But is the U.S. able to secure Palestinian-Israeli peace?

Tuesday, veteran WaPo columnist David Ignatius published a very insidery report to the effect that Obama is considering rolling out a specifically “Made in America” plan for a final peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
This would– as David noted– be quite an abrupt reversal of the painstakingly incrementalist, strongly ‘CBM’-focused approach pursued thus far by special peace envoy George Mitchell. (It may also signal that Mitchell himself might be on his way out?)
David’s story got picked up on the news side of yesterday’s WaPo, as well as the NYT. The writers of most of these stories made a point of quoting one of the former Natinal Security Advisers Obama has been meeting with as saying that “everyone knows” what the main shape of any possible two-state-based deal would be… Namely, something like the “Clinton parameters”, which was a “take it or leave it” peace plan presented by Pres. Bill Clinton to both sides in late December 2000, less than one month before the end of his presidency.
Last night, Daniel Levy had a piece on The Middle East Channel, in which he writes,

    The spectrum of a plan’s possible content essentially looks like this: At one end, a comprehensive regional peace plan including an Israel-Syria deal, and implementation of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative’s offer of comprehensive normal relations with Israel; in the middle, a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement addressing all the core issues and with some regional add-ons; and at the minimalist end (yet not to be sneezed at), a deal that fixes two states, an Israeli-Palestinian border delineation, and security arrangements, but defers closure on all details of, for instance, refugees, Jerusalem’s Old City, and an end of claims. Even a one-sentence frame of reference might move the ball forward dramatically. It could read like this:

      Establish a border based on the 1967 lines with an agreed, minimal and equal one-to-one land swap taking into account new realities on the ground (settlements close to the Green Line), whereby the Palestinian state is on 100 percent of the ’67 territory and is demilitarized with security arrangements overseen by a multinational deployment.

Unlike Daniel Levy, I have grave doubts whether having the U.S. President announce that a “frame of reference” is from here on out U.S. policy would do very much to push anything forward, at all.
Hulloo!! Hasn’t anyone noticed that the world has changed a lot since December 2000? The most salient changes are

    (1) The situation on the ground has changed considerably over these past nine years. There are maybe 100,000 more Israeli settlers in the West Bank than there were then. There is the Wall/Barrier. There’s the long-running siege of Gaza and the separation between Gaza and the West Bank. There’s the lunge Israeli opinion has made deep to the ethnonationalist right… Ariel Sharon’s murder of the institutions of Oslo in 2000… The death of Yasser Arafat and the collapse of Fateh… etc etc.
    (2) The Palestinians and other Arab parties have seen so many prior promises about ‘deadlines’, ‘firm U.S. commitment to peace’, etc, come and go that just another announcement on its own, without any accompanying action, is not going to shift anything.
    (3) Most importantly, the balance of world politics has shifted considerably since December 2000, too. The U.S. is no longer the unquestioned king of the hill. Even if Washington should prove able to shake itself free of the pressures of the Zionist lobbies (whether Jewish Zionist or Christian Zionist)– which is a big ‘if’– I don’t see how on its own it would be able at all to rally the kind of regional coalition needed to make this peace happen.

