FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Is Mitchell’s Mission Already Doomed?

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.

More articles by:

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

Weekend Edition
June 22, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Karl Grossman
Star Wars Redux: Trump’s Space Force
Andrew Levine
Strange Bedfellows
Jeffrey St. Clair
Intolerable Opinions in an Intolerant Time
Paul Street
None of Us are Free, One of Us is Chained
Edward Curtin
Slow Suicide and the Abandonment of the World
Celina Stien-della Croce
The ‘Soft Coup’ and the Attack on the Brazilian People 
James Bovard
Pro-War Media Deserve Slamming, Not Sainthood
Louisa Willcox
My Friend Margot Kidder: Sharing a Love of Dogs, the Wild, and Speaking Truth to Power
David Rosen
Trump’s War on Sex
Mir Alikhan
Trump, North Korea, and the Death of IR Theory
Christopher Jones
Neoliberalism, Pipelines, and Canadian Political Economy
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Why is Tariq Ramadan Imprisoned?
Robert Fantina
MAGA, Trump Style
Linn Washington Jr.
Justice System Abuses Mothers with No Apologies
Martha Rosenberg
Questions About a Popular Antibiotic Class
Ida Audeh
A Watershed Moment in Palestinian History: Interview with Jamal Juma’
Edward Hunt
The Afghan War is Killing More People Than Ever
Geoff Dutton
Electrocuting Oral Tradition
Don Fitz
When Cuban Polyclinics Were Born
Ramzy Baroud
End the Wars to Halt the Refugee Crisis
Ralph Nader
The Unsurpassed Power trip by an Insuperable Control Freak
Lara Merling
The Pain of Puerto Ricans is a Profit Source for Creditors
James Jordan
Struggle and Defiance at Colombia’s Feast of Pestilence
Tamara Pearson
Indifference to a Hellish World
Kathy Kelly
Hungering for Nuclear Disarmament
Jessicah Pierre
Celebrating the End of Slavery, With One Big Asterisk
Rohullah Naderi
The Ever-Shrinking Space for Hazara Ethnic Group
Binoy Kampmark
Leaving the UN Human Rights Council
Nomi Prins 
How Trump’s Trade Wars Could Lead to a Great Depression
Robert Fisk
Can Former Lebanese MP Mustafa Alloush Turn Even the Coldest of Middle Eastern Sceptics into an Optimist?
Franklin Lamb
Could “Tough Love” Salvage Lebanon?
George Ochenski
Why Wild Horse Island is Still Wild
Ann Garrison
Nikki Haley: Damn the UNHRC and the Rest of You Too
Jonah Raskin
What’s Hippie Food? A Culinary Quest for the Real Deal
Raouf Halaby
Give It Up, Ya Mahmoud
Brian Wakamo
We Subsidize the Wrong Kind of Agriculture
Patrick Higgins
Children in Cages Create Glimmers of the Moral Reserve
Patrick Bobilin
What Does Optimism Look Like Now?
Don Qaswa
A Reduction of Economic Warfare and Bombing Might Help 
Robin Carver
Why We Still Need Pride Parades
Jill Richardson
Immigrant Kids are Suffering From Trauma That Will Last for Years
Thomas Mountain
USA’s “Soft” Coup in Ethiopia?
Jim Hightower
Big Oil’s Man in Foreign Policy
Louis Proyect
Civilization and Its Absence
David Yearsley
Midsummer Music Even the Nazis Couldn’t Stamp Out
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail