Sunday,22 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1141, 28 March - 3 April 2013
Sunday,22 July, 2018
Issue 1141, 28 March - 3 April 2013

Ahram Weekly

Obama’s peace fraud

Obama’s visit to Israel this week achieved nothing, least of all a halt to the building of illegal Israeli settlements,
writes Stuart Littlewood

Al-Ahram Weekly

Israeli activist Miko Peled doesn’t mince his words. “The Israeli-Palestinian issue is, politically, a toxic wasteland that no US president in his right mind would want to clean up. It has become a vicious cycle of deceit and double standards, and it will contaminate any US politician who tries to clean it up,” he said.
And one after another, they run away from the challenge. And so it has been with President Barack Obama. This week the world’s greatest peace fraud came to the Holy Land and funked it. Frankly, if that’s the best he can do after four years in the job, he has no business calling himself a world leader.
But I don’t necessarily agree with Peled’s remarks. Any US president who fails to drain the stinking swamp in his backyard — in other words, the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) — deserves to be consigned to the wastepaper basket of history.
A president who ruthlessly cleaned up, however, would be revered big-time.
Take the fiasco over the confirmation of Chuck Hagel as US defence secretary. This was watched elsewhere in the world with bewilderment and disbelief. At the hearing, Hagel appeared flat-footed and unprepared for obvious questions. Even if it was expedient to play the Zionist lackey, he needn’t have come across as being so wimpish. The public don’t necessarily understand such chicanery. Who could blame them for wondering what sort of impression Hagel was likely to create in the diplomatic drawing rooms of the world?
A more robust plan would have been to send in a stalking-horse, specially trained by the UK politician George Galloway (and suitably compensated), to swat the inquisitorial bar-flies for the threat to US interests that they are. This sacrificial candidate’s fate would be rejection, but the process would have electrified the media, American voters and world audiences, and it would have inflicted serious damage on the Israel lobby’s hirelings. With their fangs drawn and venom spent, Obama could then have put forward his “real” candidate with dignity.
As it was, the lack of steel is now indelibly etched on everyone’s memory in the US and abroad.
Peled is the son of an Israeli general and is himself a former soldier in the Israeli army. He calls the Israel Defence Force (IDF) “one of the best trained and best equipped and best fed terrorist organisations in the world.” In a fascinating talk he explained that “the name of the game: erasing Palestine, getting rid of the people and de-Arabising the country… When people talk about the possibility of Israel somehow giving up the West Bank for a Palestinian state, if it wasn’t so sad it would be funny. It shows a complete misunderstanding of the objective of Zionism and the Zionist state.”
You couldn’t find a more authentic inside source. He confirms what many have known and been saying for years.
In their excellent Crosstalk programme “Obama’s Israel Trip,” commentators Norman Finkelstein and Mouin Rabbani strip away the nonsense politicians use to conceal the truth of what’s happening in the Holy Land. In answer to the question, “why is Obama going to the Middle East now and what does he want to achieve?”, here are some of their comments.
Rabbani begins by saying that the peace process is not on the agenda. The Israeli government, post-election, is too new to have any serious discussion with. In the past, the Palestinian leadership has favoured talks simply as a distraction from the awful situation on the ground. But now things are so dire that renewed talks might pose more of a threat that an opportunity to the leadership.
Finkelstein maintains that there is no reason why Obama would wish to talk about a peace process that interferes with “the serious work” of annexing the West Bank. In any case the Palestinian people have been “pacified” and the Palestinian Authority can’t do anything without US permission.
There never was a peace process, he says. It has always been an annexation process, and right now there are no restraints, no inhibitions, on Israel’s pursuit of this policy.
Finkelstein points to the shift in public opinion against Israel in recent years. But two inhibiting factors remain: first, the US government and its vetoes at the UN; and second, the Palestinians themselves, who are in no frame of mind to organise mass disobedience and resistance — in Finkelstein’s view, “the only thing that can possibly force Israel to withdraw.”
It is up to the Palestinians, he suggests, to mobilise these forces and to trigger worldwide support movements. A combination of mass resistance by the Palestinian people in concert with support from the United Nations, the international community and public opinion, is the only likely solution. It would isolate the US and force an Israeli withdrawal. This prospect becomes more real as Israel’s credibility dwindles.
Finkelstein is of the opinion that the sham peace process — “political theatre” as he calls it — has poisoned and confused the minds of intelligent people. Rabbani feels that the Palestinian leadership should disengage from the meaningless diplomacy sponsored by the US and move towards an “internationalisation” of the question and solve it on the basis of international consensus.
This programme ought to be compulsory viewing for those who still harp on about restarting “peace talks”.
On the ground, the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was reported to have signaled a willingness to return to peace talks if Israel agreed to an “unannounced” (ie secret) settlement freeze during the period of negotiations. At the same time, the democratically elected prime minister of Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, who perversely was not invited to meet Obama because he’s the wrong flavour (Hamas), declared that “we believe that American policies perpetuate the Israeli occupation and settlements in Palestine under a slogan of peace.”
Another Hamas spokesman, Sami Zohri, said that Obama’s renewed commitment to Israel’s security while ignoring the Palestinians’ sufferings affirmed his country’s blind support for Israel. This exposed as nonsense any idea that America could play a positive role in the region. He urged an end to security co-ordination between the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and the Israeli occupation.
Respected Palestinian writer Khaled Amayreh remarked that Obama was expected to cajole the weak and pliant Palestinian leadership of Abbas to give “peace” another chance by returning to futile negotiations with Israel, while the latter continued to steal more Palestinian land and build more Jewish colonies for Jewish settlers.
As soon as he touched down in Israel last week, Obama was gushing. “Why does the United States stand so strongly, so firmly with the state of Israel?” he asked. “The answer is simple. We stand together because we share a common story — patriots determined to be a free people in our land, pioneers who forged a nation.”
Somehow, I doubt if ordinary Americans would wish to be compared to the invading Zionist thugs who drove the Palestinians off their land, bulldozed their homes, and cruelly imprisoned those that have remained in the shredded remnants of their territory for the last 65 years — and did it with billions of dollars squeezed from taxpaying Americans.
According to Ma’an News, Obama did finally say something about Israel’s settlements. “One of the challenges has been continued settlement activity in the West Bank area, and I’ve been clear with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the other Israeli leaders that it has been United States policy, not just in my administration but in all preceding administrations, that we do not consider continued settlement activity to be constructive, to be appropriate, to be something that can advance the cause of peace. So I don’t think there’s been any confusion about what our position is.”
Settlements are illegal, nothing less, and Obama needs to remind Netanyahu (and himself) of that fact. There remains considerable confusion over the US position, especially since Reuters reported that Obama had stopped short of calling for a halt to settlement expansion and offered no new ideas on how to get the two sides negotiating again.
“If the expectation is that we can only have direct negotiations when everything is settled ahead of time, then there’s no point in the negotiations,” he said.
No point at all, Mr Obama. Most of it was settled long ago by international law and a raft of UN resolutions. Upholding those rulings is, of course, a precondition to any negotiation. Why insist on more “negotiations without preconditions” unless it’s to buy Israel time to complete its illegal annexation?

The writer is the author of Radio Free Palestine.

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