These are some of the critical responses from Jews, Israeli and not, and Palestinians, [UPDATED] to the announcement of the resumption of negotiations in Washington. The photographs of Palestinian opposition in 1) and 3) are taken from a series of photos by the PFLP on July 28. Unfortunately they lack information on who is demonstrating or where.
1) Abul-Sattar Qassem: Resuming the negotiations which never really stopped, Israel/PA security co-operation and PA subservience mean ‘talks’ change nothing;
2) Larry Derfner: Barring a miracle, Kerry’s breakthrough is bad news, the fateful silence on ’67 borders, part 1 of two articles;
3) Larry Derfner: Goodbye boycott: The cost of Kerry’s ‘breakthrough,’ , part 2 of Derfner’s critique;
4) Noam Sheizaf: Don’t cheer these peace talk , they’re just playing Netanyahu’s game;
5) Moshe Machover: Israel – Palestine: Déjà vu all over again, another same-old attempt to manage the conflict;
6) Al Monitor: Hamas Warns Abu Mazen On Peace Talks With Israel,
By Dr. Abul-Sattar Qassem, Al Ray media agency
July 28, 2013
The news that Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are to be resumed after a publicly announced three year break hasn’t been confirmed by the release of any formal agreement between US Secretary of State John Kerry and the Palestinian Authority. This, of course, may never materialise, but we can consider the fact that negotiations have never actually stopped.
The Palestinian Authority did say that talks were being stopped until Israel put a freeze on its illegal settlement programme but there have been secret discussions in Jerusalem and Amman. However, the PA was not being entirely honest when it described the Amman talks as just “exploratory”.
What’s more important is that the Palestinian Authority announced the stopping of negotiations on one hand while continuing its security and administration coordination with the Israelis on the other. The Israelis care little for talks but care dearly about security, which has been at the core of agreements signed with the Palestinians, whose security agencies act as Israeli proxies in the occupied territories. If a Palestinian throws a stone at illegal Jewish settlers, Palestinian security forces will pursue him; when a Palestinian baby is born, the details and ID number are sent to the Israeli Civil Administration in the West Bank.
If the Palestinian Authority had been serious about putting pressure on Israel, it would have stopped all security coordination, at which point we would have seen a harsh response from the Israelis. Stopping negotiations doesn’t have any such effect; in fact, the Israelis have continued to build illegal settlements, which the PA condemns but does nothing to try to stop.
Israel and America use negotiations to buy more time for Israel to build more facts on the ground. For more than 20 years the Palestinians have not been given any of their national rights; all they have received is money in exchange for their cooperation. The intention is to turn Palestinians into a group of individuals with their own self-interests rather than a nation in waiting. Within the PA itself, concern for personal advancement and salaries appear to be the main preoccupation.
Negotiations are used as a sedative to appease the Palestinians. If “honest broker” America had been serious about stopping settlements, for example, it would have taken serious measures against Israel, but it doesn’t. It may criticise Israel in public but it continues to supply all kinds of military, security, political, economical and financial support. Palestinians, for whatever reason, like to believe what America says and not what it does.
Why is the pressure on to return to negotiations now? It could have something to do with increasing number of Arab youth starting to question relations with Israel and pushing the importance of severing all links with the “enemy”. Thinking long-term, this could affect America’s own relations with countries in the Middle East. As such, the US uses the Palestinian issue as a means to address and silence young Arabs. By having Palestinians and Israelis around the table, it sends a strong message to the Arab world: if the Palestinians, who have the direct problem, are sipping honey from the Israelis, then why are the Arab youths depriving themselves of such opportunities? America wants to reduce the hostility that Arab youths have towards Israel and affect them psychologically; to have them believe that Arabs have always been associated with defeat, and that victory is for Israel.
America and Israel have usually resorted to little more than bribery in order to keep Palestinian citizens sweet. With each disappointment they try to give something that looks huge in the media to cover up the main issue. Remember when the PLO recognised Israel and covered that agreement by announcing statehood? The people went onto the streets in celebration but woke up to find that they had no state.
