Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only shake you down once a year, but when we do we really mean it. It costs a lot to keep the site afloat, and our growing audience, well over TWO million unique viewers a month, eats up a lot of bandwidth — and bandwidth isn’t free. We aren’t supported by corporate donors, advertisers or big foundations. We survive solely on your support.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Palestinians as Fall Guys, Again

by JONATHAN COOK

Under heavy pressure from the US, the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has paid grudging lip service over the past four years to the goal of Palestinian statehood. But his real agenda was always transparent: not statehood, but what he termed “economic peace”.

Ordinary Palestinians, in Netanyahu’s view, can be pacified with crumbs from the master’s table: fewer checkpoints, extra jobs and trading opportunities, and a gradual, if limited, improvement in living standards. All of this buys time for Israel to expand the settlements, cementing its hold over the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

After 20 years of pursuing Palestinian statehood implied in the Oslo Accords, the US indicated last week it was switching horses. It appears to be adopting Netanyahu’s model of “economic peace”.

The US secretary of state, John Kerry, flanked by the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, and the Palestinian Authority chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, at the World Economic Forum in Jordan, revealed an economic programme for getting peace talks on track.

Some 300 Israeli and Palestinian business people were on board, he said, and would invest heavily in the Palestinian economy in a venture that was “bigger, bolder and more ambitious than anything since the Oslo accords”.

No more details were forthcoming, except that it will be overseen by Tony Blair, Britain’s former prime minister who has been the Quartet representative, the international community’s “man in Jerusalem”, since 2007.

He is a strange choice indeed, given that the Palestinian leadership has publicly dismissed him as “Israel’s defence attorney” and privately argued — as revealed in the Palestine Papers leaked in 2011 — that he advocates “an apartheid-like approach to dealing with the occupied West Bank”.

Kerry’s claims for his programme were grand yet vague. Some $4 billion in private investment over three years would boost the Palestinian economy by 50 per cent; agricultural production and tourism would triple; unemployment fall by two-thirds; wages rise by 40 per cent; and 100,000 homes would be built.

But the proposal left few impressed, and for good reason.

Kerry is simply repackaging the task Blair was entrusted with six years ago. His job has been to develop the Palestinian economy and build up Palestinian institutions in preparation for eventual statehood, so far to little effect.

As David Horovitz, editor of the right wing Times of Israel newspaper, scoffed: “If there was $4 billion to be had in private investment in the Palestinian economy, you can rest assured that Tony Blair would have found it.”

Or seen another way, the Palestinian economy’s problem is not a lack of investment; it is a lack of viable opportunities for investment. Palestinians have no control over their borders, airspace, radio frequencies, water and other natural resources, not even over the currency or internal movement of goods and people. Everything depends on Israel’s good will. And few investors will be prepared to bet on that. Israel has repeatedly shown itself more than ready to crush the PA’s finances by, for example, withholding Palestinian tax revenues it collects and is mandated to pass on.

Blair’s role has been heavily criticised because his narrow focus on economic development has not only failed to foster a climate conducive to talks but has served as cover for Israel and Washington’s inaction on Palestinian statehood. Instead of rethinking Blair’s failed mandate, Kerry appears set on perpetuating and expanding it.

Abdallah Abdallah, a senior Fatah official, summed up the Palestinian response: “We are not animals that only want food. We are a people struggling for freedom”.

Israel, meanwhile, is only too ready to push Kerry down this hopeless path.

From Israel’s perspective, the US plan usefully distracts attention from the Arab Peace Initiative, the Arab states’ renewed offer last month of full diplomatic relations with Israel in return for its withdrawal from most of the occupied territories.

Netanyahu, worried the offer might corner him into serious talks, has responded with stony silence. At the same time, Yair Lapid, the supposedly centrist finance minister who was originally promoted by the West as a peacemaker, has squashed the idea of a deal with the Palestinians as unrealistic. He told the New York Times last month that he supported expanding the settlements.

Israel, it seems, hopes that the Palestinian Authority, now permanently mired in financial crisis, can be arm-twisted with promises of billions of dollars in sweeteners. According to Palestinian sources, Abbas is facing intense pressure from the US, with the Kerry plan intended to leverage him into dropping his condition that Israel freeze settlement growth before negotiations restart.

Israel is keen to win that concession. Despite reports that Netanyahu has quietly promised the Americans he will avoid embarrassing them for the next few weeks with announcements of settlement building, a rash of projects is in the pipeline.

At the weekend, media reports disclosed a plan for 300 new homes in East Jerusalem, while nearly 800 more are to be released for sale. Several settlement outposts established without authorisation from the Israeli government are expected to be made legal retrospectively, including hundreds of homes in Eli, near Ramallah.

Reuters reported yesterday that Kerry expects a decision on restarting peace talks within two weeks – or, his officials say, he will walk away from the peace process. He told a meeting of the American Jewish Committee the same day: “If we do not succeed now, we may not get another chance.”

For Netanyahu, such threats are hollow. If the US absents itself from the conflict, Israel will simply be left with a freer hand to intensify its subjugation of the Palestinians and the theft of their land.

Even though much more is at stake for the Palestinians, the PA has so far been quietly dismissive of the Kerry plan. It has stated it will not make “political concessions in exchange for economic benefits” – a diplomatic way of saying it will not be bribed to sell out on statehood.

But the real danger for the Palestinians, as they remember only too well from the 2000 Camp David talks, is that they are being set up as the fall guy. Should they refuse to sign up to the latest version of economic peace, Israel and the US will be only too ready to blame them for their intransigence.

This is win-win for Netanyahu, and another moment of disastrous slippage in the diplomatic process for the Palestinians.

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. 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 new website is www.jonathan-cook.net.

A version of this article first appeared in The National, Abu Dhabi.

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. 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.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 29, 2016
Robert Fisk
The Butcher of Qana: Shimon Peres Was No Peacemaker
James Rose
Politics in the Echo Chamber: How Trump Becomes President
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Vice Grip on the Presidential Debates
Daniel Kato
Rethinking the Race over Race: What Clinton Should do Now About ‘Super-Predators’
Peter Certo
Clinton’s Awkward Stumbles on Trade
Fran Shor
Demonizing the Green Party Vote
Rev. William Alberts
Trump’s Road Rage to the White House
Luke O'Brien
Because We Couldn’t Have Sanders, You’ll Get Trump
Michael J. Sainato
How the Payday Loan Industry is Obstructing Reform
Robert Fantina
You Can’t Have War Without Racism
Gregory Barrett
Bad Theater at the United Nations (Starring Kerry, Power, and Obama
James A Haught
The Long, Long Journey to Female Equality
Thomas Knapp
US Military Aid: Thai-ed to Torture
Jack Smith
Must They be Enemies? Russia, Putin and the US
Gilbert Mercier
Clinton vs Trump: Lesser of Two Evils or the Devil You Know
Tom H. Hastings
Manifesting the Worst Old Norms
George Ella Lyons
This Just in From Rancho Politico
September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Robert Fisk
Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
David Swanson
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]