US planning, European pressure, Arab complacency, and fragility of the Palestinian negotiator; these are the four factors that have made the racist right-wing government, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, seem as if it is the victorious power that can impose everything it wants in the farce of the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations.
Now, we have reached the verge of direct negotiations, which will take place completely in accordance with the formula Israel wants. Israel’s formula is negotiations without any prior conditions, i.e. negotiations in which the Palestinian side concedes all its demands. This means that the Palestinian negotiator is facing two possibilities, with no other alternative: The first possibility is to capitulate completely to Israeli negotiation formula, and to accept the establishment of a Palestinian State that lives within Israel’s grip, and that will be an organizational structure subordinate to Israel; the second possibility is that the negotiations will be negotiations in which President Mahmud Abbas will repeat the previous ones he conducted without having any alternative for the expected failure.
For a long time, the eternal Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, has been singing in our ears the long series of Palestinian demands, without which there is no going to negotiations. Whenever he was told that these are prior conditions, he used to articulate the explanation: These are not prior conditions, but they are the commitments of the “Road Map,” which are laid down by the United States itself. Whenever he reiterated this on television screens, he seemed a firm negotiator, who knew his ground. However, here we are now witnessing Saeb Erekat himself at the forefront of the television screens, as usual, but he has forgotten “the commitments of the Road Map,” and there is no longer any mention of them in his talk.
Also President Mahmud Abbas has been singing in our ears his emphasis on Palestinian conditions to move from indirect negotiations to direct ones. These conditions are: Halting all settlement activities, particularly in Jerusalem, and specifying a reference point for the negotiations on the basis of the Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders. However, here we are now witnessing him completely silent about any mention of the condition of halting the settlement activities, and about the issue of Jerusalem.
In Jerusalem, the settlement activities have escalated to the level of evicting people from their homes, considering the city as part of the “State of Israel” and not territories occupied in 1967, and applying the Israel Absentee Property Law to the population of the city living outside it, along the lines of what happened with the Palestinian refugees in 1948. What is new here is that the absentee from Jerusalem is a Palestinian who lives, for instance, in Ramallah; a student studying abroad, whose travel permission has lapsed; a wife who traveled to join her husband in another place; or a struggler whom Israel prevents from residing in Jerusalem. All these have become “absentees” in the “democratic” State of Israel.” The homes and properties of all these people have become subject to the Israel Absentee Property Law, while these people are inches away from these properties.
The latest negotiation game played by the Palestinian negotiator is insisting on a statement to be issued by the International Quartet, which mentions the 1967 borders, and specifies a time limit for the negotiations. However, also this game started to lead to nothing. The Quartet statement will not be in the form of conditions for negotiations, because of a very clear reason, namely that Emperor Netanyahu refuses this. Therefore, the Quartet statement will talk about the 1967 borders, will mention the issue of the time frame of the negotiations, and will bring the glad tidings of agreeing to establish a Palestinian State (from which Netanyahu will cut off half the West Bank). However, all this will be an expression of “opinion,” “aspirations,” and “intentions” of the Quartet, but will never be binding “conditions” for the negotiations to which both the Palestinian and Israeli sides adhere. Therefore, the Quartet statement will turn into nothing.
We have seen this picture repeatedly and it is boring, especially when we sink into its details. However, it acquires special importance and gravity when we put it in its strategic context that is drawn up by the United States, and that the United States works to impose on all. Herein lies the significance of the hard-line attitude practiced by Netanyahu, an attitude that is supported by Washington and all the European capitals in the form of pressure on the Palestinians and the Arabs.
Within this context, the following strategic issues come to the fore:
First: The US pursuit of keeping Israel as the prevailing political, military, and strategic power in the region. Within this pursuit, Israel should not retreat in a confrontation with the Palestinians, and should not seem weak under international pressure or in front of the Arabs. Therefore, Israel must impose its conditions on the negotiations. In order to support this Israeli stance, Washington agrees to sell Israel new and very advanced aircraft, which will place Israel in a dominating strategic position (as from 2017). These are the same aircraft that aroused a great deal of commotion in Washington against Saudi Arabia’s attempt to buy similar aircraft, especially as these aircraft are attack and not defensive ones,
Second: The US Administration encourages Israel’s pursuit to establish new rapprochement with Greece in order to compensate for the alienation that occurred recently between Israel and Turkey. This Israeli-Greek rapprochement includes military exercises and intelligence work. This is because it is well known that Israel always needs a wide airspace (outside its own airspace) to train on the advanced types of long-range aircraft; in the past this training used to take place with Turkey, but as from now it will take place with Greece.
Third: The US Administration, particularly through President Obama, carries out communications with the Turkish leaders and threatens them. The Administration tells the leaders that the policy of hostility toward Israel and rapprochement with Iran will lead to reducing the US arming of Turkey. It is well known that Turkey voted against the UN resolutions to impose sanctions on Iran. This is not because Turkey supports Iran as a military nuclear power, but because Turkey was a primary mediator, together with Brazil, in the pursuit of securing international control over the enrichment of the Iranian uranium so that it would not be used for military purposes, but Washington stood against this pursuit and hindered it. Therefore, it was logical that Turkey would continue its diplomacy, and vote against the sanctions resolution. Nevertheless, Washington keeps threatening Turkey.
Fourth: The direct, fast, and crude US bias in favor of Israel after the Israeli-Lebanese border clashes, and the US rushing to threaten Lebanon to stop arming it. Then there is the emergence of an intensive Israeli campaign saying that the Lebanese Army has fallen under the control of Hezbollah, merely because the Lebanese Army resisted an Israeli aggression against a tree in the south.
These four issues reveal a strategic vision of continuing the US control over the Arab region and its regional environment. Israel takes the first place in imposing this strategy on the region. Because of this major US goal, it is logical to support Israel in its negotiations with the Palestinians, so that it remains strong and victorious. The retreat of Israel here expresses weakness, and hence it should not occur.
This has been the policy of the neo-conservatives, and here is Obama continuing to implement it, whatever he says, and whatever nice words he might use.