Gwynne Dyer: The death of the Middle East peace process

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      It’s as if the world’s leaders were earnestly warning us that global warming will cause the extinction of the dinosaurs. They’ve actually been dead for a long time already. So has the Middle East “peace process”.

      As soon as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel will build 3,000 homes on “East One” (E-1), the last piece of land connecting East Jerusalem with the West Bank that is not already covered with Jewish settlements, the ritual condemnations started to flow. Even U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that “these activities set back the cause of a negotiated peace,” and others went a lot further.

      The British minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt, warned that “the settlements plan…has the potential to alter the situation on the ground on a scale that threatens the viability of a two-state solution.” France called in the Israeli ambassador and told him that “settlements are illegal under international law…and constitute an obstacle to a fair peace based on a two-state solution.”

      Even the Australian government summoned the Israeli ambassador and told him that Israeli plans to build on the land in question “threaten the viability of a two-state solution”. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said that the plan would be “an almost fatal blow” to the two-state solution, as if it were still alive. And Netanyahu, secure in the knowledge that they wouldn’t actually do anything, just stone-walled and smiled.

      In almost all the media coverage, the Israeli announcement is explained as an angry response for the United Nations General Assembly’s vote last month to grant the Palestinian Authority permanent observer status at the UN, which is tantamount to recognising Palestine as an independent state. As if Netanyahu were an impulsive man who had just lost his temper, not a wily strategist who thinks long-term.

      Building in the “E-1” area, which covers most of the space between the Jewish settlements that ring East Jerusalem and the huge Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim in the Palestinian West Bank, is definitely a game-changer. It effectively separates the West Bank from East Jerusalem, the city that the Palestinians see as the capital of their future state. It also almost cuts the West Bank in two. But it’s not a new idea.

      The Israeli government declared its intention to build on this land 14 years ago, when Netanyahu was prime minister for the first time. The plan was frozen in response to outraged protests from practically all of Israel’s allies, who had invested a great deal of political capital in the two-state solution. But it was never abandoned.

      Successive U.S. presidents were assured by various Israeli governments that construction would not proceed there, but most of those governments went on preparing for the day when a pretext to break the freeze would present itself. The land is still deserted today, but there are street lights, electric cables, and water mains.

      Now a pretext has arisen, even if the UN General Assembly’s recognition of a Palestinian state makes little practical difference. Netanyahu has seized the opportunity, as he undoubtedly always planned to. And you can’t kill the “two-state solution”. To Netanyahu’s considerable satisfaction, it is already dead.

      Creating two independent states, Israeli and Palestinian, separated by the “green line” that was Israel’s border until it conquered the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 war, was the goal of the 1993 Oslo Accords. That’s what the “peace process” was all about, but it was really doomed when Yitzhak Rabin, the prime minister signed the Oslo deal, was assassinated by a right-wing Jewish fanatic in 1995.

      Netanyahu was elected prime minister after Rabin’s death, and spent the next three years stalling on the transfers of land and political authority to the Palestinian Authority that were required under the Oslo Accords. Meanwhile, he supported a vastly expanded program of Jewish settlement in the West Bank, although it was obvious that this would ultimately make a Palestinian state impossible.

      After a two-year interval when the Labour Party under Ehud Barak formed a government and seriously pursued a final peace settlement with the Palestinians, the Israeli right recovered power in 2001 and has relentlessly pursued project of settling Jews on Palestinian territory ever since.

      The number of Jews living in the West Bank has doubled in the past 12 years, and they now account for one-fifth of the population there. Jewish settlements, roads reserved for Jewish settlers, and Israeli military bases and reservations now cover 40 percent of the West Bank’s territory. But to retain U.S. support, Netanyahu still has to pretend that he is really interested in a two-state solution.

      That’s why he had to wait for the right excuse before building on “E-1” and sealing East Jerusalem off from the West Bank. But he always intended to kill off the “peace process”, and in practice he succeeded long ago.

