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Israel, White House Abandon Pretense of Peace Process

The remarkable run of international attention aimed at solving the Israel-Palestine conflict has run its course. In the decades from the Security Council deliberations leading the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 242 in 1967 to Secretary of State John Kerry’s peripatetic wanderings, no other issue so animated international diplomacy. This sustained, top-level attention was no mean feat in a world where disasters are the order of the day. But although it often seemed to be the case, the “peace process” could not rivet the world’s fickle attention forever.

The dance ended with a whimper in 2014. Today, there is less interest in a solution to the Israel/Palestine/Arab conflict than at any time since Israel’s creation almost seven decades ago. True, there are other issues commanding international attention. But the conflict’s absence from news headlines and the briefing books reflect much more substantive realities than the simple competition for headlines.

During the golden years after the Oslo agreement in 1993, diplomats and politicians alike contented themselves with the lazy analytical argument that the parameters of a deal were self-evident. Since “we all know what the endgame looks like,” the goal was simply to establish a mechanism that would produce a peace treaty between Israel and the PLO, conditioned by an agreed upon Israeli withdrawal from most (and as time passed decreasing percentage) of the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Such silliness passed for statecraft during the Bush and Obama years, and empowered a more determined and hard–headed Israeli set of diplomatic priorities. Top on this list was Israel’s relentless expansion of settlements throughout the West Bank—a reflection of the enduring Israeli consensus in its favor. Next was the decision by an aging Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to present Palestinians and his own successors with the fait accompli of an unconditional Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005, a decision that broke all the rules of the U.S.-led peace process and has been ratified consistently since then in serial wars between Israel and Gaza’s nationalist-Islamist rulers. Today, Gaza remains the most dynamic arena where often clashing, but occasionally intersecting, Israeli and Palestinian interests compete.

The agenda of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israeli government provides instructive insights into the current state of affairs. Netanyahu’s interest in a two-state solution has always been conditioned by his assessment of the terms of an agreement favored by the U.S., which formally embraced a two-state solution during the George W. Bush administration.

During the Obama years, Netanyahu easily parried Washington’s ham-fisted efforts to secure a settlement freeze—the original centerpiece of its first signature diplomatic initiative. Obama never established an agreed basis for substantive talks. Instead, Obama bequeathed to the Trump administration a historic unraveling throughout the Middle East. Palestine was delivered to the new administration as a scorched diplomatic landscape, characterized by despair and boredom with the continuing conflict.

Trump’s sympathies on Palestine are clearly with Israel’s revisionist right wing. He and his aides have little idea and even less interest about how to approach—let alone solve—the conflict. As a consequence, Netanyahu has abandoned any pretense of interest in or commitment to the evacuation of West Bank territory in order to make room for the creation of a Palestinian state.     

“We are here to stay forever,” he declared at a recent ceremony marking one half century of settlement in the northern West Bank. “There will be no more uprooting of settlements in the land of Israel.”

“This is the inheritance of our ancestors.” he said [1]. “This is our land.”

In contrast to his attention on the expansion of settlements, Netanyahu gives little thought to Mahmoud Abbas, who is distracted by challenges to his leadership, and the sclerotic PLO leadership that he is meant to represent. Gaza, which fields the first sovereign Palestinian national army, remains Netanyahu’s primary Palestinian distraction. Netanyahu worries—to a certain degree—about preserving the stability of Hamas’ rule in Gaza from less disciplined, more radical challengers, but not enough to end the manufactured crisis that has plunged Gaza into penury and hopelessness for the last 15 years.

The strongest Arab states have been Netanyahu’s “enablers.” Since the adoption of the first Saudi peace plan in 1982 (to win Israel’s withdrawal) and the creation of a Palestinian state, this bargain at the heart of Arab efforts has been undermined by its proponents’ own readiness to advance their sovereign interests with Israel without any quid pro quo on Palestine. Egypt first, followed by Jordan, and most recently Saudi Arabia, consider the preservation of their own interests with Israel to be at odds with the Arab Peace Initiative—the centerpiece of which is an Arab readiness to live in peace with Israel in return for the creation of a Palestinian state. The Arab Peace Initiative has disappeared from the peacemaking lexicon even as Saudi Arabia has signed on as a formal participant and strategic partner in upholding the terms of the historic peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.

This juxtaposition is no accident. In the current regional environment, shared interests between Israel and strong Arab states trump the Arab interest in Palestine or Israeli willingness to make territorial concessions on its behalf. In today’s world, the API, much like the idea of an Israeli withdrawal and removal of settlements, is an artifact of history.

More broadly, Israel’s longest serving prime minister has resurrected an old-fashioned, Orientalist view of Israel’s international role as the long, militant, if civilizing arm of the West. At the American ambassador’s residence in celebration of the Fourth of July, Netanyahu highlighted [2] this self-interested if compelling narrative. “Israel is also an aircraft carrier,” he declared. “It’s an aircraft carrier for Western civilization; for the civilization of freedom.”

Netanyahu is not the first to declare such sympathies. His predecessor Ehud Barak famously described Israel as “a villa in the jungle.” Such bombast resonates, particularly in Trump’s world, and beyond. Greater Israel as a valued defender and enforcer of the West—that is of civilization itself—pushes the prospect of consequential Israeli territorial concessions in the West Bank off the table.

Geoffrey Aronson is chairman and co-founder of The Mortons Group and a non-resident scholar at the Middle East Institute.

38 Comments (Open | Close)

38 Comments To "Israel, White House Abandon Pretense of Peace Process"

#1 Comment By Whine Merchant On September 11, 2017 @ 10:41 pm

Serious question to readers: Is this really a surprise to anyone??

But the US taxpayer will still be footing the bill in so many, many ways…

#2 Comment By defend and enforce ha ha ha On September 12, 2017 @ 12:01 am

“Greater Israel as a valued defender and enforcer of the West—that is of civilization itself—pushes the prospect of consequential Israeli territorial concessions in the West Bank off the table.”

Except that “Israel as defender and enforcer” is a crock.

When the chips were down in the Middle East, Israel turned out to an expensive burden. As usual, we were the “defender and enforcer”. And we wouldn’t have had to defend or enforce anything if we hadn’t been dragged into Middle East quarrels on Israel’s side in the first place.

The “peace process” is and has been a bad joke for over 20 years. It’s just a chance for the Israelis and Palestinians to rip off Uncle Sugar. And boy, have they ever ripped us off …

The idea that Israel is “of the West” is also a crock. Israel has been more Russian and Warsaw Pact European than “Western” for a long time.

#3 Comment By A. M. Gilbert On September 12, 2017 @ 2:18 am

So let me see if I understand this. According to Bibi Israel is the “carrier for Western civilization; for the civilization of freedom.”

This while the nation is under the sway of Hasidic rabbis spewing racial hate and subjugating women in near hijab-like coverings; and while 6 million Palestinians live under a 50 year old military occupation, in the prison called Gaza or, if they’re really lucky, as second-class citizens in Israel.

There is no arrogance to match today’s grand Zionist “machers.” There is no ignorance greater than America’s politicians as they dance to AIPAC”s tune. And there are no greater dupes than American tax payers subsidizing this lunacy.

#4 Comment By TTT On September 12, 2017 @ 9:03 am

After the dissolution of Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen, many Arabs have come to see what real problems are and no longer have interest in virtue-signaling for the sake of Palestinian charity divas. The old bedtime story that peace between I/P would “stabilize” the Middle East has been embarrassingly disproven, and the Palestinians in Israel and the West Bank turned out to have a better thing going than most of their neighbors, so of course fewer people are talking about it.

#5 Comment By I Think Not On September 12, 2017 @ 9:36 am

““Israel is also an aircraft carrier,” he [Netanyahu] declared. “It’s an aircraft carrier for Western civilization; for the civilization of freedom.” “

Some “aircraft carrier”. It was useless to us for the past fifteen years.

Also, a country that aspires to the ‘civilization of freedom’ shouldn’t be running an open-air concentration camp on its southern border.

#6 Comment By Egypt Steve On September 12, 2017 @ 9:53 am

Re: “Trump appears to care less.” This is supposed to be the “American Conservative,” the guardian of all accepted, traditional norms. One of those traditional norms is to conform to the rules of standard English. “Trump appears unable to care less,” please.

#7 Comment By SDS On September 12, 2017 @ 10:30 am

Yeah; what they said, above….