Let’s be clear. This whole picture whereby the U.S. has come to be seen by far too many Americans (and some non-Americans) as “the only” power capable of brokering an Israeli-Palestinian peace is really out-dated today. Successive administrations in Washington have worked vigorously, and very successfully, ever since the days of Henry Kissinger, to secure and then maintain American domination of the peace diplomacy. (And ways too many American pundits have grown up over the past 35 years with that being their only frame of reference. It just seems only ‘natural’ to them all!)
But it hasn’t worked.
Well, put it this way: It hasn’t worked in terms of securing a peace agreement between Palestinians and Israelis. And it hasn’t worked for the Palestinians, who have seen the misery, dispossession, dispersal, and oppression in which they live continue or increase almost uninterruptedly throughout those 35 years. You might say it has worked, however for those participants in, and supporters of, the whole project of gaining ever greater Jewish colonial settlement in the land of Mandate Palestine, that is, the whole project of Zionism.
It certainly hasn’t worked for the real interests of the American people.
Clearly, it’s time for something new. Like taking the whole issue back to the U.N. Security Council where it rightly belongs, and where it should and can be addressed on the clear basis of international law and international legitimacy. No more of this unworkably complex business of redrawing loopy boundaries around illegal Israeli settlements and requiring millions of Palestinians to simply sign away their rights.
Levy’s suggestion of “deferring closure on all details of, for instance, refugees, Jerusalem’s Old City, and an end of claims” looks like a real non-starter. Right up there with the idea of a “shelf agreement” that Olmert and Livni came up with, during Annapolis. (Remember Annapolis?) Palestinians and Israelis, both peoples, desperately need to see an end to the conflict. And that can be won only by securing final status agreements on all these issues and thereby the settling and end of all outstanding claims.
Can any president in Washington be successful in heading up a process that secures these things? I doubt it. Back to the Security Council.

16 thoughts on “But is the U.S. able to secure Palestinian-Israeli peace?

  1. Christiane

    Helena wrote :
    “Let’s be clear. This whole picture whereby the U.S. has come to be seen by far too many Americans (and some non-Americans) as “the only” power capable of brokering an Israeli-Palestinian peace is really out-dated today.”
    If by that you mean that a peace project where the US warrant the Israelian the lionshare and disadvantage the Palestinians too clearly, then of course, you are right this can’t work.
    However on another hand, as long as the US remain the unconditional supporter of the Israelians even refusing to cast a supportive vote for the Goldberg report at the UN and only issuing minimal warnings not followed by any cut on financial and military aid to Israel when they launch new settlements, then the key to obtain a peace agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelians is still in the US : as long as the US remain that unconditional ally, the Israelians won’t be moved to make any concessions to the Palestinians.
    The US can do something to push for a final peace agreement : it can put serious pressures on the Israelians, not only by words, but also impacting the huge financial and military help it is granting to Israel. But as long as the US doesn’t use that mean of pressure, Israel will feel strong and won’t make any concessions.
    I wish it were possible for the UN to solve the problem, but the key is still lying in US hands. The UN can propose a legitimate and equitable way to arrive at a peace treaty. However, the US has to put concrete pressure on the Israelians to get to them to agree. As long as the Israelians can believe that they may get away with their politic of the “fait accompli” they won’t sign any peace treaty, nor make any concession.

  2. Brandon Cunningham

    I dunno. I think things are going pretty good right now, particularly for the Israelis. Why
    don’t we just leave everything just as it is?

  3. Christiane

    Why don’t we just leave everything just as it is?

    You are kidding right ? or don’t you have any sense of justice !

  4. bevin

    It is not just a sense of justice that ‘Brandon’ lacks; he also lacks a sense of history.
    Right now Israel, under the leadership of Netanyahu et al, is hurtling towards disaster. They look at Abbas and they convince themselves that he represents their victims, his impotence and venality spur them to further excesses.
    They believe the cheap rhetoric,(they must be the only people who do) from the likes of Biden and Stephen Harper, to the effect that Americans will make any sacrifice to save Israel. The opinion polls show that public support is a mile wide, and ignore the fact that it is only a millimetre deep and evaporating steadily.
    As Abba Eban remarked, the rulers of Palestine never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity: on this case it is part of the fascist fascination with death never to postpone armageddon by making peace.

