Israel’s Other “Peace” Plan

Arm-twisting Obama

A ghost haunted the meeting of the Arab League in Libya at the weekend, as its foreign ministers decided to give a little more time to the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

That ghost was the Camp David talks of summer 2000, when US President Bill Clinton publicly held Yasser Arafat, the then-Palestinian leader, responsible for the breakdown of the negotiations, despite an earlier promise to blame neither side if they failed.

Mr Clinton’s finger-pointing breathed life into the accusation from Ehud Barak, Israel’s prime minister, that there was “no Palestinian partner for peace”; brought about the collapse of the Israeli peace movement, and ultimately sanctioned the decision of Mr Barak’s successor, Ariel Sharon, to invade the Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank.

A decade later, the Arab League ministers did not want to expose Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, to a similar charge from Barack Obama.

They therefore played the safest hand possible: they offered Washington another month’s breathing space to persuade Israel to renew a freeze on settlement building, while also supporting Mr Abbas’s decision to break off direct talks until the freeze was back in place.

The decision’s dual purpose was to throw the spotlight squarely back on Israel as the recalcitrant party, and allow the White House to continue to pretend the talks are still on track.

The League’s new deadline was chosen precisely to appease Washington. Mr Obama’s most pressing concern is shoring up his Democratic Party’s vote at the congressional midterm elections in early November. Neither Israel nor the Palestinians wants to be seen walking away from the president’s peace initiative before then.

Instead the Palestinians and Israelis concentrated on the blame game, thereby highlighting the fact that both think the talks are doomed. The Camp David talks lasted two weeks before collapsing; these negotiations have been on life support since they began more than a month ago.   “The Israeli government was given the choice between peace and settlements, and it has chosen settlements,” the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said last Friday.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, spun events the other way, arguing implausibly that the Palestinians should have engaged more decisively in talks during the 10-month partial freeze on settlement growth, which expired two weeks ago. “The questions need to be directed to the Palestinians: why are you abandoning the talks?” Mr Netanyhau said last Thursday.

Rather than investing wasted energy in doomed talks, the two sides appear to be adopting the same alternative strategy: cutting a deal directly with Washington that circumvents the other party.

At the weekend it was reported that Mr Abbas had told Arab leaders he was considering asking the US president to recognise a unilaterally declared Palestinian state in the whole of the West Bank.

Mr Erekat told Reuters another option might be a request for a United Nations Security Council resolution calling on member states to “recognise the state of Palestine on the 1967 borders”.

In the past, Washington has greeted such Palestinian proposals unenthusiastically. But threats by Mr Abbas to resign if the Israeli settlement freeze is not renewed – leaving no obvious successor – are intended to add to the pressure on the White House.

Mr Netanyahu, meanwhile, is reported to be working on a counter-offensive he hopes will win Washington’s approval. Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, officially confirmed to The Washington Post last week that the Obama administration had offered Israel a range of generous diplomatic, security and financial “incentives” to secure a few months’ extension of the partial moratorium on settlement building.

Mr Netanyahu is reported to have turned down the offer but only, it appears, because he believes he can win a more valuable concession. His real aim, the Israeli media reported last week, is to persuade the White House to reaffirm a promise made in a 2004 letter from Mr Obama’s predecessor, George W Bush, that Israel will not be required to withdraw to the pre-1967 borders in a peace deal.

Israeli officials understood that to mean the Americans would approve the annexation of the main settlements to Israel, allowing most of the half-million settlers to remain in place. The Obama administration has until now denied the pledge was ever made.

In exchange for Mr Obama’s endorsement of the promise, Mr Netanyahu might be willing to reimpose a short-term settlement freeze, arguing to his ministers that soon it would no longer apply to most of the settlements.

Ari Shavit, a columnist with Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, argued last week that arm-twisting the White House to honour Mr Bush’s commitment was “a win-win formula” for Mr Netanyahu.

Either Washington would be committed to Israel’s key demands in the talks or “US credibility” would be damaged. “Instead of Netanyahu being the dissenter, Obama will be the dissenter,” he wrote.

Mr Netanyahu, however, is stuck unless he can overcome opposition to a deal on a settlement freeze within his own cabinet, led by Avigdor Lieberman, the far-right foreign minister.

According to senior officials in the Labor Party, ostensibly the most dovish of Mr Netanyahu’s coalition partners, that explains the timing of his move to placate Mr Lieberman by backing a loyalty oath for non-Jews applying for citizenship.

Jonathan Cook, based in Nazareth, Israel is a winner of 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). Read other articles by Jonathan, or visit Jonathan's website.

9 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Ismail Zayid said on October 11th, 2010 at 9:57am #

    Arab and Palestinian leaders have to toe the line to Obama and Obama has to toe the line to Netanyahu. Thus, the settlements , though illegal and in violation with international law, will continue and remain and be guaranteed by Obama. The borders and authority of the designed Palestinian state will be determined by Netanyahu, with Obama’s support. This, in essence, is Israel’s new and old ‘peace’ plan. As to the Palestinian peole and their refugees, who cares about them?! Not even their own leaders seem to care.

  2. Parviz Mirbaghi said on October 11th, 2010 at 10:42am #

    From what I have observed, the Zionist agenda is being implemented, albeit incrementally, under the guise of peace plan! I wish the Arab leaders had as much sensitivity to the plight of Palestinians as they have towards the phrase “‘Persian’ Gulf.” Besides a few empty phrases what have these “leaders” have done, what challenges have they created for Israel and its agent, U.S., what have they done at the UN level, and at the level of nations? What can we expect from the world community when those closest don’t have any gheirat to stand for the cause?

  3. mary said on October 11th, 2010 at 1:23pm #

    They Shoot Children Don’t They?

    Israeli troops accused of shooting children in Gaza

    • Victims were scavenging for rubble, say rights groups

    • Attacks allegedly took place outside 300-metre buffer zone

    Harriet Sherwood in Beit Lahiya
    Monday 11 October 2010 18.39 BST

    At least 10 Palestinian children have been shot and wounded by Israeli troops in the past three months while collecting rubble in or near the “buffer zone” created by Israel along the Gaza border, in a low-intensity offensive on the fringes of the blockaded Palestinian territory.

    Israeli soldiers are routinely shooting at Gazans well beyond the unmarked boundary of the official 300 metre-wide no-go area, rights groups say.

    According to Bassam Masri, head of orthopaedics at the Kamal Odwan hospital in Beit Lahiya in the north of Gaza, about 50 people have been treated for gunshot wounds suffered in or near the buffer zone while collecting rubble in the past three months; about five have been killed.

    He estimates that 30% of the injured are boys under 18.


  4. Mulga Mumblebrain said on October 15th, 2010 at 4:03am #

    mary, the Nazi Jews, those from the ‘settler’ and other fundamentalist and racist elements in Jewry, literally despise non-Jews. This has been a trait of some Jews since the time of Tacitus, who commented on it, and, no doubt before, ever since they invented themselves as Chosen People. Many Jews do not think this way,but many of them,disgracefully in my opinion, do not condemn their racist co-religionists, as decent Jews do, but turn a blind eye to their crimes,out of tribal solidarity. Killing children, as was claimed in a recently scandalous book published by Judaic fascists allied with the Right in the Knesset,members of Netanyahu’s coalition, is seen by these fiends as acceptable,if it could be said that they would grow to ‘oppose the Jews’.
    I’ve always thought that it has been the activities of this, ruthlessly supremacist, strand of Jewry, that explains the ubiquity of Jew-hatred throughout history. After all, any group that exists within a society, separate and aloof, holding itself superior to the rest,is bound to excite antipathy in some. Ally that to Judaic business practises, the selective use of usury against non-Jews, but not against their tribal brethren, and add religious hatred, and you get a recipe for pogroms and wars. The Jews seem to have enjoyed their most successful periods, contributing to humanity as a whole, when their separatist and supremacist elements were kept in check by strong, non-Jewish, regimes,like the Ottoman Empire. Even in Western Europe, where the Jews contributed so much, the activities of exploitative, supremacist, Jews, laid down a ghastly detritus of hatred and resentment that exploded in the horror of the Nazi Judeocide. And today, the evil and vicious side of Jewry is in the ascendant as never before, and is not restrained by powerful and tolerant non-Jewish regimes, but is, in fact, completely in control of the West, and is using that control, obtained by the exercise of crass, corrupting, money-power, to drive the world to religious and civilizational war.

