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Amid the Cease-Fires, a Broken Peace Process

Following yet another ill-fated push at a settlement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the latest Israeli incursion into the Gaza Strip has been marked by the making and breaking of cease-fires, the latest reportedly starting this morning. The human toll has been devastating—overwhelmingly so for the Palestinians. Over 1,700 Palestinians and 60 Israelis have died [1] (so far) in the 28-day operation, overtaking the death [2] toll of “Operation Cast Lead [3]” (2008-09), which lasted 22 days. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has called for yet another inquiry into what it sees as “possible war crimes [4],” just like it did for “Operation Cast Lead [5]” (2008-09), which produced the Goldstone Report [6]. Israel’s global image is suffering [7] as the Palestinian dead mount.

Whatever the long-term consequences of this latest episode in the most protracted military occupation in modern history, many Israelis may very well come to see Netanyahu’s rejection [8] of the latest peace plan, led by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, as a missed opportunity.

Nahum Barnea, one of Israel’s leading correspondents, spoke to numerous senior U.S. officials who were involved in the latest Kerry-led push. Barnea’s conversations with these officials provide a rather clear picture [9] of what Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas was willing to concede to his Israeli counterparts:

He [Abbas] agreed to a demilitarized state; he agreed to the border outline so 80 percent of settlers would continue living in Israeli territory; he agreed for Israel to keep security sensitive areas (mostly in the Jordan Valley – NB) for five years, and then the United States would take over. He accepted the fact that in the Israeli perception, the Palestinians would never be trustworthy.

He also agreed that the Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem would remain under Israeli sovereignty, and agreed that the return of Palestinians to Israel would depend on Israeli willingness. ‘Israel won’t be flooded with refugees,’ he promised.

In other words, Abbas and the P.A. gave away the house. They conceded key settlement blocs, the Jewish parts of East Jerusalem, and the Palestinian right of return. A two-state solution based on U.N. Resolution 242 [10], 338 [11], and 194 [12] would not have included such concessions to Israel.

Still, Netanyahu said no, demanding that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and that Israel maintain “complete control over the territories.” Then, Israel’s Housing and Construction Ministry, headed by Uri Ariel [13] (“an extremist who opposes any agreement with the Palestinians,” according to Barnea), announced the expansion of settlements [14] in East Jerusalem by 700 housing units. The entire Kerry process fell apart, and Abbas began to focus on forming a unity government with Hamas.

This act of national reconciliation [15], by which Hamas essentially adopted [16] Abbas’ program for dealing with Israel, was what ultimately provoked [17] the latest punishment of Gaza. Hamas provided no repudiation of Mahmoud Abbas’ concessions after moving into reconciliation. Despite its awful charter [18], Hamas has, according to a 2009 report [19] by the United States Institute of Peace, sent Israel “repeated signals” that it is willing to accept peaceful co-existence in a two-state resolution of the conflict based on international law.

None of this was good enough for the Netanyahu government. Netanyahu’s administration then used the deaths of three Israeli teenagers [20] this past June as a pretext to raid [21] the West Bank, killing five Palestinians and arresting hundreds. This resulted in a barrage of rockets from Hamas about a month after the West Bank raid began, precipitating the current Israeli operation.

Noted U.S. scholar Norman Finkelstein has pointed out in his authoritative [22] account of Operation Cast Lead that, according to Israeli political strategist Avner Yaniv, Israel is reacting violently to what he calls the Palestinians’ “peace offensive.” Yaniv used the phrase in his book [23] Dilemmas of Security (1987) to characterize the Israeli incursion into Lebanon in 1982. According to Yaniv, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) at that time, led by Yasser Arafat, was contemplating a two-state solution with the Israelis. The problem was that nobody in Israel wanted to allow for the creation of a viable Palestinian state. So, in September 1981, Israel made plans to invade Lebanon, where the PLO was based at the time. The war that ensued put a stop to any possibilities for serious negotiations.

As history continues to repeat itself in the 21st century, Israel’s track record of bad timing calls into question its willingness to negotiate in good faith. The Kerry process, insofar as the Barnea piece (among other “leaks [24]”) reveals, already favored the Israeli desire to permanently swallow up crucial parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The occupation and the planned, permanent annexation of Palestinian land both constitute crimes under international law. According to “Article 49 [25]” of the Fourth Geneva Conventions, “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” Moreover, the Palestinians were essentially leaving the refugees’ right to return (as per U.N.S.C. Resolution 194) up to Israel’s “willingness.” With Abbas and the P.A. making substantial concessions, and Hamas being backed into a corner financially and politically, the Israelis could have accepted the Kerry-brokered deal. It was an offer that clearly favored Israel. Instead, the world witnessed yet another incursion into Gaza.

If Israel is given the chance to permanently annex parts of the West Bank and push the ever-growing Palestinian population into cantons, then it can expect a much more desperate, perhaps violent, Palestinian response. If that moment arrives, then Israelis may very well regret not taking the Kerry deal when it was on the table. It won’t just have to deal with rudimentary Hamas rockets then, but also with the roughly two million Palestinians currently living in the West Bank who will be forced into an even more desperate situation.

So why didn’t Netanyahu and the Israelis simply say “yes” to such a complimentary deal? The answer, according to the American negotiators, can be found in Israel’s desire to expand settlements. Israel approved plans for nearly 14,000 new settler homes [26] during the nine months it was involved in peace talks with the Palestinians. The entire military occupation, including all settlements, covers about 40 percent [27] of the West Bank. Evidently, Israel’s broader ambition includes the permanent seizure of the land that it currently occupies.

