FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Israel Wants a Peace Process, But Only If It’s Doomed to Fail

shutterstock_381326254

Nazareth.

In a familiar muddying of the waters, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has spent the past week talking up peace while fiercely criticising Friday’s summit in France – the only diplomatic initiative on the horizon.

As foreign ministers from 29 nations arrived for a one-day meeting in Paris, Netanyahu dusted off the tired argument that any sign of diplomatic support for Palestinians would encourage from them “extreme demands”.

France hopes the meeting will serve as a prelude to launching a peace process later in the year. French president Francois Hollande said he hoped to achieve a “peace [that] will be solid, sustainable and under international supervision”.

With astounding chutzpah, Israeli official Dore Gold compared the summit to the “height of colonialism” a century ago, when Britain and France carved up the Middle East between them. He conveniently overlooked the fact that it was the same British colonialism that promised a Jewish “homeland” in place of the native Palestinian population.

Earlier, Netanyahu and his new defence minister, the far-right Avigdor Lieberman, had publicly committed themselves to an “unceasing search for a path to peace”.

In a two-minute interview on CNN, spokesman David Keyes managed to mention the formula “two states for two peoples” no less than five times.

Rather than the French initiative, Netanyahu averred, Israelis and Palestinians should be left to engage in the kind of face-to-face talks “without preconditions” that have repeatedly failed. That is because Israel, as the much stronger party, has been able to void them by imposing its own conditions.

Netanyahu, it seems, is keen on any peace process, just so long as it’s not the current one launched in Paris.

Part of the reason for bringing Lieberman into the government was to provide more diplomatic wriggle room. With Lieberman cementing Netanyahu’s credentials with the far-right, he is now free to spout vague platitudes about peace knowing that his coalition partners are unlikely to take him at his word and bolt the government.

But while the domestic front has been secured, rumbles of dissent reverberate abroad.

Europe is increasingly fearful that an emboldened Israeli government may soon annex all or major parts of the West Bank, stymying any hope of creating even a severely truncated Palestinian state.

The Paris conference is a sign of the mounting desperation in Europe to restrain Israel.

While France is not about to engineer a breakthrough, Netanyahu is nonetheless worried.

It is the first time Israel has faced being dragged into talks not presided over by its Washington patron. That risks setting a dangerous precedent.

Although US secretary of state John Kerry attended, he was decidedly cool towards the summit. Yet Netanyahu worries that this time Washington may not be able – or willing – to watch his back.

If the conference leads to talks later in the year, that will be when Barack Obama is preparing to bow out as president. Netanyahu is afraid of surprises. Israeli officials have been in near-panic that Obama may seek payback for the years of humiliation he endured from Netanyahu.

One way might be for Washington to agree to French oversight of the talks, following a tight timetable and establishing diplomatic “teams” to solve final-status issues.

Even if negotiations fail, as seems inevitable, parameters for future talks might be established.

Netanyahu also knows that the wider atmosphere is likely to leave him singled out as the intransigent party.

A report by the Quartet, due soon, is expected to criticise Israel for its past failure to take steps towards peace. And a report last week by a joint team of US and Israeli defence experts suggested Israel’s “security concerns” about Palestinian statehood are not as intractable as claimed.

Netanyahu wants instead to deflect attention to a “regional peace summit”. The key has been Egypt’s support for a revival of direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, based on the Arab Peace Plan of 2002. It promised Israel normal relations with the Arab world in return for ending the occupation.

Israel’s sudden interest in the plan is odd, given that it has not been discussed in cabinet since the Saudis unveiled it 14 years ago.

In truth, Netanyahu backs the idea because he knows reaching a region-wide agreement would be impossible with the Middle East in turmoil.

Israeli officials have already insisted that parts of the 2002 plan need “updating”. Israel, for example, wants sovereignty over the Golan, Syrian territory it seized in 1967, and which currently promises newfound oil riches.

At the summit, the Saudi foreign minister said Israeli efforts to “water down” the plan would be opposed. Egyptian officials have hurried to distance themselves from the Netanyahu proposal and throw their weight behind the Paris process.

Still, Israel will try to ride out the French initiative until Obama’s successor is installed next year. Then, Netanyahu hopes, he can forget about the threat of two states once and for all.

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 http://www.jonathan-cook.net/

Weekend Edition
November 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jonah Raskin
A California Jew in a Time of Anti-Semitism
Andrew Levine
Whither the Melting Pot?
Joshua Frank
Climate Change and Wildfires: The New Western Travesty
Nick Pemberton
The Revolution’s Here, Please Excuse Me While I Laugh
T.J. Coles
Israel Cannot Use Violent Self-Defense While Occupying Gaza
Rob Urie
Nuclear Weapons are a Nightmare Made in America
Paul Street
Barack von Obamenburg, Herr Donald, and Big Capitalist Hypocrisy: On How Fascism Happens
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fire is Sweeping Our Very Streets Today
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s New President, Other European Fools and the Abyss 
Pete Dolack
“Winners” in Amazon Sweepstakes Sure to be the Losers
Richard Eskow
Amazon, Go Home! Billions for Working People, But Not One Cent For Tribute
Ramzy Baroud
In Breach of Human Rights, Netanyahu Supports the Death Penalty against Palestinians
Brian Terrell
Ending the War in Yemen- Congressional Resolution is Not Enough!
John Laforge
Woolsey Fire Burns Toxic Santa Susana Reactor Site
Ralph Nader
The War Over Words: Republicans Easily Defeat the Democrats
M. G. Piety
Reading Plato in the Time of the Oligarchs
Rafael Correa
Ecuador’s Soft Coup and Political Persecution
Brian Cloughley
Aid Projects Can Work, But Not “Head-Smacking Stupid Ones”
David Swanson
A Tale of Two Marines
Robert Fantina
Democrats and the Mid-Term Elections
Joseph Flatley
The Fascist Creep: How Conspiracy Theories and an Unhinged President Created an Anti-Semitic Terrorist
Joseph Natoli
Twitter: Fast Track to the Id
William Hawes
Baselines for Activism: Brecht’s Stance, the New Science, and Planting Seeds
Bob Wing
Toward Racial Justice and a Third Reconstruction
Ron Jacobs
Hunter S. Thompson: Chronicling the Republic’s Fall
Oscar Gonzalez
Stan Lee and a Barrio Kid
Jack Rasmus
Election 2018 and the Unraveling of America
Sam Pizzigati
The Democrats Won Big, But Will They Go Bold?
Yves Engler
Canada and Saudi Arabia: Friends or Enemies?
Cesar Chelala
Can El Paso be a Model for Healing?
Mike Ferner
The Tragically Misnamed Paris Peace Conference
Barry Lando
Trump’s Enablers: Appalling Parallels
Ariel Dorfman
The Boy Who Taught Me About War and Peace
Binoy Kampmark
The Disgruntled Former Prime Minister
Faisal Khan
Is Dubai Really a Destination of Choice?
Arnold August
The Importance of Néstor García Iturbe, Cuban Intellectual
James Munson
An Indecisive War To End All Wars, I Mean the Midterm Elections
Nyla Ali Khan
Women as Repositories of Communal Values and Cultural Traditions
Dan Bacher
Judge Orders Moratorium on Offshore Fracking in Federal Waters off California
Christopher Brauchli
When Depravity Wins
Robby Sherwin
Here’s an Idea
Susan Block
Cucks, Cuckolding and Campaign Management
Louis Proyect
The Mafia and the Class Struggle (Part Two)
David Yearsley
Smoke on the Water: Jazz in San Francisco
Elliot Sperber
All of Those Bezos
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail