The world is once again being treated to yet another round in the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process” charade. The “usual suspects” are posturing, pronouncements are being made, speeches are being given, and hints and rumors about a supposed “toughening” in the US Government’s approach to Israel are filtering out from the press. We are supposed to think that something different is about to happen, and that, as the old American folk song had it, “The times, they are a-changing.”
Arranging the Stage
It is all nonsense. The whole exercise strikes me as what the old Soviet Army used to call a maskirovka, sort of a complex strategic masquerade on steroids, with rehearsed actors playing their scripted roles before a fully aware and involved audience, and that includes the head of the American NSC and his “leaked” memos. There may be some blunter words said to Netanyahu than he (or other Israeli prime ministers) have heard in a while, but it isn’t unprecedented. Former President Reagan was VERY pro-Israeli, but he got so incensed at Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon that he reportedly yelled at then-Israeli Prime Minister Begin and deployed Marines with naval support to block them around Beirut. And regardless of how the intervention ended, there were occasions when US Marines and Israeli troops came right up to the edge of a full-scale fire-fight, and I was assured at the time by several Marine officers who were there that they were fully prepared to slug it out with the IDF if that was required, and the 6th Fleet had standing orders to go to the mat in their support if that happened – a far cry from 1967, when it had stood back in the face of the deliberate Israeli air and naval attack on the USS Liberty that killed or wounded more than 200 American sailors and Marines.
Today that would never happen, of course, or the US Navy & Marine Corps would have punched a hole through the Israeli blockade on Gaza and ended their assault on it a few months ago. They didn’t, and President Obama wouldn’t have sent them in, either — most of the rest of the world has been outraged by the brutal Israeli action that killed over 1400 Palestinians and wounded thousands more, the majority of them women and children, but all Obama does is talk about America’s undying commitment to the security of “our staunch ally Israel,” while the US Congress declaims its support of “poor, brave little Israel”
What is going to happen is that stories will leak about “full & frank” discussions between Obama & Netanyahu, and then after hemming and hawing for a while, Netanyahu will grudgingly agree to negotiations leading towards a two-state solution, he will be praised as a “man of peace” (just like Ariel Sharon, right?), and that pot will just keep boiling and boiling until both Obama and Netanyahu go away, or the war with Iran starts and everyone else forgets about the Palestinians, at which point more Jewish settlements go up in the West Bank, more Palestinian homes are demolished in East Jerusalem, and the Israelis invade Gaza again. Q.E.D.
What two states?
Besides, the two-state solution is a dead-in-the-water derelict, and given the Israeli attitude, probably always was. For it to be viable, three things would absolutely have to happen. First, all Israeli settlements would have to be withdrawn from the West Bank and Palestinian refugees allowed to return without Israeli interference. That isn’t going to happen — aside from party positions and other things, can you see Netanyahu telling his favored foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman to pack his suitcase and abandon his home in a West Bank settlement? He won’t, the settlements will stay, and that means the larger piece of this so-called “second state” would have about a half-million armed Jewish settlers in its midst, plus regular Israeli army patrols, plus the fence, plus border guards and check points…and so on.
Second, a viable Palestinian state would have to be sufficiently well armed to make the Israelis think ten times before doing a Gaza strike in either part, and the Israelis flat out won’t go there — the most they’ll accept is a lightly-armed Palestinian police force, because (as they showed in Gaza) policemen can be killed very easily by tactical aircraft, heavy artillery and main battle tanks. This has nothing to do with fear of attack from Palestinians — Israel’s own massive nuclear arsenal and powerful air force utterly negate that option — but with minimizing their own casualties the next time they decide to terrorize the Palestinians.
And last, a viable Palestinian state would need armed guarantees from other nations — a permanent international naval force off Gaza to keep its coast open, heavily armed ground forces in both parts to ensure that an Israeli invasion would hit them first and suffer doing so, and at least one carrier battle group off the coast for air and missile and electronics support. That would close off Israel’s military option against Palestine, so of course they won’t do this, either. So nothing the Palestinians need to be viable and safe will happen, which means there is no two-state solution, and since the US has already announced it won’t employ sanctions or penalties against Israel no matter what (which is why the AIPAC audience applauded Biden….), the whole thing is just propaganda. Harsh language without tangible penalties is meaningless, and ALL of the key players on all sides know this. And that’s the end of it.
Playing the Players
Looking beyond the two-state political zombie requires one to look at the key players. Aside from their impoverishment, geographical separation and vulnerability, about the only cards the Palestinians hold are a willingness to persevere and a comparable willingness to die. The misbegotten Palestinian Authority (PA) is so useless, and its top leaders — Arafat as well as Abbas — have been so bad, that I cannot decide if it and they are creations of Mossad, or simply tolerated to ensure that nothing much better will come along. Hamas is better for Palestinians, of course, which is why it won the election a few years ago, and it is for that reason more than any other that the Jewish lobbies in the US and elsewhere have made its presence in negotiations all but unthinkable. It isn’t because of Hamas involvement in what Israelis call “terrorism” and the Palestinians call “resistance” — most newly-independent countries after WWII, including Israel itself, have been led by parties whose roots were just like Hamas — but because Hamas has more legitimacy and effectiveness than the Palestinian Authority, and is less of a toady to the Israelis, so of course Israel opposes it. It wants a weak, hapless and inept Palestinian leadership, and in Abbas and the PA today it assuredly has what it wants.
Israel itself is a fascinating case study in the principle that people often acquire the worst habits of their oppressors, for the dominant Israeli attitude — openly expressed in their English-language press and blogs, and on news websites outside of the US where criticism of Israel is still permissible — views Arabs generally and Palestinians in particular much the way their last oppressors viewed Jews. Certainly, state-sponsored military Schrecklichkeit (“frightfulness” or “terror”) by these “kosher Nazis” is at the core of their policy towards Palestine, which apparently assumes that if they kill enough Palestinian children and make life sufficiently miserable for the rest, the Palestinians will finally succumb and serve their masters — “ethnic cleansing” these days just being so messy diplomatically. And even when an Israeli government comes to power whose key leaders — Netanyahu and Lieberman — make the neo-Nazi NPD in Germany seem almost moderate, and apartheid-era South Africa look positively liberal, no government in Europe or the United States dares say so and act accordingly. What we get instead is yet another Holocaust memorial, intended less to try to excuse what Jews do to Palestinians today, than to humiliate Europeans and Americans by reminding them of what they did (or did not do) during the Holocaust, as a way of encouraging them to keep out of Israel’s affairs today. And so far it works for them.
As for the United States, the Jewish lobbies together constitute another fascinating case study in history’s only successful takeover of a major power’s central government from within by a domestic Fifth Column, serving the interests of a foreign country. Money, manipulation of political appointments, and management of news and views are the name of the dominance game, and it is a game Jerusalem has played expertly. If anyone ever doubted the extent to which the majority of the US Government has been well and truly bought or compromised, Congressional votes in support of Israel during and after the most recent assault on Gaza, US vetoes of even half-hearted UN attempts to bring Israel to heel and hold it to account, and Bush’s endorsement of Israel’s “right to defend itself”
There is only one possible fly in this ointment, from the Israeli perspective, and it is the only one that anyone wishing to unravel this Gordian knot can exploit: American public opinion. At present, a large majority of Americans support Israel, having been fed a steady diet for decades of Israeli “victimization” in the face of Arab “barbarism.” But that support is, as the saying goes in America, “a mile wide and an inch deep,” and AIPAC and company know this, which is why they work so hard to filter what most Americans see, hear and read about the Middle East. But it is a filter that is starting to weaken — more and more Americans surf the internet and encounter very different views, a difference that is reflected in growing criticism of Israel and of US support for it, something that would have been almost impossible even a decade ago. Disrupt this pro-Israel filter, make historical events like the Israeli assault on the USS Liberty and the IDF’s murder of a young American woman named Rachel Corrie household words in the US, bring images of ravaged Gaza into American homes, and watch the world start to change — because it can. And the technology is there to do this.