Once Israel implements even more “facts on the ground,” it may very well go back to the negotiating table, and, along with a weak Palestinian Authority, accept a U.S.-brokered deal that includes all the original concessions. At that point, any Palestinian movement for self-determination will be hampered by the Palestinian Authority’s acceptance of a deal that clearly overlooks it.

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#1 Comment By Kurt Gayle On August 5, 2014 @ 9:37 am

The Barnea conversations show the full extent of the Abbas/P.A. willingness to abandon Palestinian rights under international law in return for a South African Bantustan “solution.”

[28]

According to these conversations Abbas and the P.A. agreed to a Kerry plan that called for an abandonment of the framework of U.N. Resolutions 242, 338, and 194.

“In other words, Abbas and the P.A. gave away the house.”

The irony in all of this in terms of Israel’s assault on Gaza is that in agreeing to the recent “act of national reconciliation” with Abbas and the PA “Hamas essentially adopted Abbas’ program for dealing with Israel.”

Israel’s rejection of the Kerry plan is a further indication that Israel eventually plans to annex to the state Israel huge swaths of Palestinian West Bank land.

What will happen then?

Steven Zhou outlines exactly what will happen following such annexation:

“If Israel is given the chance to permanently annex parts of the West Bank and push the ever-growing Palestinian population into cantons, then it can expect a much more desperate, perhaps violent, Palestinian response. If that moment arrives, then Israelis may very well regret not taking the Kerry deal when it was on the table. It won’t just have to deal with rudimentary Hamas rockets then, but also with the roughly two million Palestinians currently living in the West Bank who will be forced into an even more desperate situation.”

How are Israel’s illegal machinations viewed by people around the world?

Even as the majority of Americans remain mystified by a Zionist mainstream media, a strongly negative worldwide view of Israel is among the findings of a 24-country poll conducted for BBC World Service:

[29]

Page 4 shows a bar graph — “Views of Different Countries’ Influence” – that lists Israel 4th from the bottom with only a 24% “mainly positive” rating. Israel is barely ahead of North Korea (19% “mainly positive”), Pakistan (16%), and Iran (16%).

Page 31 shows another bar graph — “Views of Israel’s Influence.” Aside from the U.S.’s 52% “mainly positive” view of Israel’s influence, none of the other 15 G-20 country listed has a rating of Israel’s influence higher 30%. In fact the global average of “mainly positive” views of Israel’s influence is only 23%!

Recent Gallup poll results showing that Americans under the age of 30 and Americans of color no longer see Israel in a positive light, indicate that there may be an opportunity for American foreign policy to finally unhook itself from the foreign policy of one of the world’s true pariah states.

#2 Comment By Ron On August 5, 2014 @ 12:55 pm

You’re quoting Norman Finkelstein? He has a bad habit of making things up and has been caught at almost every factoid he comes up with. You need to do much better.

#3 Comment By Kurt Gayle On August 5, 2014 @ 4:13 pm

Your argument, Ron, should be with Israeli analyst Avner Yaniv, not with historian Norman Finkelstein, who merely quoted Yaniv. Did Finkestein quote Yaniv correctly. It appears that he did:

“Dealing a major blow to the PLO as a political force was the raison d’etre of the entire [1982 Israeli Lebanon] operation.” To apply “the fiercest military pressures [to]…undermine the position of the moderates within [the PLO] ranks,” to block “the PLO `peace offensive’…to halt [the PLO’s] rise to political respectability.” Avner Yaniv, Dilemmas of Security (Oxford, 1987, 52-3, 67ff., 100-101)

#4 Comment By EliteCommInc. On August 5, 2014 @ 6:52 pm

“This act of national reconciliation, by which Hamas essentially adopted Abbas’ program for dealing with Israel, was what ultimately provoked the latest punishment of Gaza.”

I would love to get a dollar or two of rich Jews. But I am not willing to stoop to this,

“This act of national reconciliation, by which Hamas essentially adopted Abbas’ program for dealing with Israel, was what ultimately provoked the latest punishment of Gaza.”

Israel is never at a loss for excuses to extend further punishment and grab territory in Gaza. The last was the murder of three Israeli teens. Tragic of course, but not much for a case for Israel’s response.

The contention that Palestinian refusal to be a two state solution, which something Israel repeatedly uses as wedge and hedge does not explain recent events nor does it excuse them.

Being pro Israel does not require me to be pro-blind. The idea that Israel is going hand over territory they believe is theirs based on UN resolution defies Israeli behavior since the Balfour Agreements and the UN Declaration, recognizing the state of Israel. Israel has never so honored the Palestinians. Have a look at the behavior when they moved in to occupy the region for statehood. Guaranteed to open old wounds, create and crate new ones.

#5 Comment By steven zhou On August 6, 2014 @ 1:41 am

Ron, replace “norman finkelstein” with “alan dershowitz” and you’d be 100% correct. Careful: projection is getting a little too obvious.

#6 Comment By Jeff On August 6, 2014 @ 10:04 am

Ah, but Steven, Western mainstream-media victims aren’t allowed to point that sort of thing out about The Dersh or the other arbiters of “proper” attitude towards Israel. If any other country had 1% the chutzpah the Zionists display on a daily basis… we’d have something other than a Yiddish loan-word to describe it. And millions of Palestinians would have a better life. Ultimately, that’s what counts.

#7 Comment By steven zhou On August 6, 2014 @ 1:03 pm

Well said, Jeff. The “leaders” of the Arab world have long been used to not engaging with their testicular fortitude.