FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Jerusalem "Compromise"

by JONATHAN COOK

Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in the United States this week armed with a mandate from the Israeli parliament. A large majority of legislators from all of Israel’s main parties had supported a petition urging him to stand firm on the building of Jewish settlements in occupied East Jerusalem — the very issue that got him into hot water days earlier with the White House.

Given the Israeli consensus on Jerusalem, there was no way Mr Netanyahu could have avoided rubbing that wound again in his speech on Monday to the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the powerful pro-Israel lobby group.

He told the thousands of delegates: “The Jewish people were building Jerusalem 3,000 years ago and the Jewish people are building Jerusalem today. Jerusalem is not a settlement. It is our capital.”

Citing his own policy as inseparable from all previous Israeli governments, he added: “Everyone knows that these neighbourhoods will be part of Israel in any peace settlement. Therefore, building them in no way precludes the possibility of a two-state solution.”

Mr Netanyahu’s speech appeared consistent with the new approach agreed by both sides to end this particular debacle. According to the US media, a policy of “Don’t ask and don’t tell” has been adopted to avoid making East Jerusalem an insurmountable obstacle to negotiations.

It will be telling how the US administration responds to the latest approval by Israeli planning authorities of a housing project at the Shepherd’s Hotel in East Jerusalem – this time in the even more controversial area of Sheikh Jarrah, a Palestinian community slowly being taken over by Jewish settlers backed by the Israeli courts.

The White House has eased its stance chiefly because Mr Netanyahu has climbed down on two issues of even greater importance to the administration.

First, he has agreed to make a “significant gesture” to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, probably in the form of a prisoner release. That is the carrot needed to bring Mr Abbas to the peace talks overseen by George Mitchell, the US special peace envoy.

And second, Mr Netanyahu has conceded that Israel will discuss the “core issues” of the conflict – borders, Jerusalem and the Palestinian refugees – ensuring that the negotiations are substantive rather than formal, as he had intended.

Those concessions – if Mr Netanyahu delivers on them – should be enough to break up his far-right coalition, a prospect the White House craves. The US administration wants Tzipi Livni, the leader of the centrist opposition, to join Mr Netanyahu in a new, “peacemaking coalition”.

If Mr Netanyahu could wriggle out of this bind, he would do so. But his ace in the hole – harnessing the might of AIPAC and its legions in Congress to back him against the White House – looks to have been disarmed.

Comments last week by Gen David Petraeus, the head of the US Central Command, linked Israel’s intransigence towards the Palestinians to the spread of a hatred that endangers US troops in the Middle East. That left the AIPAC hordes with little option but to swallow their and Mr Netanyahu’s pride, lest they be accused of dual loyalties.

In the words of Uri Avnery, a former Israeli legislator: “This is only a shot across the bow, a warning shot fired by a warship in order to induce another vessel to follow its instructions. The warning is clear.”

And the warning is that Mr Netanyahu must come to the negotiating table to help to establish a Palestinian state whatever the consequences for his coalition.

But it would be unwise to assume that the crisis over settlement building in East Jerusalem indicates that the Obama administration plans to get any tougher with Israel on the form of such statehood than its predecessors.

Ms Livni, unlike Mr Netanyahu, may wish to find a solution to the conflict – or impose one – but her terms would be far from generous. The White House knows that she, too, is an ardent advocate of settlements in East Jerusalem. When she broke her silence on the crisis last week, it was to emphasise that, by “acting stupidly” in stoking a row with the US, Mr Netanyahu had risked “weakening” Israel’s hold on Jerusalem

Instead, the signs are that Barack Obama could be just as ready to accommodate the Israeli consensus on East Jerusalem as the previous Bush administration was in backing Israel’s position on keeping the overwhelming majority of West Bank settlers in their homes on occupied Palestinian land.

Shimon Peres, the Israeli president who is much favoured in Washington, has outlined a “compromise” to placate the Americans. It would involve a peace deal in which Israel keeps the large swaths of East Jerusalem already settled by Jews, while the Palestinians would be entitled to the ghettos left behind after four decades of illegal Israeli building.

In her own AIPAC speech, Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, hinted that such a solution might yet be acceptable to the administration. The recent US condemnation of settlement building, she said, was not “a judgment on the final status of Jerusalem, which is an issue to be settled at the negotiating table. This is about getting to the table, creating and protecting an atmosphere of trust around it — and staying there until the job is finally done.”

