FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Is Mitchell’s Mission Already Doomed?

by PATRICK COCKBURN

Jerusalem.

Barack Obama’s new Middle East peace envoy, George Mitchell, arrives in Israel today charged with working towards an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. But the expected victory of the right in the Israeli election on  February 10 may doom his efforts from the outset.

Benjamin Netanyahu, who did much to bury the Oslo peace accords when he was last prime minister in 1996-99, will almost inevitably be the next prime minister, according to the latest opinion polls. His right-wing Likud party is likely to be the largest party, and the right-wing bloc of extreme religious and nationalist parties is likely to have a majority in the Israeli parliament. Mr Netanyahu would probably have won without the war in Gaza, but the conflict has shifted Israelis significantly to the right. “Prior to the war there was already disillusionment with negotiations and the peace process,” says Galia Golan, political science professor at the Interdisciplinary Centre at Herzliya, near Tel Aviv. “Patriotism and nationalism were whipped up as never before by the media who treated the war as if it was one of the wars when we were really under attack.”

Benefiting from this jingoism, the biggest winner in the election is likely to be the super-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party of Avigdor Lieberman with its generalized anti-Arab racism. A likely coalitionpartner of Mr Netanyahu, Mr Lieberman recently suggested that Israeli-Arab MPs be treated like Hamas. “Ideas that nobody would have dared to let cross their lips 10 or 20 years ago, lest they be thought utter fascists, have been bolstered in recent months by the war in the south,” lamented the daily Haaretz.

Senator Mitchell is the most powerful politician ever sent by Washington to talk to Israel and the Palestinians. The former Democratic Senate majority leader, his reputation as a peace-maker established by his successful mediation in Northern Ireland, wrote an even-handed report, promptly ignored by the Bush administration, after the start of the second intifada in 2000, calling, among other things, for a complete halt to Israeli settlement building on the West Bank.

Professor Golan says she is encouraged by his appointment “because he has tremendous political clout, but I don’t think Hillary Clinton [as Secretary of State] will be willing to put the sort of pressure on Israel that the US needs to put in order to get results.” She suspects that Mr Netanyahu will try to divert attention from the Palestinian issue by talking with Syria about a peace agreement.

Israel’s two most important actions in its relations with its neighbors have been in the form of unilateral withdrawals – from south Lebanon in 2000 and from the Gaza Strip in 2005 – neither of which led to peace. This failure helps explain the dramatic shift to the right in Israeli politics.

The next government will be right wing but it is not clear how far to the right. All Israeli governments are shaky coalitions. Though Mr Netanyahu may emerge from the election as leader of the largest party, Likud will still have only 28 or 29 MPs or less than a quarter of the 120-member Knesset while, according to the latest polls, the centrist Kadima will win 24 or 25, Labor 16 or 17, Yisrael Beitenu 14 to 16 and the Sephardic religious party Shas nine.

Israeli voters do not like governments with bad relations with the US as would probably be the case if Mr Netanyahu relied solely on the right-wing parties. Instead he will probably bring in Labour or Kadima to give his coalition a more moderate image but without diluting his basic opposition to concessions to the Palestinians.

PATRICK COCKBURN is the author of ‘The Occupation: War, resistance and daily life in Iraq‘, a finalist for the National Book Critics’ Circle Award for best non-fiction book of 2006. His new book ‘Muqtada! Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia revival and the struggle for Iraq‘ is published by Scribner.

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
Pete Dolack
Killing Ourselves With Technology
David Krieger
The 10 Worst Acts of the Nuclear Age
Lamont Lilly
Movement for Black Lives Yields New Targets of the State
Martha Rosenberg
A Hated Industry Fights Back
Robert Fantina
Hillary, Gloria and Jill: a Brief Look at Alternatives
Chris Doyle
No Fireworks: Bicentennial Summer and the Decline of American Ideals
Michael Doliner
Beyond Dangerous: the Politics of Climate
Colin Todhunter
Modi, Monsanto, Bayer and Cargill: Doing Business or Corporate Imperialism?
Steve Church
Brexit: a Rush for the Exits!
Matthew Koehler
Mega Corporation Gobbles Up Slightly Less-Mega Corporation; Chops Jobs to Increase Profits; Blames Enviros. Film at 11.
David Green
Rape Culture, The Hunting Ground, and Amy Goodman: a Critical Perspective
Ed Kemmick
Truckin’: Pro Driver Dispenses Wisdom, Rules of the Road
Alessandro Bianchi
“China Will React if Provoked Again: You Risk the War”: Interview with Andre Vltchek
Christy Rodgers
Biophilia as Extreme Sport
Missy Comley Beattie
At Liberty
Ron Jacobs
Is Everything Permitted?
Cesar Chelala
The Sad Truth About Messi
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail