Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Israel Crosses the Line.. But with US Support - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
Select Page

The superpower and Israel’s protector, that is, the United States has proclaimed that it cannot play a basic and prominent role in the self-delegated negotiations between the Arabs and Israel and between the Palestinians and Israel. This superpower and protector of Israel came forward and bravely proposed to the world that it wants to broker successful negotiations whose first condition would be that Israel stop building more settlements. The protected Israel refused and the protector superpower gave in.

At this point, the superpower announced that it is ready to oversee indirect negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel that are not based on any conditions or point of reference. Once again and on the same day that the attempt to start indirect negotiations would begin, the protected state announced that it is building new settlements. The protector superpower did not object or protest and the negotiations are now at risk. It is also possible to wonder whether they will ever start. This state of affairs sounds extremely boring to the reader. No one believes that Israel can reject what the United States wishes, and no one believes that the United States cannot impose on Israel’s government a simple political decision such as starting indirect and perhaps binding negotiations. No one believes that indirect negotiations, if they ever start, will have a new practical result. It has become widely known that Israel does not want to discuss the Palestinian issue in the first place. It does not want to discuss the right of return of the Palestinians and does not want to discuss a full Israeli withdrawal from lands occupied in 1967. Israel does not want to dismantle the settlements and does not want to approve the establishment of an independent Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. On the other hand, it has become widely known that Israel wants half the West Bank and the waters of the West Bank. It wants the skies of the West Bank, the territorial waters of the Gaza Strip, and it wants a military deployment along the Jordan River. This is all Israel wants and the United States knows that this is what Israel wants. Nevertheless, it comes to the region with all its prestige to tell us that it will broker indirect negotiations. It promises us that such negotiations will end within two years and it wants us to believe this big American lie.

The United States has been promoting this lie since 1991. After the Madrid conference, negotiations began in Washington under indirect US sponsorship but without any legal or principled point of reference thus entrenching the rule that “the negotiations themselves are the reference point of the negotiators”. That meant that it is the occupying side, that is, the stronger side decides (imposes) the outcome of the negotiations. At that time, a unique incident arose when the late Haydar Abdul-Shafi, the leader of the Palestinian delegation, told US Secretary of State James Baker that the Israeli delegation is not leaving anything for the Palestinian delegation to discuss except to issues related to “the collection of garbage”. Baker answered him with all seriousness “So hurry up and start building on that basis”. These words summarize the essence of the true US stand. Israel may set any conditions it wants and it is up to the Palestinian negotiator to try and salvage something even if it is among the piles of garbage. The United States is now doing the same thing. Its basic concern is to appear as an active international force and that it is moving and not stagnant. Meanwhile, in order to acquire this “image,” it is approving all the measures that Israel is taking while leaving the Palestinian negotiator to lament his bad fortune. If there are those that believe that we are exaggerating, let us review what US Vice President Joe Biden said when he arrived in Israel on the day of announcement of the start of indirect negotiations:

Biden said: “I view myself as a Zionist; one does not have to be Jewish to be a Zionist”. Biden said: “I have participated several times in the past in the conferences of the World Zionist League to raise funds for the State of Israel”. Addressing Netanyahu at a press conference, Biden said: “Mr. Prime Minister, in the past year, you took important steps related to freezing the building of settlements (!!) and facilitating freedom of movement in the West Bank (!!)”. Biden said: “The cornerstone of our relationship is the total commitment of the United States toward Israel’s security. You know that there is no difference between the United States and Israel when it comes to talking about Israel’s security”. These are just brief excerpts from what Biden said in Israel. When Netanyahu hears such words, it is obvious that he will feel excessively pampered and would thus dare to contradict Biden. This is exactly what happened when in Biden’s presence; Netanyahu announced the building of 1,600 new housing units.

In order to place matters in a broader and clearer political context, we say that there are three factors that determine the fate of the negotiations: The international factor, the Palestinian factor, and the Arab factor. We just saw what the international factor looks like with President Obama’s backpedaling to Joe Biden’s softness in dealing with Netanyahu. Thus, the international factor is totally biased in favor of Israel. As for the Palestinian factor, it started with rejecting negotiations before full settlement construction activities stop and ended up with a request for an Arab cover to return to the negotiations. The Arabs gave the Palestinians the cover they requested and they thought that this cover would be sufficient to protect them. However, the Palestinians suffered a gaping stab in the back when Netanyahu renewed the building of settlements. Yasser Abd-Rabbuh, the epitome of the traditional Palestinian negotiator, emerged in anger to tell whoever was listening “The rulers of Israel are a gang of racists”. Finally, there is the Arab factor. So far, the Arabs have been silent. However, the information gleaned from some Palestinian sources is that some Arab governments consider the decision to go to indirect negotiations as no longer valid.

We thus find ourselves faced with the combined regression and collapse of the three factors that together constitute the lever for negotiations with Israel. We even find ourselves faced with the collapse of the lever itself and faced with an insolent and brazen defiance of all the Arabs combined. In politics, when states face off in a state of war and then move to the phase of negotiations and settlement, the collapse of the negotiating process means only the return to the state of war. And the return of the state of war does not mean going to war at once because objective circumstances determine going to war. Anyone watching the Israeli army’s move knows that this is exactly how Israel thinks. The question is: How do the Arab countries think? What we should know at this point is the repeated reports about an eruption of a third intifadah. The chances for such an eruption are growing with the danger threatening the city of Jerusalem that comes after Israel imposed its hegemony on the Ibrahimi Mosque [in Hebron] and The Mosque of Bilal [Rachel’s Tomb] in Bethlehem. What everyone should also know as well is that this time, the Palestinians of 1948 – who are under the threat of transfer by the Israeli government – will be part of this new intifada. In fact, they may be a basic factor in it. We are alerting to this fact after we heard an adviser in the Palestinian president’s office denying yesterday the possible eruption of a third intifada and threatening those contemplating such action with woe and destruction. What can be said to such an adviser who does not see what is happening around him?

Bilal Hassen

Bilal Hassen is a renowned Palestinian writer and political analyst.

More Posts