Here we go again, another round of Mideast peace talk kabuki.
A process in which Washington, Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization hold intense talks over holding talks, a ritual as stylized as the traditional Japanese dance. In the end, it’s the same empty, cynical ritual, year after year.
This past week, US Secretary of State John Kerry has been leading the dance in the latest attempt to restart peace talks between Israel and the Mahmoud Abbas’ PLO. As of this writing, the talks appear off. But they may be on again just as quickly. It depends on how much Washington offers its feuding clients, Israel and the PLO.
Watching this annual charade is both painful and exhausting. It makes cynics of the most idealistic hopers for Mideast peace.
Israel holds all the cards, and knows it. Jewish settlements, roads, and security walls are roaring ahead, relentlessly gobbling up the occupied West Bank, Golan and their water resources. West Bank Palestinians are being crammed into future native Bantustans patterned after South Africa’s apartheid-era reservations for blacks.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who vows there will be no Palestinian state, appears to have an impregnable hold on power. Israel’s economy is doing very well, thanks in part to billions in US economic and military aid, privileged access to the US market, and exports of arms and electronics. Israel’s high tech and medical industries are among the world’s leaders. New gas and oil finds between Israel and Cyprus may make Israel an energy exporter within a decade.
The United States has eliminated any possible Arab military challenge to Israel’s absolute military domination of the Mideast by destroying Iraq as a functioning state and then fueling Syria’s civil war. Egypt, once Israel’s leading foe, has been bought off by American money.
Israel has finished deploying an indestructible triad of nuclear forces based on missiles, aircraft and, most lately, submarines that can fire cruise or, possibly, ballistic missiles, all targeted by Israeli and US satellite networks. This means that Israel can survive any nuclear attack and retaliate in kind against attackers. Israel’s Mideast nuclear monopoly remains secure.
Equally important, Israel, through its American supporters, effectively guides much of America’s Mideast policy. Almost 50% of Republican voters are now rural born-again Christian Zionists for whom Israel is an essential part of their Biblical prophecy of the return of the Messiah.
President Barack Obama’s feeble efforts to press Israel into real peace negotiations with the Palestinians were quickly squashed by the pro-Israel lobby and its partisans in Congress. Netanyahu probably exerts more influence over the US Congress than President Obama.
Moreover, Israel is “negotiating” with a PLO that has become a sock puppet for the US and Israel after its former leader, Yasser Arafat, was very likely assassinated to make way for the compliant Mahmoud Abbas. The PLO is run and financed by the US and Israel, its security forces trained and directed by CIA, its intelligence agency an arm of Israel’s Mossad. Its elected rival, Hamas, remains jailed in Gaza.
Yet even this is not enough. Netanyahu now demands the Arabs recognized Israel as a “Jewish state,” knowing this is unacceptable. Twenty percent of Israel’s population is Christian and Muslim.
Tragically, Israel right wing parties have spurned the sensible 2002 peace offer led by Saudi Arabia. The plan calls for a withdrawal to 1967 borders, with some minor rectifications for large Jewish settlement blocs, full peace and recognition between Israel and 57 Muslim nations, and a “just” solution to the Palestinian refugee crisis – meaning some token repatriation of refugees and compensation for Jews who fled the Arab world.
This is clearly the best solution. But it is rejected by Israel’s Likud Party and other rightists because they refuse to define Israel’s borders. As the late Israeli Moishe Dayan stated, it is up to god, not man, to determine Israel’s future growth. Israel’s right wingers have long looked with desire upon Lebanon and parts of Syria. Baghdad once had a large Jewish population.
Why sacrifice all this for the sake of little Palestinian rump state that will anyway become an Israeli protectorate? Just keep talking about talks while the bulldozers roar ahead.