Dr Mangosuthu Buthelezi of the IFP; Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat; Mosiuoa Lekota of Cope; Bantu Holomisa of the UDM; and Ben Swartz.

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Israeli Arabs complain that their ly Arab state. In Saudi-Arabia women are not even allowed to drive a motorcar!

Mulder said that Israelis and Arabs alike danguage, religion and culture don’t get the necessary recognition in Israel. “Why would you, as Arabs, then stay in Israel,” the group asked the complainants. Because in the Arabic countries surrounding Israel there is no real democracy, or freedom of expression, they told the mission.

Women in Israel have equal rights; it doesn’t exist in anon’t believe South Africa is able to teach them any lessons. Where Nelson Mandela visited both Israel and the Palestinian territories, it is pointed out, President Jacob Zuma’s government has shifted from pro-Palestinian to anti-Israel. Therefore South Africa has lost any credibility to play a part in solving the conflict.

But both sides believe there may well be a solution - with wise voices both sides of the spectrum - people with a clear mandate from their voters. But there also will have to be stable neighbouring states which at present do not exist.

 



1 Comment

  1. 1 Denis Solomons 09 Oct
    Wat weet 'n boer van die probleme in die Midde-Oos ?
    Hy moet net aangaan met sy boerdery en seker maak dat ons 'n goeie mielie oord hierdie sommer het !
    Miskien kan hy ook seker maak dat daar genoeg pampoene sal wees vir die vakansies .
    Jy weet die Afrikaners dink dat pampoen roomys is .

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