#8 Comment By Michael Kenny On September 12, 2017 @ 10:50 am

The article brings out the inherent contradiction in Israel’s position. On the one side, Israel is “the inheritance of our ancestors”, says Bibi. But then he says Israel is “an aircraft carrier for Western civilization”. Israel is a Middle Eastern country. If it is the inheritance of the Jews’ ancestors, then the Jews must be a Middle Eastern people and thus not part of “Western civilisation”. If the Jews are part of “Western civilisation” then they have no business in Palestine. The peace process will be something more than an Israeli stall when the Jews make up their minds which of the two they actually are.

#9 Comment By Tim Brandyberry On September 12, 2017 @ 1:36 pm

Bibi is right. A two-state solution before long works out to a one-state solution: Israel destroyed, the people annihilated and the Muslims in command. That is unacceptable, of course, especially given how much higher and more humane civilization is in Israel than in any Muslim country. Judea, Samaria, Galilee, it is all Israel, by God’s sovereign design.

#10 Comment By MEOW On September 12, 2017 @ 1:46 pm

More pointedly: Should the U.S. abandon any pretense that it is independent of Israel and its operatives?

#11 Comment By C M Rennels On September 12, 2017 @ 1:48 pm

Why haven’t the Arab countries allowed the Palestinians to immigrate to their countries? They share a culture and language.

#12 Comment By Kurt Gayle On September 12, 2017 @ 1:51 pm

Reading “Israel, White House Abandon Pretense of Peace Process” you’d assume there must be general agreement that Israel is sitting in the regional catbird seat.

But contrast Geoffrey Aronson’s assumption of Israeli regional ascendancy with Sharmine Narwani’s “Israel’s Geopolitical Gut Check — A once favorable balance of power has shifted, clipping Tel Aviv’s wings” published in TAC on September 6th:

[3]

#13 Comment By balconesfault On September 12, 2017 @ 2:31 pm

Wasn’t Jared supposed to be fixing all of this?

Oh, right.

Meanwhile, while I’ll agree with the inefficacy of the Obama Administration on moving the ball forward, they had to do so from the beginning with the GOP caucus trying their best to sabotage any initiatives Obama might offer.

Remember Eric Cantor leading a Republican Congressional Delegation to Israel only a few months after Obama’s inauguration?

From Israel Today back in the summer of 2009 …

In an indication of where he and other Republicans stand on the growth of Jewish communities in areas claimed by the Palestinians, Cantor blasted Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for their criticism of Israel over the eviction of Palestinian squatters from a Jewish-owned building on the eastern side of Jerusalem.

“I don’t think we, in America, would want another country telling us how to implement and execute our laws,” said Cantor.

#14 Comment By Mark Thomason On September 12, 2017 @ 2:42 pm

Israel has dug its grave. We can’t save them. We need to just let this go.

Just stop sending good money after bad. Write them off.

Move on to other things we can do, that need doing.

Get out of the rest of the Middle East wars too.

#15 Comment By Dave skerry On September 12, 2017 @ 2:56 pm

Abandoned. Really? I don’t believe it’s real since Carter. Please, it’s all a con- job orchestrated and financed by AIPAC and it’s American servants,a/k/a Comgress many of whom should be arrested on the House and Senate floors and tried for treason. Yes this country is at war,a war that cons Americans out of their sons,their daughters and their dollars and America out of it’s dignity and respect by most of the world.

#16 Comment By Wilfred On September 12, 2017 @ 4:05 pm

So Israelis are the bad guys for expanding their presence in the West Bank, and also they’re the bad guys for pulling out of Gaza?

There’s no pleasing some people.

#17 Comment By Whine Merchant On September 12, 2017 @ 4:40 pm

CM Reynolds writes: “Why haven’t the Arab countries allowed the Palestinians to immigrate to their countries?”

Because the Palestinians have a country and they are mostly living in it. The Israeli settlers [most of whom are eastern European emigrants or their children], are thugging them out of their homes and farms, because they need lebensraum.

#18 Comment By Scott Richter On September 12, 2017 @ 5:17 pm

Oh no this means no peace in the middle east , I knew this would happen. Bad Trump. Hillary would have made good peace thats for sure.?