Now we see the US promising massive financial and economic aid to make people focus more on consumerism rather than real freedom. The soft spot is that some Palestinians are prepared to trade national interests for money. More work permits will be issued for Palestinians to work on settlements and in Israel. Kerry’s vision for Palestinian economic development ties the Palestinian workforce into the Israeli economy instead of Palestine’s. And some long-term prisoners will be released to, no doubt, a media fanfare. It is ironic that such men who have sacrificed so much for the Palestinian cause will be released as part of a deal which sees the Palestinian cause sacrificed for short-term political gain.
Such steps will be talked about in the media repeatedly in order to cover up the concessions given by the PA. And there will be concessions, of that there is no doubt.
Anyone who thinks that the Palestinian Authority makes its own decisions is mistaken. The PA can take marginal decisions which have no impact on Israeli interests, but if it goes anywhere near anything that the Israelis regard as important it is brought to heel sharply. The principle, if that’s the right word because it is all so unprincipled, is that the Palestinian Authority must not bite the hand that feeds it. The PA is thus rendered completely compliant and subservient to Israel and its interests.
From Palestine People’s Profiles, webgaza.net
Abdul Sattar Qassem was born in Deir Al-Ghussun near Tulkarem, 1948; studied Political Science at the American University in Cairo (BA, 1972), then Economics at Kansas State University, US, (MA, 1974), and Political Science at Missouri University (PhD, 1977);
Worked as Professor of Political Science at Jordan University (1978-79) but was fired for ‘security’ reasons; returned to the West Bank and became Professor of Political Science at An-Najah National University in Nablus since 1980; head of the Academic Group at An-Najah National University since 1980;
Has been jailed by Israel in 1981 and 1988 for his books, most of which were banned; activist in the first Intifada; also served a total of 32 weeks in Palestinian jails for his dissident views; put under house arrest and prohibited to travel for 20 years by the Israeli authorities for his political opinions;
In 1995 he survived a gun attack – he believes by Palestinian security forces – with four bullets in his legs and hand; was arrested by PA security forces in 1999 after signing a petition complaining about corruption, but released several weeks later after protests from human rights groups;
Received an Abdul Hamid Shuman Award for Scientific Research and the post-doctoral “Professor” title; became the first person to announce that he would stand for the presidency against Yasser Arafat in May 2002; considered candidacy for the position of President of the PA in the 2005 PA elections but withdrew before the start of the campaign.
If Netanyahu doesn’t agree to negotiate on the basis of the 1967 border, the Palestinians’ consent to negotiate with him will amount to surrender – which, until he proves differently, is what Bibi wants.
July 20, 2013
The consensus seems to be that any Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are better than none, so Kerry is being congratulated for getting the two sides to agree to meet in Washington to see if they can then agree on a starting point for negotiations. A big step in the right direction, goes the mainstream view. And it will be just that – if Netanyahu agrees to the Palestinian Authority’s demand that their state be truly sovereign and independent, with a border based on the pre-Six Day War lines, which, of course, also run through Jerusalem. If Netanyahu agrees to that, the Palestinians, as they’ve said for the last four years, will negotiate with him willingly. But if Netanyahu doesn’t agree to this demand – which, barring a miracle, is what I expect to happen – then any negotiations with this Israeli government will amount to a Palestinian surrender. The occupation will be fortified and become that much harder to ever dismantle.
And since I don’t believe in miracles, Kerry’s announcement doesn’t make me hopeful, it makes me very worried.
The reason the Palestinians have insisted that Netanyahu agree to the ’67 borders with land swaps, which effectively means agreeing to the principle that the occupied territories rightfully belong to them, is because they know he doesn’t accept this principle – and he wants the Palestinians to abandon it by agreeing to negotiate with him anyway. That is Netanyahu’s goal – Palestinian surrender of their right to the occupied territories, after which he can whittle them down to accepting a piece of land here, a piece there, with the Israeli army surrounding them and controlling their borders, coast and airspace, and without their having any part of Jerusalem for a capital, nor the right to field an army or sign treaties with foreign countries. In return, Netanyahu would probably be willing to evacuate a few small settlements. This is the import of everything he’s been saying since his 2009 Bar Ilan speech, and he would love nothing more than to be able to negotiate toward that goal. This he will be able to do if the Palestinians give up demanding that he announce that it’s no longer his goal, and that he has accepted the basic, non-negotiable principle that the Palestinians have the same rights on the post-’67 side of the Green Line that Israel has on the pre-’67 side.
