The mirage of Israeli-Palestinian peace

As the U.S. imposed April 29 deadline for a framework agreement Israel and Palestine, time is also running out for the U.S.

Ramzy Baroud

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As the U.S. imposed April 29 deadline for a framework agreement between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority looms, time is also running out for the American administration itself. The Obama administration must now conjure up an escape route to avoid a political crisis -- if the talks are to fail, as they surely will.

Chances are the Americans knew well that peace under the current circumstances is simply not attainable. The Israeli government’s coalition is so adamantly anti-Arab, anti-peace and against any kind of agreement that would fall short from endorsing the Israeli apartheid-like occupation, predicated on colonial expansion, annexations of borders, land confiscation, and control of holy places.

Ideally for Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies in the right, far-right and ultranationalists, Palestinians would need to be crammed in disjointed communities, separated from each other by walls, Jewish settlements, Jewish-only bypass roads, checkpoints, security fences, and a large concentration of Israeli military presence including permanent Israeli control of the Jordan Valley.

In fact, while politicians tirelessly speak of peace, the above is the exact “vision” that the Israelis had in mind almost immediately following the 1967 war — the final conquest of all of historic Palestine and occupation of Arab lands.

Israel ‘not interested’ in peace making

Palestinians are currently paying the price of earlier Israeli visions, where Vladimir Jabotinsky’s “Iron Wall” of 1923 was coupled with the Allon plan, named after Yigal Allon, a former general and minister in the Israeli government, who took on the task of drawing an Israeli design for the newly conquered Palestinian territories in 1967.

Not only would it not make any sense for a Zionist leader like Netanyahu, backed by one of the most right-wing governments in Israeli history, to bargain with Palestinians on what he considers to be the whole land of Israel. He has shown no desire, not even the most minuscule, to reach an agreement that would provide Palestinians with any of their rightful demands, true sovereignty notwithstanding.

According to the report, it turned out that Kerry’s ambitious peace agenda was no more than a rehash of everything that Israel tried to impose by force or diplomacy and Palestinians had consistently rejected.

Ramzy Baroud

It is implausible that the Americans were unaware of Israel’s lack of interest in the whole undertaking. For one, Israeli extremists like Naftali Bennett, Israel’s minister of economy and the head of the rightwing political party the Jewish Home, are constantly reminding the U.S. through unconstrained insults that Israel is simply not interested in peace-making efforts. The Americans persist, however, for reasons that are hardly related to peace or justice.

Previous administrations suffered unmitigated failures in the past as they invested time, effort, resources, and reputation, even to a greater extent than to Obama’s, in order to broker an agreement. There are the familiar explanations of why they failed, including the objection to any U.S. pressure on Israel by the pro-Israel Zionist lobby in Washington, which remains very strong despite setbacks. The lobby maintains a stronghold on the U.S. Congress in all matters related to Israel and Israeli interests anywhere.

Same story, different day

Preparing for the foreseeable failure, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry remained secretive about his plans, leaving analysts in suspense over what is being discussed between Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’s negotiators and the Israeli government. From the very start, Kerry downgraded expectations.

But the secrecy didn’t last for long. According to Palestinian sources cited in Al-Quds newspaper, Abbas had pulled out of a meeting with the secretary of state in Paris late February because Kerry’s proposal didn’t meet the minimum of Palestinian expectations.

According to the report, it turned out that Kerry’s ambitious peace agenda was no more than a rehash of everything that Israel tried to impose by force or diplomacy and Palestinians had consistently rejected; things like, reducing the Palestinian aspiration of a Jerusalem capital into a tiny East Jerusalem neighborhood and allowing Israel to keep 10 large settlement blocks built illegally on Palestinian land, aside from a land swap meant to accommodate Israel’s security needs.

Moreover, the Jordan Valley would not be part of any future Palestinian state, nor would international forces be allowed there either. In other words, Israel would maintain the occupation under any other name, except that the Palestinian Authority would be allowed a level of autonomy over Palestinian population centers. It is hard to understand how Kerry’s proposal is any different from the current reality on the ground.

Most commentary dealing with the latest U.S. push for a negotiated agreement would go as far back as Bush’s Roadmap of 2002, the Arab peace initiative earlier the same year, or even the Oslo accords of 1993.

A history of peace talks

What is often ignored is the fact that the peace process is a political invention by hard-liner U.S. politician Henry Kissinger. The idea was to co-opt the Arabs following the Israeli military victory of 1967; the sudden expansion of Israel’s borders into various Arab borders, with full U.S. support and reinforcement.

It was Kissinger himself who lobbied for massive U.S. arms to Israel that changed the course of the 1973 war, and he was the man who worked to secure Israeli gains through diplomacy.

While many are quick to conclude that the peace process has been a historical failure, the bleak estimation discounts that the intent behind the peace process was never to secure a lasting peace, but Israeli military gains.

In that sense, it has been a splendid success. Over the years, however, the peace process became an American investment in the Middle East, a status quo in itself, and a reason for political relevance. During the administration of both Bushes, father and son, the peace process went hand in hand with the Iraq war.

The Madrid Peace Talks in 1991 were initiated following the U.S.-led war in Kuwait and Iraq and was meant to balance out the extreme militancy that had gripped and destabilized the region. George W. Bush’s roadmap fell between the war on Afghanistan and months before the war on Iraq.

Bush was heavily criticized for being a war president and for having no peace vision. The roadmap, which was drafted with the help of pro-Israel neoconservative elements in his administration in consultation with the lobby and heavy amendments by the Israeli government, was Bush’s peace overture.

Naturally, the roadmap failed. Bush senior’s insincere drive for peace had helped maintain the peace process charade until Bill Clinton arrived to the scene and kick started the make-believe process once more.

In the last four decades, the peace process has become an American diplomatic staple in the region. It is an investment that goes hand in hand with their support of Israel and interest in energy supplies. It is an end in itself and is infused regularly for reasons other than genuine peace.

Now that Kerry’s deadline of a framework agreement is quickly approaching, all parties must be preparing for all possibilities.

Ultimately, the Americans are keen on maintaining the peace process charade. The Palestinian Authority is desperate to survive and Israel needs to expand settlements unhindered by a Palestinian uprising or unnecessary international attention. But will they succeed?

This article was first published in Arab News on April 1, 2014.

Palestinian-American journalist, author, editor, Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) taught Mass Communication at Australia's Curtin University of Technology, and is Editor-in-Chief of the Palestine Chronicle. Baroud's work has been published in hundreds of newspapers and journals worldwide and his books “His books “Searching Jenin: Eyewitness Accounts of the Israeli Invasion” and “The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle” have received international recognition. Baroud’s third book, “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story” narrates the story of the life of his family, used as a representation of millions of Palestinians in Diaspora, starting in the early 1940’s until the present time.

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