Any remaining illusion that the United States has ever been an honest broker in Israel-Palestine peace talks vanished yesterday. Al-Jazeera released a nearly 1700 document dump on the negotiations for a two state solution with a promise of more to come over the next few days. The US mainstream media has not exactly been all over the story, obviously engaging in their usual tactic of making it go away by ignoring it. But the facts are now out there, visible for everyone to see. The papers include background memos and reports of meetings and negotiating positions focused on the time period 2008-9. The Guardian describes the documents as a chronicle of “the slow death of the Middle East peace process.”
The Palestinians, it is now clear, offered far more both at Annapolis and at Taba than anyone not directly involved in the process believed at that time. They were willing to cede control over most of East Jerusalem as well as nearly all the ground on the West Bank on which the major Israeli settlements contiguous to Jerusalem were located. The major Muslim holy site the al-Aqsa mosque, Harm al’Sharif, would have been subject to what chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat described as a “creative” solution, possibly being placed under control of a special commission. Erekat described the concessions as creating the “largest Jerusalem in history” under Jewish control.
The Palestinian diaspora would have no right of return to their former homes in Israel and Israel even floated the idea of expelling its Arab citizens and resettling them on the West Bank. It was virtually a complete capitulation, the result of a powerless entity having to deal with a very powerful opponent totally supported by the world’s superpower. The Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni declared that the Palestinian concessions were not enough as the Palestinians had balked at conceding one major settlement Har Homa that blocked their access to their rump portion of Jerusalem from the West Bank. Livni wanted 100% and was supported in her obduracy by President George W. Bush and his staff.
The Palestinian people have rightly been shocked by the concessions being considered in their name, but it is a sign of the desperation of a national leadership that wants peace and stability at nearly any price as it watches continuing acquisitions of land and settlement building on the West Bank by the Israeli government.
If the Palestinian people believe they have been betrayed by their leadership that is something they will have to deal with themselves. But the American people have also been betrayed by a phony process that has dragged on for years at great cost to the taxpayer while inflicting terrible damage on the international standing of the United States. Israel continues to receive $7 million a day directly from the US Treasury plus much more in earmarks and tax deductible donations used to fund illegal settlements. Throw in the billions that have gone to Egypt and Jordan to keep the peace with Israel and the total costs to the United States have been staggering.
The unconscionable posturing and blank check granted to successive Israeli regimes by both Democratic and Republican US Administrations has effectively destroyed any conceivable peace process. The United States has an interest in encouraging a just settlement for the Palestinians and Israelis but it has instead frittered away its opportunity to serve as an arbiter of the situation by consistently throwing vast sums or money at the problem while simultaneously embracing Israeli “security” positions. Security is genuinely an issue, but it is the security of the American people, who are targeted by terrorists as a result of Washington’s embrace of Tel Aviv. American soldiers overseas are likewise the targets of militant groups who use the repression of the Palestinians as a recruiting tool and morale booster. Enough is enough. Israel is not part of the United States and the damage deriving from the relationship should be suggesting to everyone in congress and in the media that it is time for a change of course. US interests must come first and they demand a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is fair to both parties and that will not involve Washington any further in Middle Eastern imbroglios.