It must be remembered that the PA had previously agreed to talk with Barak and Olmert without any preconditions – because it had reason to believe, on the basis of their clearly stated diplomatic direction, that those two prime ministers did not want Israel to rule the Palestinians forever, so maybe there was a chance for an agreement on an equitable two-state solution (with an emphasis on the word equitable). With Netanyahu, it’s the opposite – everything he has said and done throughout his career tells the Palestinians he is quite comfortable with Israel ruling them indefinitely. Until this prime minister makes it clear that he has changed – by acknowledging that the post-’67 side of the Green Line belongs to the Palestinians, which would nullify his claim to “united Jerusalem,” just for starters – then the PA would be committing national suicide by agreeing to negotiate with him.
I’ve seen right-wing Israeli leaders change. Sharon changed, and proved it in Gaza. Olmert changed, and proved it in Gaza and Annapolis. From every appearance, Netanyahu hasn’t changed – and if he has, let him prove it by, as Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat put it, “saying the number ‘1967.’”
At the same time, however, Kerry’s pressure on the Palestinians has very weighty practical, day-to-day implications for them – the promised release of possibly hundreds of prisoners, the offer of a tremendous amount of money, and, no doubt, the threat of financial and political punishment if the PA refuses. Reportedly, Kerry has been working on a “formula” that would include the US declaring at the outset that a goal of the talks is a Palestinian state based on the pre-’67 border – but that Israel would have the right to reject that goal, and negotiations would still go forward. In other words, Netanyahu would not have to accept the Palestinians’ right to the occupied territories, yet the Palestinians would have to negotiate with him. If that’s the formula, it would, as I said, amount to the Palestinians’ surrender, which – until he proves otherwise – is what Netanyahu wants.
And what worries me is that Kerry is going to try to deliver it to him, using his huge political and financial power over the PA to do it. I’m obviously in no position to say that the Palestinians should allow hundreds of prisoners to remain in jail, or that they should choose deepened impoverishment over economic advancement. But I do say that everyone who believes in the goal of an equitable two-state solution – which includes a tremendous number of Palestinians and others, including quite a few Israelis – should beware of this “breakthrough.”
The tactic of punishing Israel for the occupation was finally beginning to take a psychological toll – then the U.S. secretary of state rode to the rescue.
By Larry Derfner. +972
July 21, 2013
The Palestinian Authority was planning to go to the UN in September, in line with the 20th anniversary of the failed Oslo Accords, and begin the process of taking Israel to The Hague over the occupation. Israel was scared, with good reason. But now that fear has lifted. Assuming that the preliminary Israeli-Palestinian talks in Washington lead to full-blown peace negotiations, which is a safe assumption – the Palestinians aren’t going to walk out on Kerry in the U.S. capital with everyone watching – the PA is committed not to go back to the UN or take any other “unilateral actions” to further its goals. Instead, it has agreed to play ball with this Israeli government.
So maybe Netanyahu really is blessed. Just when the strategy of punishing Israel for the occupation had finally begun to gain traction, just when the Israeli establishment was genuinely alarmed that the boycott movement had been given a decisive push forward by Stephen Hawking and the EU, and when the PA looked like it would be going to the UN and afterward to The Hague with the wind at its back, Kerry comes along and pulls this country’s nuts out of the fire.
I wrote about the strategic damage done by the PA’s agreement to drop its precondition that Netanyahu recognize the 1967 border as the basis for negotiations. Here are some thoughts on the tactical damage.
The only tactic that can convince Israelis to give up the occupation – psychological warfare, scaring them off the Palestinians’ back – was actually beginning to work, but now all the air has been taken out of it by these “peace talks.”
Though I’m sure the boycott movement will continue, it will be relegated once again to the left-wing margins; it will not move into the mainstream like it did, for the first time, with Hawking and the European Union. Liberals overseas who hate the occupation, and who may have just begun thinking about putting their money where their mouths are, now see that the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank – the PLO, Fatah, those guys with the keffiyehs – favor “engaging” with this Israeli government, not penalizing it. So who are anti-occupation liberals overseas to say different? They don’t need to be more Catholic than the Pope. No boycott for them, thank you.