  5. Murphy

    “Like taking the whole issue back to the U.N. Security Council where it rightly belongs, and where it should and can be addressed on the clear basis of international law and international legitimacy”
    Sure- but more than that, it’s time to end the charade that this is a ‘search for peace’ and call it what it is: a search for justice and end to occupation. The whole language of ‘conflict’ and ‘peace’ needs to be jettisoned. For a people under occupation, the primary goal is not peace, but justice. And any justice which falls short of UN mandates is no justice at all. Of course, Israel is served well by having ‘peace talks’ brokered by the Ameircans, as this not only gives them a massive advantage in having the ‘moderator’ on side, but also gets around the fact that Israel is clearly in the wrong and will have to ‘concede’ much more than they think they need to.
    However, in order for the above shift in thinking to take place, a new Palestinian leadership will need to be formed. One that rejects both the craven subservience of Fatah and hte sterile Islamism of Hamas. Is any such leadership yet on the horizon?

  6. Brandon Cunningham

    I am not kidding, Christiane. Unlike yourself,
    Bevin and Helena, I am not interested in fighting this war out from the safety of my internet connection until the last Palestinian drops. What I want to see the Palestinians do is accept Netanyahu’s call for direct negotiations. You think this is a bluff or a lie on N’s part, and that the Palestinians would gain nothing from agreeing to direct talks. I believe they would gain a lot.

