Middle East peace process: Dead but not buried

In an age where the newspaper editorial has become an anachronism, few are worth reading. This, from The Guardian, is an exception and for that reason I include the whole piece.

The Middle East peace process died a quiet, undramatic death with the statement last week that the US had given up trying to persuade Binyamin Netanyahu to stop building on occupied land as a prerequisite to direct talks with the Palestinians. Few, however, are interested in burying the corpse.

The rightwing coalition under Mr Netanyahu is relaxed about the failure to restart the talks, because half the cabinet do not accept that they are occupying any land other than their own. And anyway, every day without a final status agreement is another day when the cement mixers can whirl and the cranes swivel. Palestinian leaders who recognise Israel are also reluctant to make good their pledges to resign, because they, too, would lose position, power and political meaning. Fatah has still legitimacy, but where would the Palestinian Authority be in Palestinian eyes other than as a surrogate for Israeli soldiers?

The US is unwilling to set a date for the funeral, because to recognise that a death had taken place would entail an inquest and an examination of 18 fruitless years of failed attempts. And that is the last thing a US president fighting re-election will do. The radical part of Barack Obama’s Middle East strategy has already been and gone. He has spent his political capital and needs to conserve the dimes in his pocket. All of these are compelling short-term reasons for doing nothing, for saying, as if this has not been said often enough in the past, that the time is not ripe, the leaders are too weak, the sides are not ready. But they are dreadful long-term ones. Israel will continue to impose its own one-state solution, with separate roads, and separate governance for Jew and Arab. The Palestinian leadership will continue weak and divided. The argument that Hamas and other militant groups use, that Israel makes territorial concessions only when it is forced to, will grow in resonance. And, inch by inch, the next conflict – be it in the form of a strike on Iran, or a third Palestinian uprising – will come closer. Doing nothing is not just the counsel of despair. In the asymmetry of relations between the growing state of Israel and the shrinking non-state of Palestine, doing nothing is a deeply partisan act.

There are political moves that could release the log jam. Israel’s Labour party could pull out of the coalition, making good on frequent threats to do so. If its leader, Ehud Barak, was right when he said that there is a contradiction between the structure of the government and the chance of promoting negotiations, and he is, then Labour should pull out. President Mahmoud Abbas should also consider steps that would end the current sham. If, in his words, he is presiding over an authority without any authority, and if he is right when he says that the PA’s very existence has made Israel’s occupation the cheapest ever, it is time to end this state of affairs. What exactly is there to lose? Disbanding the PA would mean a return to direct occupation, and seeking UN recognition of a Palestinian state, or handing over responsibility for the Palestinian territories to the UN, would attract a US veto. But if this US president or any future US president were pushed to the point at which the US could abstain in such a vote, all bets would be off.

The contradiction at the heart of US policy is that its support for Israel is unconditional. Even the offer of billions of dollars of aid did not turn Mr Netanyahu’s head, because he knew, if he refused, the flow of US money and weaponry would continue unabated. Any future US president, not just the current one, must calibrate the relationship with Israel as the US does with any other ally. The cost of each new housing unit built in occupied territory should be deducted off US aid. The realities that make such a measure inconceivable today do not lessen the case for such moves tomorrow. They make them compelling.

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3 thoughts on “Middle East peace process: Dead but not buried

  1. delia ruhe

    I read this excellent editorial together with Joseph Dana’s review “Breaking the Silence: Inside the moral corruption of Israeli society.” The corruption sure doesn’t stop with the IDF — indeed, it only begins there. (Or maybe it actually begins with Herzl.)

    I happen to be doing Holocaust research at the moment, and it really irks me when I read Israeli Jews who are outraged in disbelief at the suggestion that there were actually some Germans who didn’t really know what was happening several hundred miles away in the death camps in Poland. These are the same Israelis who pretend not to know what’s happening within a 20 minute drive, or even a 20-minute walk, from their own front doors. Is it, then, any wonder that there’s a pro-Zionist campaign to make an allusion to the Nazi time and to the occupation in the same breath an actionable act of “the new antisemitism”? The moral bankruptcy of Israel is complete.

    With respect to this editorial, there are so many people in Israel — in the Knesset itself — who could break the logjam. But none of them will — not Barak, not Livni, not Peres. They’re all so deeply invested in Greater Israel that they have sold their souls.

  2. Renfro

    The Israelis will never change.
    And even if the Israelis did change, the US zionistas are too entoxicated with their own power here to ever change.
    And the US Jewish community attitude isn’t going to change because why would they give up their ‘entitled’ position as a members of a’ special group’ that America has bestowed on them.

    Nope, no change. Unless one of two things happens. The US and Isr get into it with Iran ….or the rest of the world gets so fed up with President Pussy and our AIPAC congress they do something themselves. Of the two I would say the first is more likely.

  3. DE Teodoru

    It will all come to a head if funds for Israel will no longer be able to use the “ear marks” route for Congressional designation. Then, unemployed Americans will ask: why is a declining nation sending “aid” to an expanding ” self-designated ‘cool’ miracle in the desert?

    It’ll be a hard choice: a sense of insecurity for the Israelis or for the Diaspora Jews (70% of World Jewry). I fear Zionists will repeat their past history of collaboration with evil and the result may be even more catastrophic this time!

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