  5. jayn0t said on October 15th, 2010 at 3:25pm #

    Mulga – this is a brave comment. This is exactly the kind of debate we should be having, and this is the kind of argument the left has been too scared to even think about. It’s obvious how Zionists and their left-wing poodles will respond – they will say you have adopted views from the far right, that you ‘blame’ the Jews for ‘the’ Holocaust.

    How would you answer this allegation? I know how I answer it. I say “Oh really? I’ll have to contact some of these far-right people – sounds like they have a contribution to make to our understanding of Zionist power in the Western world”.

    This response has two purposes. First, it’s simply true – people like Kevin MacDonald DO make careful, well-researched, analyses of the history of Judaism and reactions to it, like yours, but in much more detail. Secondly, it makes it clear that I have rejected Zionist blackmail completely. This blackmail, the ability to paralyze our thought processes by manipulating white guilt, is an important part of Zionist power. Therefore, opponents of Zionism must be completely unaffected by it. In fact, I believe in an aggressive ‘in your face’ approach to show our contempt for, and indifference to, the charge of anti-semitism. I first heard your argument that Jewish tribal politics may have been partially responsible for provoking pogroms from a Holocaust revisionist! What do you say to that?

    My approach isn’t widely accepted, even by people whom I see as comrades. But how can it make Palestine Solidarity weaker than it already is? It brings you into direct conflict with a part of the left, the crypto-Zionists. If they find out your real identity, they will try to make you unemployed and homeless. They may even issue death threats. Give them an inch, and they’ll take a pound of flesh. Solidarity with the Palestinians means purging Zionism from the left.

  6. Deadbeat said on October 15th, 2010 at 4:41pm #

    jaynot writes …

    How would you answer this allegation? I know how I answer it. I say “Oh really? I’ll have to contact some of these far-right people – sounds like they have a contribution to make to our understanding of Zionist power in the Western world”.

    This is why I’ve been suspect of the “Left’s” attacks on the Tea Party. This is acknowledges the confused and conflicted state of their politics however unlike the “Left” they DID respond to Obama’s bailout of the banks. Then you say Chomsky come out with claims that the Tea Party is a repeat of the 1930’s and the rise of the “brownshirts”. In addition you then saw the “Left” “re-discover” racism when they’ve been running away from Black and Brown people for years.

    I agree with both Mulga and Jay that the “good” “leftist” Jews have remained silent on Zionism and that is reflected in the elevation of the Zionist Noam Chomsky as its “intellectual” leader. The “Left” is too corrupted by both Zionism and Capitalism to be anything but a hindrance. Until the Left is purged of Zionism they will always be a disruptive force and weaken any challenge or movements.

  7. mary said on October 16th, 2010 at 1:23am #

    Off they go again or did they ever stop…

    15 October 2010
    Israel plan for 238 settler homes draws Palestinian ire

    The international community considers East Jerusalem occupied territory Israel has unveiled preliminary plans for 238 new homes for Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem, reports say.

    The Israeli plan for 158 homes in the Pisgat Zeev settlement and another 80 in Ramot were included in a building plan released by the housing ministry.

    The move comes as the fledgling Middle East peace talks are in danger of collapsing over the settlement issue.

    (Israel and the PalestiniansMid-East talks: Where they stand
    Q&A: Resuming direct talks
    Confusion surrounds Arab summit
    Hope and anger as freeze expires
    The Palestinians have threatened to walk away unless Israel renews its partial ban on West Bank settlements.)

    Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told the AFP news agency that the move proved that Israel was intent on “killing” every opportunity to revive peace talks between the two sides.

    Settlements or suburbs

    The housing ministry’s plans for Pisgat Zeev and Ramot were approved on Thursday by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Ynet news website said. There has been no comment from his office on Friday.

    Palestinians regard Pisgat Zeev and neighbourhoods like it as settlements, and accuse Israel of using them to increase the Jewish presence in the mainly Arab east of the city, but Israelis see them simply as suburbs of Jerusalem.

    The international community considers East Jerusalem occupied territory, and building on occupied land is illegal under international law.

