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Sacrificing Substance for Process

Peace Process to Nowhere

by FRANKLIN C. SPINNEY

The Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot reports that President Obama begged Prime Minister Netanyahu to extend his settlement freeze in order to save the so-called peace talks.  

As a quid pro quo, Obama is reported to have promised Netanyahu that (1) Israel could resume settlement construction if the peace negotiations failed to produce results and (2) that the United States would give Israel written assurances of its commitment to Israel’s security (suggesting a formal peace treaty perhaps?).  Despite Obama’s desperation,  Netanyahu blew Obama off and allowed the so-called freeze to expire. 

If, as is likely, this report is true, Israel has humiliated the United States once again — a fact that will no doubt be deemed irrelevant by Israel’s shills on both sides of the aisle in Congress, not to mention the mainstream media. 

The last president to stand up to Israel was Dwight Eisenhower, when he pulled the plug on the second Arab-Israeli war in 1956 and forced Israel to retreat from the east bank of the Suez Canal and to give up its conquest of the Sinai.  

But eleven years later, Israel learned US condemnation was no longer a problem.  

In fact, Israel learned it could get away with murder and could treat the United States with utter contempt when (1) its air and naval  forces not only attacked the USS Liberty — a high priority US Navy signals intelligence ship — on 8 June 1967 during the Six-Day War, killing 34 and wounding 171 US sailors, but (2) was able to secure a cover up of its perfidy by the highest levels of the US government, including President Johnson, Secretary of Defense McNamara, and  most of the senior military officers in the Pentagon, despite the misgivings of Dean Rusk, the Secretary of State and Admiral Thomas Moorer, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (neither of whom chose to resign in protest, however).  

To this day, the Liberty affair is the only major US naval disaster that has not triggered a congressional inquiry.   A brief but very accurate introduction to the Liberty affair can be found here.  The best first-hand description of the attack itself can be found in Assault on the Liberty, the riveting memoir of the Liberty’s executive officer, Commander James Ennes.  Interested readers might also want to contrast our passivity in the Liberty Affair to our aggressive military reaction to the seizure of the SS Mayaguez, a privately owned container ship, by the Khymer Rouge in May 1975.  

Now we are again faced with the depressing spectacle of humiliation.  President Obama, like his predecessors (Ike excepted), is allowing Israel to play him and the United States for the fool.  But this time, the humiliation ought to be particularly galling to those of us who think of themselves as being proud to be Americans.  

Why?  Because the President of the United States is prostrating himself before the Israeli altar for nothing, I repeat, nothing — except, perhaps, an ephemeral advantage in his own domestic politics. 

Read the 28 September report by Dror Etkes in Ha’aretz.  Ask yourself if Etkes does not make an indisputable case for what many of us have suspected: namely that the Israeli government’s own official housing statistics prove that the so-called settlement freeze was barely a slowdown in construction.  President Obama was begging Netanyahu to save yet another peace process to nowhere by continuing the fraud of Israel’s settlement freeze. 

To ice the cake, Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman, who Netanyahu insists speaks only for himself, told the UN that peace will only be possible in the long term by a massive exchange of territories and populations, which may well imply another expulsion of Palestinian Arabs from lands they currently occupy, perhaps in Israel, as well as the West Bank.  Lieberman insists his vague “plan” does not imply expulsion, but given the deliberate intermingling of populations resulting from the settlement strategy, the devil is in the details, and it is hard to imagine how he could redraw borders without a significant involuntary population displacement.

Netanyahu’s blow-off and Lieberman’s UN speech stink of a good cop – bad cop operation, where an opportunistic Netanyahu, amazingly, is setting himself up to be the good cop, which makes Lieberman just another comic foil  in the theater of the absurd. 

Think of the theatrical story line that may be unfolding: Prince Obama the Humble declares victory before the November elections, because he headed off Lieberman, the Mad Attack Dog, by dragging Netanyahu, the Statesman, kicking and screaming, back to the so-called negotiation table.  The Prince nails down his victory and gains his laurels by bribing the Statesman with even more financial aid and formal security guarantees, and in return gets the Statesman to extend his phoney non-freezing settlement freeze.  

If this story of human folly wasn’t so horrid in terms of the suffering of the Palestinians, who have no real role in the play, we all would be tumbling into the aisles with laughter.  Why laughter?  Because in the divine comedy that passes for policy in the Hall of Mirrors that is Versailles on the Potomac, illusion always trumps reality by sacrificing  substance on the altar of process. 

Franklin “Chuck” Spinney is a former military analyst for the Pentagon. He currently lives on a sailboat in the Mediterranean and can be reached at chuck_spinney@mac.com

 

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