#19 Comment By YM On September 12, 2017 @ 5:35 pm

Geoffrey, there is nothing that Israel could offer the Palestinians that they would agree to. They tried, but there is zero possiblity that Israel is going to allow 5 million Palestinian ‘refugees’ to move, not to a Palestinian state, but to the pre-1967 borders of Israel. If Israel offered the Palestinians everything they want minus a ‘right of return’, they would reject it.

#20 Comment By Mother Wit On September 12, 2017 @ 6:30 pm

The Palestinians globally need to give political and economic support to groups within America and Britain. They need to understand that is the only way to bring the environment for justice.

#21 Comment By A.M. Gilbert On September 12, 2017 @ 8:27 pm

Thanks for a most astute observation from Michael Kenny above. We’re led, of course, into “what is Judaism?” A nationality? A religion? Or a race. And is there an issue here of European Ashkenazy v. other Jewish strata?

#22 Comment By Matt D. On September 12, 2017 @ 8:37 pm

Re CM Rennels:

“Why haven’t the Arab countries allowed the Palestinians to immigrate to their countries? They share a culture and language.”

Large numbers of Palestinians already ARE spread widely throughout the Arab countries East of Egypt, with varying levels of drama and quality of treatment.

Saddam treated the Palestinians great. He’s not around anymore. In the 1970’s and 80’s Palestinians were key players in civil wars in Jordan and Lebanon. Syria kept a large contingent in big camps until the most recent war, when these camps were infiltrated by rebels and became battlegrounds.

The theory has been that they’re waiting for the restoration of their homeland. Some theory, that.

#23 Comment By Stan On September 12, 2017 @ 9:09 pm

Re:There is no ignorance greater than America’s politicians as they dance to AIPAC”s tune.

They’re certainly ignorant, but more than that, and more essentially, they are spineless, unprincipled, and stupid; they’re bought and paid for–or extorted, according to case.

Thanks to Goy cowardice and insouciance, Zionism is the great taboo and it is the great elephant in the room whenever geopolitics is discussed. The “goyim” are fools and tools.

#24 Comment By SteveK9 On September 13, 2017 @ 7:24 am

Might makes right, there are no ‘International Laws’. The Palestinians lost, they should recognize it and emigrate to somewhere else. Move to Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt. Sounds harsh, but what is the point of being miserable in Gaza forever? Of course, these countries would have to be willing to take them, but that can probably be arranged.

#25 Comment By Donald On September 13, 2017 @ 9:29 am

“Why haven’t the Arab countries allowed the Palestinians to immigrate to their countries? ”

Whatever the flaws of the Arab countries, this is a standard distraction. The Palestinians want to go back to their homeland. Yes, that is inconvenient for the people who pushed them out.

#26 Comment By MEOW On September 13, 2017 @ 9:54 am

Not all goys are idiots [4]

#27 Comment By Moi On September 13, 2017 @ 10:00 am

The US was not and is not an “honest broker” for Israeli-Palestinian “peace” talks. There is little the US is honest about.

#28 Comment By To Whom Credit Is Due On September 13, 2017 @ 11:54 am

@Moi “US was not and is not an “honest broker” [in “Middle East peace process”]…”

Certainly true from the Bill Clinton administration on. According to Osama bin Laden, it’s the main reason he attacked us on 9/11. That makes it the most expensive foreign policy blunder in our history.

Special credit goes to Clinton’s top “Middle East peace negotiator”, Dennis Ross, aka “Israel’s lawyer”.

#29 Comment By civil servant On September 13, 2017 @ 11:58 am

I’m glad they’re abandoning the pretense of a “peace process”.

Now Trump should abandon the Middle East altogether, like he promised during the campaign. Focus on what America needs, Mr. President, not on Israel and Saudi Arabia.

#30 Comment By Cliff Story On September 13, 2017 @ 12:15 pm

Israel acts as a sovereign, not an occupier, and claims sovereign immunity. It has annexed the whole of mandate Palestine in all but name. We ought to forget the pipedream of a “two-state solution”, and recognize Israeli sovereignty. The PA disappears, and the problem then becomes one of civil and political rights for the people, including Arab people, of Israel.

#31 Comment By george Archers On September 13, 2017 @ 2:30 pm

WWI and WWII were all about creation of Israel. Millions died!

#32 Comment By PxThucydides On September 13, 2017 @ 4:18 pm

Israel is the “outpost of Western Civilization” that denies one of the core principles of Western Civilization, and that is the one in the US Declaration of Independence, the very first one: “All men are created equal.”