Having lost patience with Mr Netanyahu’s lip service to Palestinian statehood, the White House appears finally to have decided its credibility in the Middle East depends on dragging Israel — kicking and screaming, if needs be — to the negotiating table.

Mr Obama may hope that the outcome of such a process will make US troops safer in Iraq and strengthen his hand in the stand-off with Iran. But it remains doubtful that the US actually has the stomach to extract from Israel the concessions needed to create that elusive entity referred to as a viable Palestinian state.

JONATHAN COOK is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.

A version of this article originally appeared in The National (www.thenational.ae), published in Abu Dhabi.

 

WORDS THAT STICK

Weekend Edition
February 12-14, 2016
Andrew Levine
What Next in the War on Clintonism?
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Comedy of Terrors: When in Doubt, Bomb Syria
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh – Anthony A. Gabb
Financial Oligarchy vs. Feudal Aristocracy
Paul Street
When Plan A Meets Plan B: Talking Politics and Revolution with the Green Party’s Jill Stein
Rob Urie
The (Political) Season of Our Discontent
Pepe Escobar
It Takes a Greek to Save Europa
Gerald Sussman
Why Hillary Clinton Spells Democratic Party Defeat
Carol Norris
What Do Hillary’s Women Want? A Psychologist on the Clinton Campaign’s Women’s Club Strategy
Robert Fantina
The U.S. Election: Any Good News for Palestine?
Linda Pentz Gunter
Radioactive Handouts: the Nuclear Subsidies Buried Inside Obama’s “Clean” Energy Budget
Michael Welton
Lenin, Putin and Me
Manuel García, Jr.
Fire in the Hole: Bernie and the Cracks in the Neo-Liberal Lid
Thomas Stephens
The Flint River Lead Poisoning Catastrophe in Historical Perspective
David Rosen
When Trump Confronted a Transgender Beauty
Will Parrish
Cap and Clear-Cut
Victor Grossman
Coming Cutthroats and Parting Pirates
Ben Terrall
Raw Deals: Challenging the Sharing Economy
David Yearsley
Beyoncé’s Super Bowl Formation: Form-Fitting Uniforms of Revolution and Commerce
David Mattson
Divvying Up the Dead: Grizzly Bears in a Post-ESA World
Matthew Stevenson
Confessions of a Primary Insider
Jeff Mackler
Friedrichs v. U.S. Public Employee Unions
Franklin Lamb
Notes From Tehran: Trump, the Iranian Elections and the End of Sanctions
Pete Dolack
More Unemployment and Less Security
Christopher Brauchli
The Cruzifiction of Michael Wayne Haley
Bill Quigley
Law on the Margins: a Profile of Social Justice Lawyer Chaumtoli Huq
Uri Avnery
A Lady With a Smile
Katja Kipping
The Opposite of Transparency: What I Didn’t Read in the TIPP Reading Room
B. R. Gowani
Hellish Woman: ISIS’s Granny Endorses Hillary
Kent Paterson
The Futures of Whales and Humans in Mexico
Michael Howard
Hollywood’s Grotesque Animal Abuse
James Heddle
Why the Current Nuclear Showdown in California Should Matter to You
Steven Gorelick
Branding Tradition: a Bittersweet Tale of Capitalism at Work
Nozomi Hayase
Assange’s UN Victory and Redemption of the West
Patrick Bond
World Bank Punches South Africa’s Poor, by Ignoring the Rich
Mel Gurtov
Is US-Russia Engagement Still Possible?
Dan Bacher
Governor Jerry Brown Receives Cold, Dead Fish Award Four Years In A Row
Wolfgang Lieberknecht
Fighting and Protecting Refugees
Jennifer Matsui
Doglegs, An Unforgettable Film
Soud Sharabani
Israeli Myths: An Interview with Ramzy Baroud
Terry Simons
Bernie? Why Not?
Missy Comley Beattie
When Thoughtful People Think Illogically
Christy Rodgers
Everywhere is War: Luke Mogelson’s These Heroic, Happy Dead: Stories
Ron Jacobs
Springsteen: Rockin’ the House in Albany, NY
Barbara Nimri Aziz
“The Martian”: This Heroism is for Chinese Viewers Too
Charles R. Larson
No Brainers: When Hitler Took Cocaine and Lenin Lost His Brain
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail