Robert Fisk — The Independent April 25, 2014
Dead in the water. Just as the entire world predicted – with the exception of Messrs Barack Obama and John Kerry and, I suppose, our favourite “peace” envoy Tony Blair – the whole fandango of an Israeli-Palestinian “peace” has collapsed again. US President Obama, walking away from the car crash for which his own political cowardice is entirely to blame, says it’s time for a “pause”. Could there be a more chilling word for America’s impotence in the Middle East?
Of course – lock-stepping with Israel as usual – Obama condemned Mahmoud Abbas for the “unhelpful” step of trying to form a unity government with Hamas, a skewed version of events that entirely chimes with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s predictable claim that the Palestinian President “formed an alliance with a murderous terrorist organisation that calls for Israel’s destruction”.
Forget that Mr Abbas insists that this Palestinian unity would be founded on recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence and acceptance of previous agreements.
Since Mr Netanyahu has been demanding that Mr Abbas accept – even before the latter’s renewed love affair with Hamas – that Israel was a “Jewish state” (thus deleting its tens of thousands of Israeli Arab citizens), no “recognition of Israel” without its Jewish definition would be of any use to him.
For years, the Israelis have been telling the world that there was no Palestinian to negotiate with – because Mr Abbas did not represent the Palestinians of Gaza. But the moment Mr Abbas and the Palestinian Authority try to bring about the unity which would produce Israel’s negotiating partner, Mr Netanyahu announces that the “peace” – and let’s forget the “two-state solution” – is nixed.
How on earth did Mr Kerry think that he could bring this nonsense off in nine months? For as long as the US administration remains in hock to the Israeli government and continues to support Israel, right or wrong, it can never – and will never – negotiate peace between the two.
Only a month ago, Israel approved the construction of yet another 186 houses in the newly colonised Jewish areas of East Jerusalem. And colonisation is what it has all been about. How could Israel demand peace with Palestine while continuing to gobble up Arab land in the West Bank? The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the world’s last colonial war. Deny this and you cannot even start talking.
Mr Netanyahu would have done better to condemn the utterly undemocratic nature of the Palestinian Authority, its suppression of dissent – though this suppression in the West Bank is essential to prevent Palestinians from opposing the “peace process” – and Mr Abbas’s own totally illegal and undemocratic presidency. But Mr Abbas was supposed to be “our” man, the guy whom Mr Obama and Mr Kerry and the Beloved Tony could talk to, so there was no way in which Israel could trash the old man.
The writing was on the wall – and let us remember that this cliché comes from the writing on the wall at Belshazzar’s feast in which he was “weighed in the balance and found wanting” – from the very moment that the fey and luckless Mr Kerry told us all three weeks ago that the US administration was going to “re-evaluate” its role in Israeli-Palestinian talks.
It was time, he said then, for “a reality check”. Had this hopeless US Secretary of State not grasped that it should have been taken before his ridiculous promise last year that all would be solved by the end of this month?
Even the more inappropriate clichés have acquired their own cemetery characteristics. Originally, the “peace process” – which was rarely about peace and never a process – had to be put “back on track” each time it collapsed. Then the Quartet and the Beloved Blair supported a “road map” for peace – which presumably meant we were now driving towards peace rather than taking the train. But now we are encouraged to believe that peace is locked inside a room – from which it is necessary to escape through a door.
Hence Mr Obama obligingly told the world yesterday that “realistically, there is one door and that is [sic] the two parties getting together to make some very difficult compromises. We will encourage them to walk through that door.”
But then, in his next breath – speaking in South Korea – he announced that he did not “expect they will walk through that door, next week, next month or even in the course of the next six months…”
In other words, zilch. The premature winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for Public Speaking has thrown in the towel. It will be up to the next US president – perhaps La Clinton, with all her expertise at Middle East “peace-making”, will be imposed on the poor old Israelis and Palestinians – to open the door, put the train back on track, drive the car down the road map or whatever other infantile expression is invented. But there’s no Cuban cigar for guessing where all this went wrong.
From the start, Mr Arafat agreed that his land would exist only in 22 per cent of Mandate Palestine. Fair enough. But then he accepted the growing Jewish colonies on the West Bank, allowed America to dictate the terms for peace – which were supposed to prevent any such territorial expansion after the Oslo agreement – and then permitted the US to blame him for the failure of negotiations. Hamas, with their dodgy relations with Syria, and then Qatar and Iran and Egypt (under Mr Morsi) and anyone else who could fund their corrupt institution, handed Israel a gift by bombarding Sderot from Gaza with thousands of inaccurate rockets, most of them home-made.
It allowed Israel to kill hundreds of Palestinian civilians as it sought revenge, and deprived the Israeli left (that which still existed) of their support for the original Israeli withdrawal from Gaza; a withdrawal which Ariel Sharon’s own right-hand man admitted was intended to allow Jewish colony expansion on the West Bank.
“It’s up to them,” President Obama said on Friday, throwing in the towel. So an all-powerful Israel and a partially occupied Palestine have to make their “compromises” while Washington says – in Mr Obama’s words – it “will never give up our hope or our commitment for the possibilities [sic] of peace”. By which time, of course, “Palestine” will be as dead as the “peace process”.