Foreign Policy in Focus, January 12, 2009 - All of the suffering in Gaza — indeed, all of the suffering endured by Palestinians under Israeli occupation for the last eight years — could have been avoided if Israel negotiated a peace agreement with Yasser Arafat when it had the chance, in 2001.
What chance? The official Israeli position is that there was no chance, "no partner for peace." That’s what Israeli leaders heard from their Military Intelligence (MI) service in 2000 after the failure of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations at Camp David. Arafat scuttled those talks, MI told the leaders, because he was planning to set off a new round of violence, a second intifada.
Now former top officials of MI say the whole story, painting Arafat as a terrorist out to destroy Israel, was an intentional fiction. That’s the most explosive finding in an investigative report just published in Israel’s top newspaper, Ha’aretz, by one of its finest journalists, Akiva Eldar....
But even if only some key Israeli intelligence officers believed negotiations could yield a positive outcome, that news should be a shocking revelation. Yet in a Google News search a few days after the article appeared, found not a single mention of it anywhere in the world’s news media, and certainly not in the United States, where it matters most. It matters most here because Israel can't continue its military action without at least a tacit green light from Washington. Washington can give that green light only as long as the American public raises no serious objection. The public here isn't likely to object as long as the basic plotline of Middle East news coverage remains the same; namely, that Israel attacked Gaza in self-defense.
Though U.S. news coverage isn't as wholly sympathetic to Israel as it once was, the Israelis still managed to make their version of the story central to mainstream media coverage. Millions of Americans who know nothing else about the still ongoing conflict believe that the Israelis are "retaliating against Hamas rockets." What if those millions also knew the Israeli government ignores its own intelligence experts when they say Palestinian leaders are willing to make peace? That might change the entire picture of the Arab-Israeli conflict — and push Americans to push their government to push Israel to negotiate in good faith a peace deal with the Palestinians.
Ira Chernus is professor of religious studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, author of Monsters to Destroy, and a Foreign Policy In Focus contributor.