This principle has been broken but never denied by any Western state. And Israel, too, has claimed adherence to the rule- until now. With its abandonment of negotiations, the mask is gone: according to this state, all men are not created equal.

Can a state that openly declares opposition to this princple be considered a member of the community of the West?

This is the single point that will see Israel, ultimately, recognized for what it is- the modern successor not just of South Africa, but of the particular regime that the world combined at huge cost to destroy in the middle of the last century. And they will be ejected from the community of nations.

#33 Comment By David On September 13, 2017 @ 6:53 pm

Meanwhile, while hardly a surprise, Israel is rotting within:

[5]

Jerusalem Post June 24, 2017
“‘Israel is becoming a fascist state, U.S. can’t save the day’”

“Opposition leader Isaac Herzog doesn’t think the American efforts to revive the peace talks will bear fruit and warns that Israel is slowly slipping into fascism.”
By Joy Bernard

EXCERPT:
“Opposition leader and Zionist Union chairman Issac Herzog warned on Saturday that Israel was headed toward fascism and that its fate as a democracy was at stake.

“‘We are going through a process of fascistization of Israeli politics,’ Herzog warned while speaking at a cultural event in central Israel. ‘Whoever is wary of the country’s fate and would like to prevent the fascistization has to support the transition into one big and moderate political bloc in order to change this trend,’ he said.”

“‘We have to change the regime in order to save the Israeli democracy from the fascistization that is threatening it,’ Herzog continued.”

#34 Comment By ross On September 13, 2017 @ 7:16 pm

Talking about “revisionist” history…the author. BTW, Israel should simply declare dominion over Judea and Samaria; grant (Actually that would mean less autonomy than the status quo) Puerto Rico like status to Area A where 96% of those Arabs live, and incorporate the balance inside of Israel’s borders.

#35 Comment By David On September 13, 2017 @ 8:34 pm

Bottom line:
Foreign Jews had the same right to Palestine as Irish Catholics and Mexican atheists, i.e, none whatsoever. Therein lies the root of the conflict.

#36 Comment By TTT On September 14, 2017 @ 8:54 am

PxThucydides: Israel is the modern successor of the particular regime that the world combined at huge cost to destroy in the middle of the last century.

If Israel is Nazi Germany, how about we trade their effects on their victims? The Jews would have to walk from Poland to Hungary and could never go back to Poland again. And one-third of all the Palestinians in the world would get killed within 5 years, their population level never to recover. Totally the same, fair’s fair, right? You’d make that trade, right?

#37 Comment By Daniel (not Larrison) On September 15, 2017 @ 4:30 pm

Cliff Story wrote:

Israel acts as a sovereign, not an occupier, and claims sovereign immunity. It has annexed the whole of mandate Palestine in all but name. We ought to forget the pipedream of a “two-state solution”, and recognize Israeli sovereignty. The PA disappears, and the problem then becomes one of civil and political rights for the people, including Arab people, of Israel.

Oh, in principle I agree with this. However, there are two items I’d bring up:

(1) Israel would demographically likely end up an Arab-majority state, and cease to be a “Jewish State” de facto. I can see the Arab majority making this de jure, voting a new flag and a new name for the state, and it would cease to be Israel. Even if people diligently pursued equal rights for the now minority Jewish people, it would be a horrible defeat to the Zionist roots of Israel (whether you agree with their goals or not, it would mean that the ideal of a “Jewish State” would end). Thus, Zionists as a group would never, ever submit to this idea, where Jews would end up being a minority once again.

(2) The Civil Rights of Palestinians would also recognize the right of return of those driven off their land during the various wars where Israel conquered the land. This would exacerbate point (1). Nevertheless, if the Palestinians would accept a long-term view, say “that’s ok”, bid their time until their a majority, then open up immigration as they wish, they could end up with everything. But that’s expecting a lot from a people group that have shown little patience for the long view (whether you think they should be patient or not. It’s easy for those not suffering under a 50-year plus stateless existence with little to no civil rights to lecture a people on what they should do. But in the end, by pursuing everything they’ve achieved nothing.)

#38 Comment By MEOW On September 20, 2017 @ 1:56 pm

Antisemitism was epidemic among cave men. Let us cure this evil now.