Time for Peace Talks - Palestine/Israel
March 2014, President Obama pressed the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to accept a US-sponsored framework for final peace talks with the Palestinians; fearful that time is running out. (Source)
How ‘time is running out’ is what we will try to analyze in the prospect of the history of this unfruitful peace process, which has hijacked the normality of the lives of millions who live in Palestine and its neighboring states.
It is an irony to note that Palestine had been occupied by the British in one of the campaigns of the WW1; the Sinai and Palestine Campaign, 1918. The British who had mastered the art of chivalry, were no less the masters of ploy too as they doubled played the Sharif of Mecca on one side, promising that if the Arabs would revolt against the Ottoman hegemony in alliance with the UK, then in return the UK would recognize Arab independence; and on the other hand, they made a secret pact with France, the Sykes–Picot Agreement, wherein they made a deal that if they win the war, Britain will take Palestine, Sinai and Mesopotamia (Iraq), and France will take Syria and Lebanon. Later, when the Triple Entente did win, they legitimized this takeover by obtaining a mandate from the League of Nations on the premise that they should be tasked with ‘administering parts of the defunct Ottoman Empire… until such time as they are able to stand alone’.
And they were able to ‘stand alone’ only after the WW2, and that too after each state had struggled hard with revolts and rebellions to gain their independence. Yet, Palestine was not destined for any such independence, as the ploy for its re-occupation had been written as early as WW1, in the Balfour Declaration, wherein the UK Foreign Minister James Balfour wrote to Baron Rothschild, promising the UK’s support for a Jewish ‘national home’ in Palestine. This promise was fulfilled after WW2, when instead of independence, a permanent captivation of the people of Palestine was stamped on them by the combined intrigues of Britain, the newly formed UN and the Jews.
But as it goes, after WW2, Europe and the US learned the values of democracy, self-determination and peace, and vowed to shroud the permanent occupation of Palestine with a permanent, never-ending ‘peace-process’. Post-WW2, the United States emerged as the new superpower of the West, and Russia, which had become the Soviet Union with the gains of WW1, emerged as an eastern superpower; and the peace process kept see sawing between the pressures of the two powers.
The permanency of the Peace Process has served in making it a complex organism in itself, as the implications it holds upon its different stakeholders and the way each perceives it is a fluctuating dynamics. In the bipolar world, post WW2, the USSR and the US, like in other parts of the world too, were constantly vying for allegiances in the Middle East, especially for two reasons; one, the discovery of large oil reserves in the Middle East, 1909 in Iran, 1927 in Iraq and 1938 in Saudi Arabia; and secondly, the Jewish Occupation. For the US, the issue of the Jews has been a quasi-religious one, as the US has time-proven to be an unalienable ally to Israel, irrespective of loss or gain, or any national interest! And for the USSR, the Middle East was a neighbor, and the USSR was always keen on making its neighborhood its own home, and if not, to influence it to its best. Though the whole world was an arena of contest between the Capitalist and the Communist camps, but no other area has been so complex, owing to the coupling of conflicting economic interests of each Arab state with joint religious aspirations between major transnational ideological groups.
After the WW1, the Soviets were able to extend their influence on a large part of Europe and Asia by annexing the Eastern Bloc of Europe up to East Germany and the whole Central Asian belt. Below this belt, Russia now intended to warp as many of the Middle Eastern states under its allegiance as possible. For this purpose, the methods used were funding the ally with weapons; investing in their economy in ways that the client states would become bound to do business with them; establishing military bases in the client states that would give them protection against their immediate threats and the Superpower a transnational presence; and ensuring the rulers of these states to be tilted towards them by using coups, revolts, espionage and backdoor diplomacy.