  7. Salah

    المنشور الذي وزعه الكيان الصهيوني على أبناء مدينة القدس ضمن الحملة المستمرة لتهجيرهم و تهويد القدس ومقدساتها وتفريغها من أهلها وثقافتها العربية
    ويبدأ البيان بآية من القرآن الكريم :
    ” ( ولا تجادلوا أهل الكتاب إلا بالتي هي أحسن إلا الذين ظلموا منهم وقولوا أمنا بالذي انزل إلينا وانزل إليكم وإلهنا وإلهكم واحد ونحن له مسلمون).
    نداء إلى جميع المسلمين الساكنين في ارض إسرائيل
    نريد أن نشرح لكم هذه الرسالة رأي التوراة بالنسبة لسكن غير اليهود في ارض اسرائيل , نقول أولا انه حسب التوراة كل إنسان خلق من نفس الله , ويجب التعامل مع كل إنسان مؤمن باحترام , ولذلك نظرة الدين اليهودي ليست عنصرية أو غير إنسانية , فهو ديني فحسب.
    الأصل في ديننا ودينكم هو الإيمان بالله , ملك العالم , وحسب إيماننا وإيمانكم أعطانا الله التوراة وفيها الواجبات والرسالات ويجب علينا القيام بها.
    حسب مقولات القرآن الكريم لا يوجد أي تناقض بين ما أمرتنا التوراة القيام به وبين ما أمركم القرآن به , كيهود مؤمنون يجب علينا القيام بواجبات التوراة , وفي التوراة مكتوب في عدة أماكن أن ارض إسرائيل وعدت لإبراهيم واسحق ويعقوب و أحفادهم ولا غيرهم , الكل يجمعون بأننا أحفاد شعب اسرايل القديم , أحفاد إبراهيم واسحق ويعقوب.
    ومكتوب في التوراة أيضا بان ارض إسرائيل , هذه الأرض الصغيرة , هي ملك الشعب اليهودي فقط , ومن الممنوع سكن غيرهم فيها بصورة دائمة.
    مكتوب أيضا في أسفار الأنبياء انه بسبب عدم قيامنا بهذا الأمر الالهي , الشعب اليهودي طرد وبقي خارج بلاده 2000 سنة , ألان وبعد عودة شعب إسرائيل إلى ارض إسرائيل ,كما وعدونا الأنبياء , حان الوقت ليقوم الشعب الإسرائيلي بتنفيذ هذا الأمر الالهى , ولذلك نطلب منكم مغادرة ارض إسرائيل.
    نحن نقول ذلك من وجهة النظر الدينية , لنضمن السلام في ارض إسرائيل , نحن نشرح لكم المقولات التوراتية والقرآنية , ونحن نعتقد انه حين تفهمون أننا لا نكرهكم ولا نريد محاربتكم بسبب إيمانكم بالإسلام , ستفهمون سبب إرادتنا القيام بأمر الله , كما قال الإسلام لا اله إلا الله.
    هذا الأمر الرباني قاله الله لموسى :
    التوراة , سفر العدد 33 . 56-50 :
    كلم الرب موسى في عربات مواب على أردن أريحا قائلا
    كلم بني إسرائيل وقل لهم أنكم عابرون الأردن إلى ارض كنعان
    فتطردون كل سكان الأرض من أمامكم وتمحون جميع تصاويرهم وتبيدون كل أصنامهم المسبوكة وتخبربون جميع مرتفعاتهم
    تملكون الأرض وتسكنون فيها لاني قد أعطيتكم الأرض لكي تملكوها
    وتقتسمون الأرض بالقرعة حسب عشائركم الكثير تكثرون له نصيبه والقليل تقللون له نصيبه حيث خرجت له القرعة فهناك يكون له حسب أسباط آبائكم تقتسمون
    وان لم تطردوا سكان الأرض من أمامكم يكون الذين تستبقون منهم أشواكا في أعينكم ومناخس في جوانبكم ويضايقونكم على الأرض التي انتم ساكنون فيها
    فيكون أني افعل بكم كما هممت أن افعل بهم
    وفي القرآن الكريم :
    سورة الإسراء : ( وقلنا من بعده لبني إسرائيل اسكنوا الأرض فإذا جاء وعد الآخرة جئنا بكم لفيفا)
    سورة الاحقاف : ( ومن قبله كتاب موسى إماما ورحمة وهذا كتاب مصدق لسانا عربيا لينذر الذين ظلموا وبشرى للمحسنين)
    سورة المائدة : ( إنا أنزلنا التوراة فيها هدىً ونور يحكم بها النبيّون الذين اسلموا للذين هادوا والربّانيون والأحبار بما استحفظوا من كتاب الله وكانوا عليه شهداء فلا تخشوا الناس واخشون ولا تشتروا بآياتي ثمنا قليلا ومن لم يحكم بما انزل الله فاؤلئك هم الكافرون)
    بعدما رايتهم الأقوال السماوية ولان الدين الإسلامي هو دين أخلاقي , ولان لا تكون بيد الشعب اليهودي أي ارض أخرى , لذلك يجب أن لا تكون لكم معارضة لهذا – ولديكم بلدان واسعة يمكنكم السكن فيها- وتفهمون بان علينا القيام بالأمر المكتوب في التوراة . ولأنه من غير السهل مغادرة ملايين الناس بدون مساعدات مالية , فإننا نقترح عليكم أن تفاوضوا دولة إسرائيل ( التي تجسد وعود الأنبياء) , على أن تحصلوا على مساعدات اقتصادية للسكن في مكان آخر.
    ولما نطيع الله نحن وانتم , يمكننا العيش بسلام , نحن وانتم وأولادنا وأولادكم لسنوات طويلة , كما قال النبي يشاعيه : ( لا ترفع امة على امة سيفا ولا يتعلمون الحرب في ما بعد)
    يطلب الحفظ على قدسية هذه الصفحات. (نهاية المنشور)!! ”
    يرجى النشر والتعميم حتى يعرف أبناء شعبنا جميعا طبيعة التهويد الذي تتعرض له مدينة القدس ومقدساتها الإسلامية والمسيحية على حد سواء فاليوم بدأوو بالمسجد الأقصى وغدا ستطال قدمهم كنيسة القيامة وغيرهم من المقدسات الإسلامية والمسيحية !!.