“Mr. President, you should look happy,” Kerry told Abbas before announcing his breakthrough on Friday. I wonder why Abbas didn’t look happy. I wonder why no Palestinians are reportedly happy about it – but Netanyahu is. From today’s Haaretz:
“I pulled the Palestinians down from the tree of preconditions; I didn’t agree to a further freeze of building in the territories; I refused to release 120 prisoners before the talks began; and the 1967 borders aren’t mentioned,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boasted to his ministers on Saturday.
In terms of strategy, tactics or morale, anybody who thinks the cause of ending the occupation has nothing to lose by Kerry’s stunt should think again.
To register their recent success, Secretary of State Kerry and the Obama administration destroyed whatever was achieved in the last two decades. For the first time since the 1991 Madrid Conference, the starting point for the negotiations are the positions of the Israeli right.
By Noam Sheizaf, +972
July 23, 2013
The headlines celebrating the fact that “Israelis and Palestinians are talking again” were misleading. The Palestinian Authority is no more than a regional council in a territory controlled by Israel. Since the PA is completely dependent on Israel for almost all of its functions, Israelis and Palestinians are talking all the time, including on the political level.
Envoys and ministers on behalf of Prime Minister Netanyahu, such as Yitzhak Molcho or Shimon Peres, have met with Palestinian counterparts many times in recent years, discussing issues ranging from borders to security arrangements. The Israeli demand to ignore all previous understandings and the insistence on continuing to take over more land in the West Bank through settlement construction and other projects kept the talks from moving up to the next levels, let alone reaching a final status agreement.
But the Palestinian Authority is dependent on the United States, Israel and Europe, and when the administration showed enough determination, President Abbas could not hold on to its resistance to discussing a final status agreement. Still, it should be noted that Secretary of State Kerry’s much-celebrated success did not involve any change in the actual positions of the parties, especially Israel’s. This is not 1992-1993, when the diplomatic challenge was about getting the two sides to meet. Today’s questions are about the nature of the talks, and this is where the current failure has been exposed.
The ability of the administration to take pride in launching formal peace talks come at a very high price. Since 1993, every round of talks used previous negotiations as their terms of reference. Political support for the process may have decreased on both sides, but the gap between the two parties has actually narrowed all this time. In the last decade it became clear to the Israeli mainstream that a solution would be based on the 1967 borders, and that Jerusalem would either be a joint capital or a divided one.
All along the way, Prime Minister Netanyahu presented a firm opposition to the peace process both on principle – rejecting the idea of a Palestinian state – and due to various territorial aspects. Netanyahu and his senior collation partners even rejected the Clinton Parameters (since those included ceding 94-96 percent of the West Bank and most of East Jerusalem to the Palestinians) let alone Olmert’s proposal in Annapolis.
The second Obama administration basically accepted Netanyahu’s position, allowing Israel to ignore the terms of reference for the talks and all previous rounds of negotiations. According to all reports, Kerry replaced all that was accomplished in the past with “a creative solution:” the U.S. was to present some aspects of the terms of reference in a statement ahead of the talks (not even all of them), and Israel was allowed to ignore the American position. Whatever was done in the last two decades is gone. For the first time since Madrid 1991, the Israeli right is dictating the starting point for the negotiations.
This diplomatic withdrawal (“collapse” might be a more apt term) had one major reason: the Obama administration’s failure to stand up to the so-called “pro-Israeli” forces in American politics, from AIPAC to, GOP’s hawks, to leading democratic legislators. The last push was aided by a whole array of “peace organizations” that let their desperation for political achievements cloud their judgment, ending up with them cheering an administration that didn’t do much more than force the Palestinians to accept the Israeli right’s ideas for the process. As Molad’s Michael Menkin wrote just a few months ago, the honest move by “the peace camp” is to oppose negotiations on those terms.
* * *
In the current government’s eyes, the talks are first and foremost a tool to retain international legitimacy and postpone further measures against the occupation to an indefinite future – a period of time in which more “facts on the ground” can be established. This is no secret. Israeli officials have been saying for years that while there is no chance for an agreement, “talks must be resumed.”