A few glimpses from the innumerable factors played in the Cold War will elaborate how the field of influences was constantly being pulled by both sides, like in 1953, President Eisenhower issued the CIA to carry on Operation Ajax to overthrow the Iranian PM Mohammad Mosaddegh, who had nationalized the British-owned Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in 1951. Though Mosaddegh claimed to be non-aligned,Winston Churchill announced that Mosaddegh was ‘increasingly turning towards communism’. The Operation successfully brought pro-Western Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to power, who banned the communist Tudeh Party and returned the bid to the British oil company, throwing Iran from the Soviet camps into the US one. And when Jamal Abdel Nassir of Egypt stood up for Pan-Arab Unity, aiming to unite Syria and Iraq into the United Arab Republic, which would ideally bring more Arab states into one unity, this was seen as a direct threat to the newly instated Israel, as all these three nations considered Israel a perpetrator in the Arab world, and were willing to use force against it. Later, when Nassir tried to gather several Muslim states under a non-aligned umbrella, that was also rendered unsuccessful due to different superpower influences in each state. As a result, Nassir was obliged to turn towards the Eastern Bloc, wherein the USSR was providing arms, aid and ideology compatibility to its allies like Syria, Iraq, Egypt and, later, Iran with the ousting of the Shah again.
With the so-called end of the Cold War, and the retreat of Russia from Afghanistan, East Germany and its own Central Asian states and the dawning of Gorbachev’s moderation policy and Russia’s apparent withdrawal from supporting its Middle Eastern allies with more arms and aid, it suddenly seemed that all the pro-Palestine energy had suffered a halt. Symbolically, Mikhail Gorbachev stood together with George Bush and expressed unanimous opposition to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in the Helsinki communiqué in 1990.
The Peace Process entered a paradigm shift in favor of Israel, such that the Arabs had to go back-foot from the efforts to oust Israel altogether from Palestine, to admittance of the existence of Israel. The Madrid Conference, October 1991, was the first manifestation of the Arabs retreating, it was the aftermaths of the Gulf War, and the Russians had already evacuated Afghanistan in 1989, when the US succeeded to have the competing sides to sit across the tables for the first time. The principle set for peace that made the Madrid Conference possible was ‘land-for peace’, which meant Israel retreating back to the 1967 borders, and granting of Palestinians their right of self-determination. In return, the Palestinians and their Arab neighbors were expected to bring down their hostilities against Israel and promise to settle their matter through negotiations. This was a clear bait, as Israel has asked the US, in May, for a fresh $10billion loan guarantee for newer settlements, so it was obviously not in the mood of giving any land back; and the Palestinians had no choice but to accept participation in the Conference, with the weakening of the Soviets.
Two years later, the Oslo Accord was signed, with the prior understanding that the PLO recognized the state of Israel and Israel recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people. The Accord was certainly crooked, it agreed that a Palestinian Authority would be made that would enjoy a limited self-governance over the occupied territories, and agreed that the issues at hand are the borders, the settlements and the status of Jerusalem and will be negotiated in the peace process. But the Accord did not accept the existence of a Palestinian state to begin with!
This Accord was later followed by several long cycles of talks, suspensions and restarts of negotiation, and the only agreements that were really made were those that strengthened Israel in one way or the other. Israel has since then only expanded its settlements in the West Bank and has practically made the Palestinians to live as prisoners in their own land.
So coming back to the question of what Obama has said on Monday, why is time running out now? The prelude was meant to show that about 15 years ago, the weakening of the Soviet Camp had given an opportunity to the US, considering itself in full power at that time, to bend the peace process in favor of their ‘special friend’, and turning the fierce Arab world that did not count Israel as a negotiable party, united in their desire to oust it with force, into a weak, disunited opponent across the tables.
But as it happened, the Soviets had not totally abandoned their Middle East allies after all. In the passing years, it re-strengthened its relations with Syria and Iraq and later with Iran too; and that too extended to the Palestinian cause. The Soviets played it smartly to keep the arms and aid completing their loop to their allies through Palestine, so that the friction between the Arabs and the West would be kept ignited. The Syrian civil war, starting March 2011, has brought these alliances to the forefront and showed the world how strongly knit the Soviets are with Iran, Iraq and Syria. Severing Syria first, then disconnecting Iran through the Nuclear Deal and now Ukraine will surely weaken Russia further, and as such Russia seems to stand at the brink of disaster, with all its allies breaking away one by one.