  8. epppie

    As always, Helena, you show an amazing ability to avoid asking the real question. But you are like all ‘alternapundits’ in this regard. There has never in history been a more complicit class. Obama has no intention of making peace, except on Israeli terms, and Israeli terms seek possession of the West Bank and Gaza. You seem to finally admit this about what Israel wants, but you continue to practise expert naivete about what the US political establishment wants. There’s no excuse for that anymore. There’s no question about what Obama seeks to do. The question is, what are we doing to change the consensus of the US political elite? THAT is the only relevant question at this point. How do we force our political elite to reframe the issue in terms of justice, as was pointed out in the comments above? Peace is easy to achieve, if we aren’t particular about how, or about the terms. We can just let Israel ethnically cleanse in one sweep, which presumably is the whole reason behind the Iran War. Or we can continue to help them do it in slow motion, as we have been doing for decades. The peace of the crushed and vanguished, a true Roman peace – that’s easy. Peace that has an element of justice? That’s the hard job. But it wouldn’t be so hard if we could get the US to stop making it easy for Israel to ignore justice.
    Another point: you pass over the issue of demilitarization of Palestine as if it were ok. You know damn well that’s a poison pill. A state that has no ability to defend itself is not a state at all. That’s a dealkiller and Israel knows it and so does the US know it. It’s just apartheid by a different name. Why would an alterna-pundit, presumably intelligent enough to understand the game of name manipulation, go along with that? Lend it the desperately needed ‘liberal’ credibility? Why?
    It’s called complicity. Complicity is arguing over questions that are relatively unimportant while passing over the real questions.
    Polls show that most Americans want a fair settlement. That’s not what the US government has ever sought. The questions are why and what we do to change that. After years and decades of enabling Israeli crimes, the question ‘will US policy change’ is nothing, but a distraction, a purposeful distraction. How long will you keep us gnawing at that meaningless question? Until even the memory of Palestine has been suppressed?

  9. Alexno

    It sounds as though B. Cunningham is also fighting the fight from the front-line of his armchair. In his case, until the last Israeli picks up his American passport and goes back to New York.

  10. vadim

    Alastair, your last comment is very strange. Do you know any Israeli citizens at all? How many of them are also US passport holders? whereas Brandon seems to be arguing for negotiation, you seem to be arguing that Israeli Jews, the large majority of whom were born in Israel and are not passport holders of any other country, should become refugees in the United States. Do I hear you correctly?

  11. Alexno

    I rather liked Cunningham’s
    I think things are going pretty good right now, particularly for the Israelis.
    Eternal optimism, I love it.
    Helena is of course quite right; the US can no longer control what happens in Israel.
    Israel has entered into a decline that I wonder can be rectified. It began with the invasion of Gaza, I think; not with the unsuccessful war against Hizbullah. I thought at the time that Israel could get over the poor publicity, but since then there’s been a drip, drip, drip, of things going wrong. The latest is Netanyahu’s refusal to attend the nuclear summit in the US. The argument used, that Israel could be criticised for its nuclear policy, has been on all the front pages. Not good.
    The point, of course, is that Israel succeeded in the past by concealing what its real aims were. A wise policy for them. Now they don’t seem to care. One element after another of Israel’s real policy is put on the front pages. Hubris is the word.
    Who can say whether hubris will be followed by a fall? Israel believes not, Israel is different from the rest of the world.
    Well, we wait to see if Israel can break all the normal rules of history. Myself, I don’t know.

  12. Alexno

    epppie is going too far in saying
    Obama has no intention of making peace, except on Israeli terms
    If that were the case, there would have been no row with Netanyahu.

  13. Karl Weber

    Send this question of a resolution back to the UN. As long as we Americans and American politicians are involved, this will never be resolved. As feckless as the UN often is,despite the U.N resolutions including 242 forexample that have been completely ignored, in this instance the U.N. will surely be seen as a more honest and even handed broker than the U.S. who is always viewed as the defensive parent of an truculant child. The U.N. will have better shot (sorry) at the construction a two state solution.

  14. Christiane

    Eppie,
    I don’t understand exactly what is your beef with Helena ? Her analysis of a possible new American plan for peace is rather critical, so why are you accusing her of being complicit ? and complicit of what ?

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