    This was the first such approval since March, when Israel gave the green light to plans for the construction of 1,600 new settler homes in East Jerusalem during a visit by US Vice President Joe Biden, prompting a major crisis with Washington.

    Mr Netanyahu has been under pressure from Washington to extend a 10-month slowdown on the building of settler homes on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank.

    Although the freeze – which expired on 26 September – did not apply to East Jerusalem, building projects there too were quietly held back to avoid any political fallout, Israeli press reports said.

    Earlier this week, Mr Netanyahu offered to renew the West Bank freeze if the Palestinians recognised Israel as a Jewish state, but the Palestinian leadership dismissed the proposal as unfair and unnecessary.

    Israel has occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, since 1967, settling close to 500,000 Jews in more than 100 settlements. They are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.

    The Palestinians – backed by the Arab League – have pledged not to return to direct talks without a full settlement construction freeze, but have given the US a month to come up with a way to break the impasse.

  8. Mulga Mumblebrain said on October 18th, 2010 at 2:45am #

    Jaynot, I’ve never heard of Kevin Macdonald. Anyone on the ‘extreme Right’, and that, in my opinion,certainly includes Zionazis and their Sabbat Goy poodles in the ‘Clash of Civilizations’ mob, get no sympathy from me. I’m simply speculating as to why Jews always seem to get themselves into strife, always blame the other side and preach their own absolute perfection with some ardour.
    Moreover, when I say ‘Jews’ in a derogatory sense, I mean those Jews who actions I find to be morally repellent. Just like ‘Yanks’, can mean the psychopathic ruling elites who have terrorised the planet for decades, or the friendly welcoming type you can find in the general population (whose numbers, alas, seem to be falling).
    My argument is with the sort of Jew who really thinks that being a Jew makes him superior to all other human beings, and who thinks that this makes him immune to condemnation when he shoots a Palestinian child through the head, or drenches some in white phosphorus or keeps the entire population of Gaza imprisoned in a human zoo. I have the same opinion of them as I do of Germans who rampaged across Eastern Europe in the early 1940s. And I have the same opinion of those Germans who stayed safe (for a while) at home, supporting the Wehrmacht in what it did, as I do of Jews who support Israel in its terrorist, racist, colonial brutality, out of similar tribal loyalty.
    As for ‘Holocaust revisionists’, I have no time for them at all. The Nazi Judeocide occurred, I believe, more or less as the mainstream narrative says that it does, and quibbling about details is, in my opinion, despicable. However, I do believe that is has been used, with real viciousness and in desecration of the memory of the victims, as an excuse for every Zionist crime since 1945. Moreover I am appalled and repulsed by the incessant effort to place it at the top of some sort of ‘League’s Table’ of genocides, more horrifying, ghastly and significant than all the rest, simply because it was Jews, so much more precious, in the eyes of Judaic ‘true believers’ than the rest of humanity, who were the victims.
    In short I see Judaism, in its fundamentalist and messianic forms, which are now so dominant in Jewry, as truly dangerous and wicked. But I feel the same way about fundamentalist Christians, Moslems, Hindus and Rightwing politicians. I certainly think Israel today is like Germany in the1940s-brutal, racist and aggressive, and I think that Israeli Jews are akin to Germans of that era. That means that I hold their leaders responsible, and dearly wish that they could face a Nuremberg type tribunal, and that Israelis ought to be, like those ordinary Germans, judged accountable only for their actual crimes, not their mere failings of morality and humanity. I don’t think that a Jew, or a German or an Iraqi, is inherently evil, or inherently blameless and superior to the rest of mankind either.

  9. jayn0t said on October 28th, 2010 at 4:10pm #

    @Mulga – I understand your reluctance to accept my view on MacDonald. But you say: “Even in Western Europe, where the Jews contributed so much, the activities of exploitative, supremacist, Jews, laid down a ghastly detritus of hatred and resentment that exploded in the horror of the Nazi Judeocide.”

    MacDonald says this too, and backs it up with solid research. You can totally reject his politics – which I do – while accepting he might have something useful to say about Zionism. You say Zios are ‘right wing’, but right and left aren’t the issue for them – they’d put you and Kevin in the same category! If they come for him in the morning, they’ll be coming for you at night.