The resumption of the talks have already served Prime Minister Netanyahu well – it has narrowed the effect of the internal pressure caused by the European Union’s recent moves against the settlements, and has provided the government with a powerful argument against taking further steps that would – in the words of Yair Lapid’s recent op-ed in the Times – only “delay the peace process.”
The centrists in Netanyahu’s government – Lapid and Tzipi Livni, who promised to leave the coalition if talks are not resumed – can now hold on to their cabinet positions. The coalition is secured. Netanayhu doesn’t even have to break up with the settlers like he did when he talked to Arafat in the 90s. Since Israel paid no price for its recent achievements, it only makes sense for Naftali Bennett and his allies to stay in the government, where they can deploy strategic mines that would destroy the process if it is ever to go anywhere.
The recent “referendum law” is only the first of such initiatives; the settlers’ control of the Ministry of Housing and their representation in the Defense Ministry ideally position them to take all kinds of steps that would destroy whatever is left of the Palestinian leadership’s credibility. Netanyahu knows that, and there is nothing more telling than the fact that he is entering talks with such a hawkish coalition.
I expect the Israeli government to try and keep the talks going on for as long as possible, for the reason stated above. At one point or another, the Palestinians might be presented with yet another “generous offer” from the Israeli side, accompanied with the usual take-it-or-leave-it threat. This has been the American-Israeli tactic since Oslo II (Only the first Oslo agreement in 1993, with all its faults, stands out as the outcome of relatively equal negotiations; it is not surprising that it is the round that saw the least of the American involvement). And if the Palestinians choose to reject the offer, they will be blamed again for missing every opportunity for peace. Once more, the occupation will be their own fault.
The only hope lies in the Obama administration setting up clear timetables for the process and forcing the Israeli government to pay with actual steps on the ground – not “gestures” but actions which have to do with achieving the solution itself – for the legitimacy it earns from the talks. The government will likely fall as a result, and a better equipped coalition will need to follow up with the process – one that is determined to end the occupation and views the peace process only as means to reach that goal, rather than an end by itself. Given the nature of the American involvement in the process thus far, this is not the most likely scenario.
By Asmaa al-Ghoul, Al-Monitor Palestine Pulse
July 26, 2013
On July 19, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced that an agreement had been reached on the foundations for direct negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis. The announcement came as a surprise to the Palestinian factions, especially the Islamic resistance movement Hamas.
The following day, deputy head of Hamas’ political bureau Mousa Abu Marzouk raised questions on his Facebook page regarding “the foundations of the negotiations, which Kerry talked about, if the negotiations between [the Israelis] and the Palestinians resume after the Zionists had rejected what the Palestinian side asked for.” He added that the secrecy and the ambiguity regarding this matter indicate that there may be new concessions from the Palestinians, and that such concessions are rejected by all Palestinian forces.
The fact that Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas abandoned his conditions for the resumption of negotiations was highly controversial. The conditions included a settlement freeze, the release of prisoners jailed before the Oslo agreement and the recognition that the June 1967 border is a basis for the negotiations.
In an interview with Al-Monitor in his office, Ghazi Hamad, a proxy for the Foreign Affairs Ministry in the Hamas government in Gaza, said that the Palestinian position has backtracked, especially because the negotiations are set to resume without having implemented the conditions demanded by Abbas. “Settlement activity goes on. Our prisoners have not been freed. And [Abbas] is deviating from the step taken at the UN [recognizing Palestine],” he said.
During Kerry’s Ramallah-Jordan-Israel shuttle trips to convince the parties to return to negotiations, Abu Marzouk wrote on his Facebook page on July 17, “We heard that the Americans have threatened to cut off aid if President Abbas reconciles with Hamas since [Hamas] rejects the international quartet’s conditions. But what is new is that Kerry threatened to cut off aid if Abbas insisted on his conditions to resume negotiations.”
Hamad believes that Abbas was pressured by being told that he would be held responsible for Kerry’s failure if he continues to refuse. Hamad said that this pressure will result in more concessions because the negotiations assume that the Palestinians are weak. “During the last two decades, the negotiations achieved nothing but more land confiscations, settlements and violations by the occupation. Settlement construction is moving faster than the peace process,” he said.
