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U.S. Calls to Palestinians to Take Risks for Peace Sound Hallow

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The need for Israel and Palestine, the parties to decades long conflict, to take risks for peace are obvious and expected. But U.S. President Barack Obama's public call on Monday on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to take risks for peace sounds hollow without any concrete changes on the ground.

Palestinians often respond to customary calls for the need to compromise by showing maps with Israeli settlements that have expanded exponentially, encroaching on Palestinians' land.

A map of mandatory Palestine where the Jewish population at beginning of the 20th century was a mere 8 percent has now become a dominant presence, displayed during pro-Palestinian campaigns around the world.

The Palestinian president showed his own map to Obama when the two met, according to chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.

Erekat, speaking at a Washington DC think tank, called the document an "ugly map" that showed just how many new Jewish settlements had been built in areas intended for the state of Palestine just in the eight months since the face-to-face talks begun.

Talk to the Palestinians about risks to peace when witnessing continued Israeli military occupation, colonial expansion and failure to provide any tangible fruits of peace talks is ludicrous.

Some Israelis claim that the release of Palestinians imprisoned for over 20 years (before the 1993 Israeli-Palestinian memorandum of peace) is some proof that the Israelis are indeed agents of peace.

Palestinian officials scoff at such claims, noting that the release had already been agreed to at the Sharm El Sheikh summit, during the time of US president George Bush and Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon.

Furthermore, the release of the 104 prisoners was in exchange for a commitment by the Palestinians not to join any UN agency during the nine-month period of talks, a promise that Palestinians kept.

Palestinian officials regularly complain about the way merchandise sold once and paid for should not be sold again. Israelis are notorious at reselling old merchandise, over and over again, and getting, politically, top price for it.

Back to taking risks for peace and the reproach that Palestinians are the ones to miss golden opportunities for peace: it is true that Palestinians wish they had accepted some previous offers, but this should not be a reason for accepting what is being put on the table.

Justice and fairness must exist in any offer Palestinians are asked to take risks for.

After all, Palestinian leaders cannot take chances on any agreement they know the Palestinian public will reject.

Abbas has promised to submit any agreement reached with the Israelis to a national referendum. This means that it is not enough for Abbas to take chances and risks; he needs to be able to convince his people that these risks are necessary for peace.

Surveys produced using newly developed RIWI technologies, that randomly choose Palestinians, have shown that nearly two out of three Palestinians are opposed to Palestinians' recognising Israel as a Jewish state.

Nearly similar stats apply to Palestinians rejecting Israel's long-term presence in the Jordan Valley and ask that Palestinians have access to East Jerusalem.

Both Palestinians and Israelis must take risks for peace.

The Israeli army has control over the Palestinian territories and lives. International law requests that Israel end its illegal occupation and colonialization of Palestinian lands.

Israel continues to change the goalposts, adding conditions that are not in any current agenda, such as recognising Israel as a Jewish state.

The time has come for the U.S. to join the rest of the world and demand that Israel give up its 46-year-old occupation.

The Palestinian government and security forces under Abbas have provided a high degree of coordination and protection of Israel, including protecting illegal settlers.

Palestinians are demanding less than 22 percent of Palestine; they have made many concessions for peace. Taking further risks without any clarity on issues such as borders and settlements is akin to political suicide.

The call to take risks for peace should be addressed to the aggressor and not the victim.