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/

February 20, 2019
Anthony DiMaggio
Withdrawal Pains and Syrian Civil War: An Analysis of U.S. Media Discourse
Charles Pierson
When Saudi Arabia Gets the Bomb
Doug Johnson Hatlem
“Electability” is Real (Unless Married with the Junk Science of Ideological Spectrum Analysis)
Kenneth Surin
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline: Another Boondoggle in Virginia
John Feffer
The Psychology of the Wall
Dean Baker
Modern Monetary Theory and Taxing the Rich
Russell Mokhiber
Citizens Arrested Calling Out Manchin on Rockwool
George Ochenski
Unconstitutional Power Grabs
Michael T. Klare
War With China? It’s Already Under Way
Thomas Knapp
The Real Emergency Isn’t About the Wall, It’s About the Separation of Powers
Manuel García, Jr.
Two Worlds
Daniel Warner
The Martin Ennals and Victorian Prize Winners Contrast with Australia’s Policies against Human Dignity
Norman Solomon
What the Bernie Sanders 2020 Campaign Means for Progressives
Dan Corjescu
2020 Vision: A Strategy of Courage
Matthew Johnson
Why Protest Trump When We Can Impeach Him?
William A. Cohn
Something New and Something Old: a Story Still Being Told
Bill Martin
The Fourth Hypothesis: the Present Juncture of the Trump Clarification and the Watershed Moment on the Washington Mall
February 19, 2019
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Troublesome Possibilities: The Left and Tulsi Gabbard
Patrick Cockburn
She Didn’t Start the Fire: Why Attack the ISIS Bride?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Literature and Theater During War: Why Euripides Still Matters
Maximilian Werner
The Night of Terror: Wyoming Game and Fish’s Latest Attempt to Close the Book on the Mark Uptain Tragedy
Conn Hallinan
Erdogan is Destined for Another Rebuke in Turkey
Nyla Ali Khan
Politics of Jammu and Kashmir: The Only Viable Way is Forward
Mark Ashwill
On the Outside Looking In: an American in Vietnam
Joyce Nelson
Sir Richard Branson’s Venezuelan-Border PR Stunt
Ron Jacobs
Day of Remembrance and the Music of Anthony Brown        
Cesar Chelala
Women’s Critical Role in Saving the Environment
February 18, 2019
Paul Street
31 Actual National Emergencies
Robert Fisk
What Happened to the Remains of Khashoggi’s Predecessor?
David Mattson
When Grizzly Bears Go Bad: Constructions of Victimhood and Blame
Julian Vigo
USMCA’s Outsourcing of Free Speech to Big Tech
George Wuerthner
How the BLM Serves the West’s Welfare Ranchers
Christopher Fons
The Crimes of Elliot Abrams
Thomas Knapp
The First Rule of AIPAC Is: You Do Not Talk about AIPAC
Mitchel Cohen
A Tale of Two Citations: Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” and Michael Harrington’s “The Other America”
Jake Johnston
Haiti and the Collapse of a Political and Economic System
Dave Lindorff
It’s Not Just Trump and the Republicans
Laura Flanders
An End to Amazon’s Two-Bit Romance. No Low-Rent Rendezvous.
Patrick Walker
Venezuelan Coup Democrats Vomit on Green New Deal
Natalie Dowzicky
The Millennial Generation Will Tear Down Trump’s Wall
Nick Licata
Of Stress and Inequality
Joseph G. Ramsey
Waking Up on President’s Day During the Reign of Donald Trump
Elliot Sperber
Greater Than Food
Weekend Edition
February 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Matthew Hoh
Time for Peace in Afghanistan and an End to the Lies
Chris Floyd
Pence and the Benjamins: An Eternity of Anti-Semitism
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail