FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Distracted by the Peace Process

by

There was a mad scramble by Washington last week to prevent the seemingly inevitable – an implosion of the Middle East peace talks. In a last-ditch effort to stop Israel reneging on a promise to release a final batch of Palestinian prisoners, the US briefly threw in possibly the biggest bargaining chip in its hand: the release of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.

With Israel still dragging its feet, an infuriated Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas submitted applications to join 15 United Nations conventions, thereby reviving a campaign to win international recognition of Palestinian statehood.

Although Washington will continue quietly arm-twisting the two sides a little longer, President Barack Obama is reported to be worried that US diplomacy is starting to appear “desperate”.

The negotiations’ failure could prove an important clarifying moment, signalling the effective demise of the two-state solution.

Both the US and Israel have come to rely on the endless theatrics of the two-decade peace process. Settlement freezes, prisoner releases, rows about Palestinian Authority funding and, of course, intermittent negotiations have served as useful distractions from the main developments on the ground.

As Bassem Khoury, a former Palestinian Authority minister, observed last week: “Israel hasn’t changed. It is the same colonial entity pursuing the same ethnic cleansing policies it did for decades.”

That was also the little-noticed conclusion reached by Richard Falk as he stepped down last month as the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied territories. In line with warnings he has issued in his UN post for the past six years, Falk, a professor emeritus in international law at Princeton University, said Israeli policies were designed to ethnically cleanse Palestinians from the occupied territories, and especially East Jerusalem, the expected capital of any Palestinian state.

Falk noted that Israel had cynically exploited the peace process to expand its settlement programme, as it did again during these past nine months of talks.

In his meeting last month with Obama at the White House, Abbas unveiled a map showing that Israel had approved more than 10,000 settler homes since the talks began. That number has grown further, with Israel unveiling 2,000 more, including 700 last week in the East Jerusalem settlement of Gilo.

For every settler home built, Palestinians lose territory needed not only for a state but also to keep individual families living where they are now. The innocuous term “settlements” conceals their true role: as Israel’s primary vehicle for ethnic cleansing Palestinians through dispossession and harassment.

Washington welcomed Falk’s departure, calling him a “noxious” presence. But his warnings have been echoed by others, including Israeli and Palestinian human rights organisations. Falk’s findings were also confirmed by a usually circumspect group: European Union diplomats. A leaked joint report by EU consulates in the occupied territories observed that ethnic cleansing was advancing at an ever-accelerating pace in East Jerusalem.

The diplomats’ immediate concern is a “conflagration” as Israel’s extreme right is allowed ever greater access to the supremely sensitive site of the Al Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Pushing to be given prayer rights there, the Israeli right hope they can eventually win from their government a partition of the site, as occurred earlier at the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron. There, the settlers’ control has effectively turned the once-thriving centre of Hebron into a Palestinian ghost town.

In East Jerusalem, Israel’s ethnic cleansing policies are at their most intense. As the EU notes, Palestinians have been starved of municipal funds, deprived of schools and blocked from commercial activity, and are leaving, heading for the greater security of West Bank cities.

In recent weeks, Palestinians in sections of East Jerusalem have even discovered that, despite its claims to treat Jerusalem as its “unified capital”, Israel has stopped supplying them with water.

Official data provide clues to Israel’s real intentions. This year’s first-quarter figures show that Israel sold more land to settlers for house building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem than it did for construction inside Israel itself. West Bank construction has more than doubled over the same period last year.

Last week a Knesset committee effectively stymied efforts to force the government to disclose how much it is spending on settlement construction. Nonetheless, left wing legislators managed to extract partial treasury figures showing that the settlement budget has increased by at least $143 million over the past six months, during the height of talks with the Palestinians.

In another sign of how Israel has been entrenching the settlements while paying lip-service to a peace process, the Israeli media revealed that 24 major infrastructure projects had been approved for the West Bank. They include more than $57 million for new settler roads and the first planned train service linking the settlements to Israel.

Israeli dispossession policies are not limited to the occupied territories. Foreign minister Avigodor Lieberman’s plan to redraw the borders to strip part of Israel’s large Palestinian minority of its citizenship received a major fillip last month. For the first time government lawyers rejected the opinion of international law experts and gave their blessing to what the liberal Haaretz daily called Lieberman’s programme of “ethnic cleansing” of its own citizens.

If negotiations collapse, it should be clear that, while both sides were supposed to be talking, one side – Israel – was vigorously and unilaterally acting to further its goals.

It now seems the Palestinian leadership will respond in kind, by pushing their bid for statehood at the UN. Israel has already threatened “punitive measures”, meaning things are likely to turn yet uglier. But the era of wishful thinking may finally be coming to an end – and that will be progress in itself.

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.

 

More articles by:

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.

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
June 23, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Democrats in the Dead Zone
Gary Leupp
Trump, Qatar and the Danger of Total Confusion
Andrew Levine
The “Democracies” We Deserve
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
The FBI’s “Operation Backfire” and the Case of Briana Waters
Rob Urie
Cannibal Corpse
Joseph G. Ramsey
Savage Calculations: On the Exoneration of Philando Castile’s Killer
John Wight
Trump’s Attack on Cuba
Dave Lindorff
We Need a Mass Movement to Demand Radical Progressive Change
Brian Cloughley
Moving Closer to Doom
David Rosen
The Sex Offender: the 21st Century Witch
John Feffer
All Signs Point to Trump’s Coming War With Iran
Jennifer L. Lieberman
What’s Really New About the Gig Economy?
Pete Dolack
Analyzing the Failures of Syriza
Vijay Prashad
The Russian Nexus
Mike Whitney
Putin Tries to Avoid a Wider War With the US
Gregory Barrett
“Realpolitik” in Berlin: Merkel Fawns Over Kissinger
Louis Yako
The Road to Understanding Syria Goes Through Iraq
Graham Peebles
Grenfell Tower: A Disaster Waiting to Happen
Ezra Rosser
The Poverty State of Mind and the State’s Obligations to the Poor
Ron Jacobs
Andrew Jackson and the American Psyche
Pepe Escobar
Fear and Loathing on the Afghan Silk Road
Lawrence Davidson
On Hidden Cultural Corruptors
Andre Vltchek
Why I Reject Western Courts and Justice
Christopher Brauchli
The Routinization of Mass Shootings in America
Missy Comley Beattie
The Poor Need Not Apply
Martin Billheimer
White Man’s Country and the Iron Room
Joseph Natoli
What to Wonder Now
Tom Clifford
Hong Kong: the Chinese Meant Business
Thomas Knapp
The Castile Doctrine: Cops Without Consequences
Nyla Ali Khan
Borders Versus Memory
Binoy Kampmark
Death on the Road: Memory in Tim Winton’s Shrine
Tony McKenna
The Oily Politics of Unity: Owen Smith as Northern Ireland Shadow Secretary
Nizar Visram
If North Korea Didn’t Exist US Would Create It
John Carroll Md
At St. Catherine’s Hospital, Cite Soleil, Haiti
Kenneth Surin
Brief Impressions of the Singaporean Conjucture
Paul C. Bermanzohn
Trump: the Birth of the Hero
Jill Richardson
Trump on Cuba: If Obama Did It, It’s Bad
Olivia Alperstein
Our President’s Word Wars
REZA FIYOUZAT
Useless Idiots or Useful Collaborators?
Clark T. Scott
Parallel in Significance
Louis Proyect
Hitler and the Lone Wolf Assassin
Julian Vigo
Theresa May Can’t Win for Losing
Richard Klin
Prog Rock: Pomp and Circumstance
Charles R. Larson
Review: Malin Persson Giolito’s “Quicksand”
David Yearsley
RIP: Pomp and Circumstance
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail