By Eric Margolis
A process in which Washington, Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization hold intense talks over holding talks, a ritual as stylized as the traditional Japanese dance. In the end, it’s the same empty, cynical ritual, year after year.
This past week, US Secretary of State John Kerry has been leading the dance in the latest attempt to restart peace talks between Israel and the Mahmoud Abbas’ PLO. As of this writing, the talks appear off. But they may be on again just as quickly. It depends on how much Washington offers its feuding clients, Israel and the PLO.
Watching this annual charade is both painful and exhausting. It makes cynics of the most idealistic hopers for Mideast peace.
Israel holds all the cards, and knows it. Jewish settlements, roads, and security walls are roaring ahead, relentlessly gobbling up the occupied West Bank, Golan and their water resources. West Bank Palestinians are being crammed into future native Bantustans patterned after South Africa’s apartheid-era reservations for blacks.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who vows there will be no Palestinian state, appears to have an impregnable hold on power. Israel’s economy is doing very well, thanks in part to billions in US economic and military aid, privileged access to the US market, and exports of arms and electronics. Israel’s high tech and medical industries are among the world’s leaders. New gas and oil finds between Israel and Cyprus may make Israel an energy exporter within a decade.
The United States has eliminated any possible Arab military challenge to Israel’s absolute military domination of the Mideast by destroying Iraq as a functioning state and then fueling Syria’s civil war. Egypt, once Israel’s leading foe, has been bought off by American money.
Israel has finished deploying an indestructible triad of nuclear forces based on missiles, aircraft and, most lately, submarines that can fire cruise or, possibly, ballistic missiles, all targeted by Israeli and US satellite networks. This means that Israel can survive any nuclear attack and retaliate in kind against attackers. Israel’s Mideast nuclear monopoly remains secure.
Equally important, Israel, through its American supporters, effectively guides much of America’s Mideast policy. Almost 50% of Republican voters are now rural born-again Christian Zionist for whom Israel is an essential part of their Biblical prophecy of the return of the Messiah.
President Barack Obama’s feeble efforts to press Israel into real peace negotiations with the Palestinians were quickly squashed by the pro-Israel lobby and its partisans in Congress. Netanyahu probably exerts more influence over the US Congress than President Obama.
Moreover, Israel is “negotiating” with a PLO that has become a sock puppet for the US and Israel after its former leader, Yasser Arafat, was very likely assassinated to make way for the compliant Mahmoud Abbas. The PLO is run and financed by the US and Israel, its security forces trained and directed by CIA, its intelligence agency an arm of Israel’s Mossad. Its elected rival, Hamas, remains jailed in Gaza.
Yet even this is not enough. Netanyahu now demands the Arabs recognized Israel as a “Jewish state,” knowing this is unacceptable. Twenty percent of Israel’s population is Christian and Muslim.
Tragically, Israel right wing parties have spurned the sensible 2002 peace offer led by Saudi Arabia. The plan calls for a withdrawal to 1967 borders, with some minor rectifications for large Jewish settlement blocs, full peace and recognition between Israel and 57 Muslim nations, and a “just” solution to the Palestinian refugee crisis – meaning some token repatriation of refugees and compensation for Jews who fled the Arab world.
This is clearly the best solution. But it is rejected by Israel’s Likud Party and other rightists because they refuse to define Israel’s borders. As the late Israeli Moishe Dayan stated, it is up to god, not man, to determine Israel’s future growth. Israel’s right wingers have long looked with desire upon Lebanon and parts of Syria. Baghdad once had a large Jewish population.
Why sacrifice all this for the sake of little Palestinian rump state that will anyway become an Israeli protectorate? Just keep talking about talks while the bulldozers roar ahead.
Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2013
Netanyahu: Palestinians must make concessions at ‘tough talks’
July 21, 2013 “Information Clearing House – “RT” – Palestinians must make concessions to Israel’s national interests for the future Middle East peace talks to bring fruit, says the Israeli prime minister. The negotiations promise to be hard, with a wave of criticism already coming from both sides.
Benjamin Netanyahu said his two principal goals in the negotiations would be maintaining a Jewish majority in Israel and avoiding creation of an Iran-backed “terrorist state” on its borders.
“Our negotiating partners will have to make concessions that enable us to preserve out security and crucial national interests,” he explained to his cabinet at a Sunday morning meeting.
Netanyahu added that if any agreement is reached with the Palestinians, it will have to be ratified by Israel in a national referendum.
“I don’t think that decisions like these are possible to make with one coalition or another, but have to be brought to the nation for its decision,” he explained in an apparent effort to neutralize opposition.
Some partners of Netanyahu’s Likud party in the ruling coalition voiced their skepticism over the practical results of the negotiations.
“It’s important to negotiate, and even more important for negotiations to be predicated on realism and not illusions,” Avigdor Lieberman, head of Yisrael Beiteinu party wrote on Facebook. “There is no solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, at least not in the coming years, and what’s possible and important to do is conflict-management.”
Additional doubt was expressed by the Arab League, which stated it is “forming a political support network” for Palestine after it declared willingness to participate.
“Many in the Israeli government do not want an Arab peace initiative,” said the League’s assistant secretary general, Mohammed Sabih, commenting that the process could become “negotiations for the sake of negotiations, going round in a vicious circle.”
Israel said on Saturday that it plans to release some Palestinian prisoners ahead of the negotiations, which are expected to commence in the United States next week. The resumption of direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks was announced by US Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday.
Kerry’s statement was brief and didn’t mention important details of the basis of the upcoming talks. Israel and Palestinian Authority haveplenty of conflict issues between them, including the return to the 1967 borders, recognition of Israel as a state by Palestinians, construction of settlements in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories and others. Officials from both sides have clashed verbally over which of those issues are negotiable.
According to the British newspaper The Sunday Times, a compromise Israel and the Palestinian Authority may seek would include allowing Israelis settlers to stay in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem while making them subject to a new Palestinian state. Israeli President Shimon Peres agreed this condition with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as the minimum needed for PM Netanyahu to agree to the peace talks, the report claims.
Such a compromise, if reached, is certain to spark anger from some Palestinians and Israelis, increasing the number critical of the renewed negotiations on both sides. The talks were already rejected by Palestinian militant movement Hamas which controls the Gaza strip, making it uncertain how any agreement brokered in Washington would be implemented there. Hamas said the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas“succumbed to American extortion” by agreeing to talks and has committed political suicide by doing so.
The consideration was not missed by critics of the talks in Israel.
“Abu Mazen (Abbas) rules over Palestinians less than (President Bashar) Assad rules in Syria,” Transport Minister Yisrael Katz of Likud party told reporters, referring to the ongoing military insurgency in Syria.
Abbas’ move also sparked criticism from some factions of his own Fatah movement, which are frustrated he didn’t secure concessions from Israel as a precondition. Opposition was voiced by smaller independent political parties in Palestine as well.
Direct peace talks on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were last held in 2010, but they broke down after Israel failed to renew a moratorium on the construction of settlements in the West Bank. At the time Israel demanded formal recognition of the Jewish State from the Palestinian Authority before the moratorium would be extended, but the Palestinians rejected it.