Ahmed Youssef, a senior Hamas official, agrees. He said that the Palestinian people are not counting on the negotiations because Abbas often goes to negotiate alone and comes back empty-handed, while Israel uses the negotiations as cover to expand settlements. “During Kerry’s visits, new housing units were announced. This is astonishing. If the Americans are serious then why this settlement expansion at the expense of a soon-to-be-formed state?! It is because the goal is to keep the Palestinians quiet while Israel grabs more land,” Youssef told Al-Monitor.
Monopolizing the political decision-making
“Hamas proposes that the [results of the] negotiations and the peace process be assessed; 22 years are enough to show that it was a failed path,” was how Hamad described Hamas’ view of the negotiations. He said that the Palestinian issue is not a guinea pig for experimentation and that all Palestinian factions must agree on a strategy dealing with all dimensions, while not repeating the experience of Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice, who brought the parties back to the negotiating table and then allowed the process to fail.
He stressed that the Palestinian factions — including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) and some within Fatah — have refused resuming negotiations after Abbas conceded on his conditions. Had he insisted on his conditions, he would have been in a stronger position, Hamad said.
On July 25, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told Al-Monitor by telephone that Hamas refuses to return to negotiations and considers that the sole beneficiary of the negotiations will be the occupation, because the negotiations would polish the occupation’s image and Israel will use the negotiations to cover for its settlement and Judaization activities. He said that resuming negotiations violates Palestinian national consensus.
For his part, Hamad said that the PA is not keeping Hamas in the loop and that the PA is monopolizing political decision-making. “The [PA] is not consulting with the other factions to get their opinions with regard to the political file. The PA thinks that it has a monopoly on that and that no one else is entitled to get involved,” he said.
Youssef told Al-Monitor by telephone that most nationalist and Islamist factions are not satisfied with how Abbas is managing the negotiations and that the factions find themselves marginalized.
He said that the matter required sending delegations to Hamas to get the movement’s opinion about the future of the political process. But unfortunately, the PA is behaving as if it were the only one allowed to negotiate and that the rest of the factions have no political value. Abbas would have been better off if he were armed with a unified Palestinian position rather than being sharply criticized for acting unilaterally.
Exploiting the timing
About the timing of the announcement that the negotiations will resume, Abu Zuhri considers it a US attempt to exploit the events in Egypt to eliminate the Palestinian cause, adding, “The announcement was timed when the world was preoccupied with revolutions and internal problems [so that agreements harmful to the Palestinian cause] can be made to pass.”
He said that the United States plans to isolate Gaza. “This is not new. The siege has already peaked and betting on it [to make the Palestinians capitulate] has failed,” he said.
Al-Monitor met with political writer Saleh al-Naami, who said that the negotiations were based on the belief that what is happening in Egypt and President Mohammed Morsi’s ouster has made Hamas weaker than ever, that there will be no resistance at present and that [Hamas] may be willing to back down on its constants and red lines, which is not true.
He said that Abbas has agreed to negotiate because he is looking for a reason to avoid going to the UN, especially that forces from inside and outside Fatah are pressuring him to file a complaint against Israel with the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
For his part, Youssef said that the Palestinians are weak because neither they nor the Arabs are united. The region is in chaos, with serious security implications for Gaza. He said that the resistance is on hold and that politics is the only means of action, but without a guarantee that politics will succeed.
The Fatah-Hamas reconciliation is the first victim of the resumption of negotiations, according to Abu Zuhri, who added that the success of the reconciliation requires avoiding concessions to the occupation. “Any rapprochement between Fatah and the occupation will necessarily distance Hamas from Fatah,” he said.
For his part, Hamad said that the negotiations will result in more frustration, more failure, the loss of confidence, will alienate the people from the PA and will harm the reconciliation because of a lack of a unified Palestinian political strategy. He stressed that Hamas is committed to the reconciliation agreement because it will put the Palestinian cause back on the right track.
The price of negotiations, according to Naami, will be mostly paid by Abbas because he agreed to negotiate amid heavy settlement construction, a divided Palestinian public opinion and an economic crisis in the West Bank.
Asmaa al-Ghoul is a contributing writer for Al-Monitor’s Palestine Pulse and a journalist from the Rafah refugee camp based in Gaza.