      Why do his Western allies in the United States and elsewhere put up with this fraud? Because they cannot think of anything else to do.

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      23 Comments

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      doconnor

      Dec 6, 2012 at 11:35am

      So what is Netanyahu's long-term wily plan? To maintain the occupation forever? To expel the Palestinians?

      WTF?

      Dec 6, 2012 at 12:35pm

      Well that is the million dollar question. How does Israel integrate the conquored territories and populations? I suspect they will try to deport the Palestinians in the West Bank to Gaza.

      Please, Please, Please

      Dec 6, 2012 at 12:51pm

      Its hard to recognize Netanyahu without Harper kneeling in front of him

      Leone

      Dec 6, 2012 at 1:08pm

      I would think his plan is indeed to 'cleanse' Israel of the Palestinians. Even Herod the Great never tried that. Unholy Land.

      doconnor

      Dec 6, 2012 at 1:09pm

      Maybe Netanyahu plan is to keep getting reelected until he retires, with no regard to the long term consequences (like a mutli-ethinc multi-religous state that is a beacon of tolerance unto the world and the death of Zionism)

      iSheep

      Dec 6, 2012 at 1:36pm

      The 'West' underestimates the Christian Hating, West Hating Israeli mindset.

      It is based upon rigid ideology of the Israeli Religious Fundamentalist State that views others as 'Gentiles' to be used for their purpose.

      It is as scary and insidious as the Arab Terrorist rigid Religious Fundamentalist mindset.

      Both are evil.

      There is little difference.

      bowser

      Dec 6, 2012 at 2:13pm

      I'm sure Netanyahu is no saint. But let's not leave out the role of Hamas in killing the peace process by their stated intention of killing every Jewish person on the planet. There is plenty of blame to go around. How would you feel if your neighbor's only goal in life was to annihilate you?

      Mosby

      Dec 6, 2012 at 2:15pm

      As the American Empire continues to decline, the United States won't be able to continue supporting its expensive collection of client states, of which Israel is Number 1.
      That's the plain truth of the matter, as laid out by John Michael Greer just two weeks ago here:
      http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.ca/2012/11/in-twilight-of-empires.html
      Within a decade or two, Israel is going to be left entirely on its own, and the result won't be pretty. If I were an Israeli, I would get out while the gettin's good.

      Nathaniel

      Dec 6, 2012 at 2:32pm

      Israel and the Zionists must continue to saturate worldwide media with disinformation about their role as victims of insecurity in order to pursue their imperialist agenda and lobby for international support as well as billions of dollars in yearly military funding. Without this mask of deception, their pursuit for a Jewish only holy land is not attainable. Meanwhile, they reek bloody havoc on children and dirt farmers day and night with their star warsesque tanks and fatigues. When even during the South African aparthied in all its horror and shame did the whites descend upon Soweto with F16 fighter jets and white phosperous? The aparthied WILL fall and the cheers of victory will haunt the Zionist machine forever.

      Please, Please, Please

      Dec 6, 2012 at 2:47pm

      bowser
      " But let's not leave out the role of Hamas in killing the peace process by their stated intention of killing every Jewish person on the planet"

      A sentiment you can also find in mainstream Israeli political dialogue when it comes to Arabs. Parties in the Knesset espouse this as well in their internal literature. Avigdor Lieberman in particular.

      Which isnt to say Hamas are not murderers or terrorists. They are.

      However, the IDF has maintained a kill ratio of about 9:1 over the past thirty years - roughly nine dead Arabs for every dead Israeli.

      That isnt self defence. Its retribution.

      "There is plenty of blame to go around"

      Absolutely. I hold Hamas and the current Government of Israel in equal amounts of contempt.

      "How would you feel if your neighbor's only goal in life was to annihilate you"

      How does this statement not apply to the Arabs in the West Bank or Gaza ?

      An Arab in Gaza or the West Bank is far more likely to die at the hands of the IDF than an Israeli citizen is to die at the hands of Hamas or Hezbollah.

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