By S. Nihal Singh
May 11, 2011
An increasing number of people and countries who are urging US President Barack Obama to use the Arab renaissance and the killing of Osama bin Laden to revive the peace process concerning Israel and the Palestinians are barking up the wrong tree. To begin with, for years there has been no peace component in the process; for another, the icy Israeli reaction to the welcome development of a reconciliation process between the Fatah and Hamas factions, however tentative it is, tells its own story.
The problem is what it has been for decades, despite former US President Bill Clinton’s belated attempt at an Israeli-Palestinian accommodation in 2000. The key to a genuine reconciliation between Israel on the one hand and Palestinians and the broader Arab world on the other does not lie in the region of West Asia. It is in Washington, and until the domestic power equations and the mood of the country undergoes a profound change, no American President can help bring about peace. President Jimmy Carter’s success at Camp David in 1978 was determined by the Israeli realisation that making peace with Egypt at the cost of returning the Sinai peninsula would foreclose future wars and President Hosni Mubarak, who succeeded the assassinated Anwar Assad, was prepared to honour the bargain in which Egypt received a heavy US subvention every year in exchange for being the co-jailor of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip after the Hamas triumph while keeping up the pretence of being a facilitator in bringing Israelis and Palestinians together. Significantly, the new interim regime in power in Egypt after the toppling of Mr Mubarak has already announced a change in this policy.
The eight years of the George W. Bush presidency altered the scenario in West Asia because it gave Israel under Ariel Sharon a carte blanche to negate the tentative gains of the Oslo process, weighted against Palestinians as it was, destroying the European Union-financed budding infrastructure and making the tallest leader of the Palestinians, Yasser Arafat, a non-person in the old Soviet fashion. President Bush bought Netanyahu’s narrative. Israel thereby destroyed chances of a peaceful resolution, and despite singing from the two-state solution hymn book, Mr Sharon and the present Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, ensured that there would be no two states as far as they could help it. The Israeli leadership knows better than anyone else that their real power in a sea of Arab world lies not in their cutting-edge military might or the nuclear weapon cache it has developed through Western help and America turning the blind eye, but in the implacable support it receives from the US power structure. Sometimes, US Presidents go astray, but they are quickly brought back to sanity. The elder Bush, President George H.W. Bush, denied US guarantees to finance the building of new illegal settlements and lost his presidential election bid. Mr Obama required of Israel to stop all illegal settlement building activity before starting new talks with Palestinians and was compelled to eat his words.
Time and again, the United States has suffered the humiliation of being isolated in the United Nations, of being the only country, sometimes with states that are dots in the ocean, to vote against the overwhelming majority to save Israel. A new test is looming for the Obama administration in September when Palestinians will declare themselves as a nation in the United Nations General Assembly, a test Mr. Obama is likely to fail because he cannot go against the power structure that keeps him in office.
It is no secret that Israel has swung to the Right in recent years and the once powerful peace movement speaks in whispers today. The Arab spring and the change in Egypt in particular have been greeted with much nervousness in Israel for the simple reason that it is easier to make compacts with autocrats, whatever their people might feel, than with more democratic rulers. And the news from Egypt is particularly distressing for Tel Aviv.
Will the new awakening in the Arab world give a new impetus to the peaceniks in Israel to build a revived movement to give voice to the only true basis for a Jewish state to live in peace? There are sane voices but they are still drowned by the vociferous Right and the cultivated culture of the founding of the state in which the sword rules the day.
Only a change in the Israeli mood can influence the American Jewish lobby to loosen its grip on the levers of US policy-making. There are beginnings of an alternative Jewish view in the US but its lobbies are weak, compared to the formidable Right-wing pro-Israeli establishments that compel politicians to bow before them under pain of losing their seats in the US Congress or Senate. Former President Carter remains a maverick; he even wrote a book describing present Israeli policies as amounting to being an apartheid regimen after the fashion of the old South Africa. It is not a recipe that appeals to ambitious American politicians.
Drawing up elaborate formulations on how Israelis and Palestinians can be reconciled is therefore a waste of time. The so-called peace process will continue to be promoted to keep up the charade of working for a solution, but nothing will change. Israelis will continue to build more “facts on the ground” with mild American reprobation; the European Union will continue to bear the burden of financing the Palestinians, fulfilling a role that belongs to the occupying power under international law, and the world will divert its attention to other matters.
The only hope the Palestinians have is that the revolutionary changes happening in the Arab world, with heads rolling and an upsurge that foretells a new polity, however painful the process, will compel Israel and ultimately the United States to give Palestinians a real state of their own. There are more heartbreaks in store for Palestinians but their day of deliverance is drawing near in the emerging era of the Arab renaissance.
Source: Asian Age