Moshe Machover: negotiations just a means of managing the conflict
Israel – Palestine: Déjà vu all over again
Moshé Machover finds the recent ‘peace process’ talk oddly familiar
Weekly Worker, July 25, 2013
Watch US secretary of state John Kerry assuming the mantle of our lord: just as JC resurrected Lazarus, JK is about to revive the dead-as-a-doornail talks between the Israeli government and the captive so-called Palestinian ‘Authority’. Though, unlike old Lazarus, this corpse will talk and talk and talk … but will not walk.
I do not much enjoy repeating myself, but the Weekly Worker has recently acquired many new readers, so for the benefit of those among them who have recently arrived from outer space and have not seen this show before, I will shamelessly quote from my article, ‘Zionist “negotiating strategy” sham’, published in this paper almost two years ago:
For the Israeli leadership, the ‘peace process’ – or, as many Israelis (who have trouble distinguishing between long and short vowels) pronounce it, ‘piss process’ – is a perpetual ratchet mechanism for buying time, while colonisation of Palestinian lands is extended and expanded.
The Israeli negotiating strategy, successfully applied for the last 20 years, is very simple. At each stage of the process, Israel puts forward new conditions. If the Palestinian side rejects them, the negotiations are broken off, and world public opinion is invited to blame Palestinian intransigence for the deadlock. However, if the Palestinian side capitulates to the new demands, then Israel finds a pretext for stalling. A favourite ploy is to create provocations such as ‘targeted assassination’ of Palestinian militants. These are rarely reported by the international media, and never given any prominence, as they are considered routine moves in the ‘war against terror’. Eventually, some armed Palestinian group retaliates with a bloody bombing inside Israel or an ill-aimed rocket barrage. This is invariably given lurid coverage in the international media. Thereupon Israel breaks off the talks, because obviously one cannot negotiate with such terrorists. Again, the Palestinians are blamed for the failure of the talks. Meantime, Israeli colonisation continues to metastasise.
After a while, there is another international initiative for resuming the negotiations. In the new round of talks, the previous Palestinian concessions are taken as a starting point, and Israel’s conditions are ratcheted up.1
So here we go again. Netanyahu himself brazenly boasted about his tactics for using negotiations to torpedo any meaningful agreement. You can watch him bragging about it on a visit to a family of colons in the occupied West Bank: he was apparently unaware that he was being recorded on home video, which is now online.2
And, of course, leaders of the so-called ‘international community’ are well aware of Netanyahu’s game. We know this thanks to another accidental recording. On November 8 2011 Reuters reported:
French president Nicolas Sarkozy branded Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu “a liar” in a private conversation with US president Barack Obama that was accidentally broadcast to journalists during last week’s G20 summit in Cannes.
“I cannot bear Netanyahu – he’s a liar,” Sarkozy told Obama, unaware that the microphones in their meeting room had been switched on, enabling reporters in a separate location to listen in to a simultaneous translation.
“You’re fed up with him, but I have to deal with him even more often than you,” Obama replied, according to the French interpreter.3
Nevertheless, these pots calling the kettle black all persist with this charade. Why? Netanyahu’s foreign minister designate, Avigdor Lieberman – who is suspended from office while defending himself against charges of corruption – has put his sticky finger on it. He recently pointed out on his Facebook page that “It is important to negotiate – and even more important that negotiations be conducted on the basis of reality and without illusions.” Lest there be any misunderstanding, he added that, as he had said many times, there is no solution to the conflict, at least not in the coming years. “What is possible and important to do is to manage the conflict.”4 In other words, negotiations with the Palestinians are not about reaching a resolution, but about ‘managing the conflict’. This managing act is in Israel’s interest, as well as that of the top manager in the White House.
Lieberman is right about one thing: in the coming years there can be no resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is because the balance of power is so heavily biased in favour of Israel. But here I am, repeating myself again. New arrivals from outer space: please refer to my article, ‘Breaking the chains of Zionist oppression’, where I wrote:
Palestinian resistance – whether armed or non-violent – may be able to put up a defensive struggle, but on its own it has no realistic prospect of inducing Israel to give up the Zionist colonising project and share Palestine on equal terms, be it in two states or in one ….
It is impossible to escape the conclusion that all schemes for resolving the conflict within the narrow confines of Palestine are exercises in futility.5
1. Weekly Worker September 29 2011.
5. Weekly Worker February 19 2009.