This cornering of Russia may have sent a new wave of a feeling of self-empowerment across the US and its European allies, and given them the courage to resolve the matter of Palestine and Israel for good. Perhaps the Obama administration is thinking that the time to hit the nail on the head has arrived, with Iran on the talking tables and Russia unable to revive its friends in the hour of need. Senator John Kerry is being seen traversing the global arena to this effect, too; observe one of Kerry’s statements that sums up our analysis:
“I also believe we are at a point in history that requires the United States, as Israel’s closest friend and the world’s preeminent power, to do everything we can to help end this conflict once and for all,” said Kerry to the AIPAC conference. (Source)
While Kerry will try to pose as an equal advocate for both the parties of the peace process, he is unable to hide the strong bias the US has for Israel; in a tweet released by the US State Department, Kerry said, ‘Every time Israel subjected to attacks on legitimacy, at UN or from any nation, US will use every tool to defeat these efforts’. (Source)
At such a turning point in the history of the Peace Process as being anticipated by the US, Israel will as usual pretend to be aloof of the process and stand up to one of its own unnatural demands; like it stood for the 10 billion for more settlements before the Oslo Accord, this time it wants an end to nuclear Iran:
At the White House, Netanyahu vowed that his government would not stand by and allow Iran to develop an atomic weapon that would bring Israel “again to the brink of destruction. I… will do whatever I must do to defend the Jewish state.” (Source)
With Russia cornered over Ukraine, and the arc of alliance from Russia through Iran, Iraq, Syria and Hamas in Lebanon severed; this may be a wish Israel may be anticipating to come true. Kerry’s tone has gotten more decisive:
Arriving in Israel in January, Secretary of State John Kerry had said regarding the Peace Talks, “It would create the fixed, defined parameters by which the parties would then know where they are going and what the end result could be.” (Source)
In fact, the US State Department’s tweets on behalf of Kerry are straight away talking of the ‘End Game’:
- @JohnKerry: What endgame should look like – security arrangements that leave Israelis more secure, not less. #MidEastPeace#AIPAC2014 (1/4)
- @JohnKerry: Endgame: Mutual recognition of nation-state of Jewish people & nation-state of Palestinian people. #MidEastPeace#AIPAC2014 (2/4)
- @JohnKerry: Endgame – An end to the conflict & all claims. A just & agreed solution for Palestinian refugees.#MidEastPeace#AIPAC2014 (3/4)
- @JohnKerry: Endgame – A resolution that finally allows Jerusalem to live up to its name as the city of peace. #MidEastPeace#AIPAC2014 (4/4)
And as the West prepares for an end-game, the freedom-lovers of Palestine turn to newer avenues to find some respite against their tormentors; a global campaign that was started by Palestinian NGOs in 2005, by the name of ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’, calling organizations all over the world to boycott against Israel until it meets it obligations under the international law. Over the years, several organizations and multinational companies across Europe, the US and around the world have complied with the BDS movement and boycotted doing business with Israel. The movement is quietly but effectively tightening the breathing space for Israeli businesses, so much so that Kerry had to acknowledge the fact in the AIPAC meeting:
“I will continue to staunchly, loudly and unapologetically oppose boycotts of Israel,” Kerry said Monday evening at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s conference, drawing a standing ovation. “That will never change.” Source
On the other hand, ‘His comments drew angry responses from (many) Israeli politicians. “I would advise John Kerry and some Israeli leftists to at least hide their smiles when they talk about threats of boycotts on Israel,” Dani Dayan, Israel’s chief foreign envoy to the Yesha Council…’ (Source)
There is little doubt that Palestine holds a unique pivotal position that drags the fabric of global politics around its center; whatever happens around the world affects Palestine and whatever happens in Palestine affects the world. No wonder Samuel Huntington said in his famous 1992 lecture that post-Cold War conflict will be based upon cultural and religious identity; he said, ‘…principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The faultlines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future’. (Source)
Perhaps this analysis was simple for Huntington; if the superpowers were going to make all their military and economic alliances with culturally-like groups, like Whites with Whites, Arabs with Arabs and Salves with Salves; and the Third World being pushed deeper into deprivation and exploitation would be aware more and more that it is also black or swarthy at the same time, then surely every clash will take the color of race, creed and beliefs eminent upon it, to such a point that today we hear the US Secretary of State, the acclaimed to be most progressive nation of the world, calling for an End Game between the clashing civilizations…