Rayan Fakhoury argues that the proposed new round of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians are no reason to be optimistic.
Following its breakdown in September of 2010, American-sponsored “peace talks” between Israeli and Palestinian authorities have recently resumed. For many who have passively supported the Palestinian cause, this news may be a reason for celebration, and potentially the start of a long road to peace. I would suggest, however, that people hold their optimism and instead take lessons from the history of this conflict.
One only has to look at the party that claims to mediate the discussions to grasp the first clear obstacle to progress. Though the United States claims neutrality in these negotiations, this assertion is blatantly fraudulent. After all, how can the world’s only superpower mediate between two parties when it has a clear history of bias towards one side? Since 1972 (excluding numerous examples before then), the US has vetoed at least 43 UN Security Council Resolutions relating to the Arab-Israeli conflict, in each case doing so to protect “Israeli interests”. Disturbingly, these have usually been in resolutions which condemn the widespread violations of human rights and international law. It is worth noting, that they have done so with a clear disregard for international consensus- illustrated by voting against every one of the 43 resolutions mentioned. One also cannot forget that they are essentially the financiers of the illegal Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. Israel receives an average of $8.5 million of military aid from the United States per day which has totalled to $233.7bn over six decades (58 times total Palestinian GDP).
To make matters worse, Martin Indyk has officially been appointed the US envoy to these talks. As a man who began his career as an AIPAC staffer (AIPAC is the most influential pro-Israel lobby in the world), he went on to serve as executive director of a think tank often considered to be an offshoot of AIPAC. He then served two terms as the American Ambassador to Israel, and repeatedly asserted his support for the continuation of illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. Only the Americans could make such an outrageous claim to neutrality in a situation as clearly bias as this.
The next obstacle, and perhaps the most important, is the content of these talks. Abbas, under aggressive economic pressure from the United States, has ignorantly abandoned the precondition of an end to settlement-building in order to resume talks. Thus, while the American and Israeli administrations create an international front for political progress in the form of an on-going “peace process”, Israeli colonies continue to fulfil their territorial ambitions. Simultaneously, they undermine and reduce the viability of any future Palestinian state by cutting off transport routes and severing the Palestinian population into individual pieces that could never function as a single state economically, politically, or militarily, without complete and utter dependence on their Israeli neighbour.
Recent developments only work to support this outlook. On June 24th, the Knesset approved the Prawer-Begin plan- a plan that, when implemented, will result in the destruction of 35 Bedouin villages in the Negev and the forced displacement of up to 70,000 Arab Bedouins – many of whom are themselves refugees forced to leave their long-standing homes following its destruction by the Israelis in 1948. More recently, the Israeli cabinet agreed to subsidise 800 settlement units previously considered illegal under Israeli law (all of which are illegal under international law) and approve a further 1200 in the West Bank. So much for the Palestinian state and “peace process”- business as usual.
The other key topics such as the status of Palestinian refugees and the division of Jerusalem are to remain untouched until the “latter stages” of talks. If that is the case, then what is left to discuss? It seems like the only topic up for discussion at the moment is Israeli “security concerns”- as if it were Palestinian tanks roaming the streets of Tel Aviv, Palestinian military roadblocks prohibiting Israelis from free movement, and Palestinian authorities conducting systematic and arbitrary arrests of Israeli citizens without due process.
Despite this, the clichéd “peace process”- as Robert Fisk likes to point out – is being put “back on track” yet again. The truth is that the “peace process” does not exist as the word “process” necessitates some sort of progress or moving forward that has never accompanied such talks. The fact remains that we have negotiations being held by one clearly biased mediator and between two parties that themselves face an enormous disparity of power. The fourth largest military power in the world, supported by the largest military power in the world, is “negotiating” with a party that is comparatively powerless, faces economic catastrophe under the pressure of Israeli blockades, and has lived under military occupation and total subjugation for over four decades. Does anybody truly believe that this could ever lead to a happy ending for the Palestinian people?
Whilst the most substantial topics are ignored, the only real thing up for negotiation here is the complete submission of Abbas and the Palestinian Authority to their Israeli counterparts. This “peace process” seems increasingly like a further regurgitation of the disaster and political suicide that was Oslo. My advice to Abu Mazen and his cronies: walk away. And to the Palestinian people: don’t lose faith. Perhaps it’s time for a replication of the ’87 Intifada.
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