What if settlements were left in place? Bibi’s bluff misfires and closes another door to 2-state deal
In the latest instalment of the neverending Kerry Talks saga, Netanyahu announced that settlers in any part of the West Bank that became part of a state of Palestine would have the choice to stay under Palestinian jurisdiction or to leave.
This is a ploy with several meanings within a many-layered game, typical of this highly manipulative politician:
♦ To the ringmasters (and international audience that’s pressing him to “make concessions”), it’s meant to sound as if he is seriously about to make a deal and is looking for ways to facilitate it. Giving settlers the option to stay is something often heard from the Peace Now camp as a supposedly easy means to avoid the drama and hysteria of evictions. It almost convinced The Times of Israel. They wrote: “It’s possible that Netanyahu’s idea … represents his acceptance of the inevitable division of the land, his willingness to preside over that process, but his refusal to … forcibly remove Jews from Biblical Israel”.
♦ As a bonus for him, it would be rejected by any sane Palestinians who declined to have their tiny demilitarised fragment of a country dotted with armed garrisons, no-go roads and organised ex-pat agents/citizens of a hostile power, at the risk that any “security” incident real, imagined or provoked would bring the full might of the IDF back into play. Then the Palestinians could be denounced as racists for refusing to have Jews in their state, and painted as rejectionists of the peace process. But Hanan Ashrawi for the PLO side-stepped the trapdoor and simply said they could stay but on condition of good behaviour.
♦ Netanyahu’s chief aim is to keep the process going, ideally now with an interim “framework” agreement which will apparently set out, yet again, an agenda for a future round of talks. Putting on a willing demeanour by signalling that he is thinking creatively about “solutions” could give him enough credibility with the international community to prevent a rapid escalation of BDS beyond a tipping point of no return. Such an escalation is now widely expected to follow if Israel is seen to have sunk Kerry’s talks.
♦ As it happened, the PLO’s response was completely drowned out by Netanyahu’s settler-partners who failed to spot the double-bluff and instantly denounced the whole idea as a foul sell-out. A furious Netanyahu is threatening to turf them out of his government, but the card (not having to evict the settlers) has now been played and rebounded badly on him.
Whether he meant his proposal or was playing a game, Bibi, too clever by half, has done us the favour of closing another delusionary path to the two state mirage. It’s quite a blow to the last remnants of the partitionist Zionists who presented withdrawal as being possible, just around the next corner or the next round of talks.
By continuing the talking, the PLO are enabling the same game to go on and on, while Israel digs in all over the West Bank and starves the guts out of Gaza.
And the talking, and the talk about talks, gets in the way of action, as illustrated in the same week, over at the United Nations.
UN Year of Solidarity: Putting talks where BDS should be?
There are any number of things we can think of to mark the UN’s International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.
It would be a good time to recall all the international law that Israel has shredded over the years, from the partition resolution (1947) which included human rights standards for Israel’s constitution, laws and conduct, to UN resolution 194 (1948) that underlined the Palestinian refugee right of return, to the ICJ ruling (2004) that the Wall is illegal, to the Geneva Convention that forbids the acquisition of territory by military conquest, and forbids moving civilian populations to settle in occupied lands, to the war crime of collective punishment of civilians in Gaza by bombing, sniping and blockading, to the targeted murder of individuals, the mass political imprisonment without charge or trial, the arrests and imprisonment of children etc etc. (See useful summary just produced by EU in our Documents)
It could also highlight the numerous reports from UN’s own agencies and committees on Israel’s ongoing abuses of the laws and standards that it has signed up to.
And it could support and initiate international sanctions to pressure Israel to abide by these laws, conventions and standards.
Then, and only then, maybe there would be something to talk about.
Yet, opening the launch ceremony of the Year of Solidarity even as Israel commits daily acts of theft and violence, and two-state talks sink into the quicksands, UN chief Ban Ki-moon spoke of nothing other than talks, talks, talks, which from start to finish are based not on Rights and Law, but on power, and which take their cue primarily from Israel’s interests and secondarily from Israel’s internal power play.
His very first words were “This will be a critical year for achieving the two-State solution”. And he went on: “Israel and Palestine need to live up to their commitment to a negotiated two-State solution” — on the assumption that both sides have something to give away, whereas Israel has already taken 90% of the Palestinians’ country and driven some 90% of the people from their homes.
A UN pledge to make a priority of the basic rights of Palestinians would be more useful. In fact the “peace process” has been described by another UN official, Special Rapporteur for the Middle East Richard Falk, as “not a pathway to a just peace but rather a sinkhole for Palestinian rights”. Susan Abulhawa has written that “Continued bilateral negotiations in the current gross imbalance of power will destroy us” and that signing up to anything short of full rights would be an act of “high treason against the Palestinian people”.
And, straight from the horse’s mouth, came an admission of the real purpose of the talks by Tsipi Livni, Israel’s chief “negotiator” (who five years ago was up to her neck in the blood of Gaza). The talks were, she said, all that was holding back a “massive expansion of the boycotts campaign”.
That is the context for Ban Ki-moon’s statement which put the talks in the place where BDS should have been. Is it not high time to urge the PLO to declare a final break from the Oslo agreement, from the two state negotiations and process and from any further damaging negotiations to re-partition Palestine?
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