Robert Fisk — The Independent Jan 16, 2017
As peace conferences go, this was the most miserable of all. Pathetic, hopeless, hapless, woebegone, dead before its time. Trump sent nobody, Netanyahu called it “the last twitches of the world of yesterday”, the autocratic Mahmoud Abbas didn’t bother to turn up and Theresa May’s secretary of state for buffoonery only sent a clutch of underlings. John Kerry, who said two years ago that peace between Israelis and Palestinians had at the most 18 months to succeed “or it’s over”, announced lamely that the gathering of 70 nations in Paris had “moved the ball forward” – whatever that means. So what was it all for?
No doubt François Hollande – an emperor with no clothes if ever there was one – wished to restore France’s place among the nations while the EU nations and the Arabs wanted to “twitch” one final time – if only to clear the decks for failure and avoid all blame. Two-state solution? Jerusalem as a capital? Occupation? Land theft? Refugees? We gave it one last go. Can’t say we didn’t warn you. Don’t blame us, guv’. Even the Russians only sent their Paris ambassador to the “peace” conference. But what did they all expect?
That Trump’s new ambassadorial stooge to Israel would choose to stay in Tel Aviv? That Benjamin Netanyahu, the Coloniser and Settler-in-Chief, would make no more territorial demands? That the Palestinians, losing acres by the day to Israeli land theft but saddled with a leader whose legitimacy depends on Israel rather than them, would restart negotiations with their occupiers? And so it came to pass that the great and the good in Paris spoke thus: thou shalt not prejudge the outcome of negotiations by taking unilateral steps. And this, announced a French spokesman, was a “subliminal message” to Trump.
Ye Gods! Trump doesn’t receive “subliminal messages”. He sends tweets. “Stay strong Israel.” How do you answer that? But maybe the lads and lasses in Paris got the message. Not once did they utter the word “occupation”, let alone “apartheid”. Why, they didn’t even mention the little matter of moving the US embassy to Jerusalem. This would be “inappropriate”, quoth the mighty Kerry. And this was supposed to be a “strong message” to the Prime Minister of Israel (clearly Trump) and the President of the United States (obviously Netanyahu) that the two-state solution really was the only game in town.
And so the Palestinian tragedy continues its slide down the domestic news schedules – to Israel’s delight – sandwiched somewhere between hospital trolley deaths and academy awards, but way behind Trump and Putin, Russia in the Middle East, Isis, Brexit, European migrants and global warming. The world’s biggest volcano is bubbling away in Palestine but one of the world’s largest icebergs is about to break off from the Antarctic. Guess which gets the bigger headline?
What has got into our leaders? Theresa May’s charlatans are worried that the Paris conference may “harden” Palestinian positions – may “harden” the Palestinians, for heaven’s sake – while Australia continues to view Obama’s first veto on a UN anti-settlement resolution as “deeply unsettling”. It seems that Malcolm Turnbull finds it unsettling to discuss Israeli settlements while everyone else finds the settlements unsettling. So which is worse: Turnbull’s pusillanimity or May sucking up to the Kremlin’s top spy-to-be in the White House? No British Mandate in Palestine for her.
Seriously though, what was it all about? Anyone who’s visited the West Bank these past few years, looked at the Jewish colonies built on stolen Arab land, witnessed the occupation and the filth of Gaza and observed its brutal Hamas militia leaders – and realised that Netanyahu will soon be the most left-wing member of his increasingly racist government – knows very well that the “two-state solution” vanished long ago. Why, did we really think it would survive the political surgery of our beloved former Middle East panjandrum, Tony Blair? As he would say if he was honest, the whole charade is “absolutely and completely” over.
And the rest of the Arabs? Oh lordy, lordy. We embrace the head-choppers of the Gulf, the dictator of Egypt and the “rebels” of Syria. We sell weapons to the Saudis to bomb the Yemenis – which may “harden” the Yemeni position quite a lot – and send money to Lebanon to keep the Syrian refugees in situ because their further presence among us would be “deeply unsettling”. We loved the rebels of Aleppo and hate the rebels of Mosul and any comparison between them would no doubt be highly “inappropriate”. Now that’s a “subliminal message” if ever there was one. It’s called “moving the ball forward”.