Horsetrading at the Talks
Neither Israel nor the Palestinian Authority want to be seen scuppering Obama’s peace initiative before November’s US elections, and are both manoeuvring to blame the other.
Netanyahu stands to gain from a settlement that would set the seal of legality on Israel’s land theft and weaken the BDS movement. Yet he is demanding more and more from Washington and upping the ante with the Palestinian negotiators to provoke them to walk away.
Washington offered him a range of diplomatic, military and financial incentives (including fighter planes) just to get a couple of months’ symbolic settlement slow-down to save face for Abbas. Netanyahu also demands that Washington agree, in advance of any deal, to dispense with the Green Line, leaving Israel a free hand to re-draw the borders where it wants.
Within Israel, Netanyahu’s support for the far right’s new loyalty oath is his sweetener to get coalition partner Lieberman to agree to slow down further blatant land theft while the land already stolen is signed over to Israel. This move, which lays bare Israel’s internal apartheid, has outraged many liberal Jews, and may be a last straw for some: as such it may have been a costly trade.
The PA agreed to stay in the talks on the smallest face-saving condition of a couple of months’ partial building slowdown. And now Netanyahu has piled on another demand: not only have the PA got to keep talking, but they have to agree the premise of the same Loyalty Oath, which abandons the rights of over 5 million Palestinian exiles and of the 1.2 million Palestinians in Israel.
As Akiva Eldar commented in Haaretz, Abbas is expected to “grant recognition [of Israel as a Jewish state] in perpetuity, while Netanyahu will grant a temporary settlement freeze for two months”. This offer was calculated to produce either a walk-out or an early and abject surrender.
Abbas, desperate to evade the blame, referred to the Arab League the decision whether to continue talks after the building “moratorium” ended in late September. They have now set a further month for this decision, with Obama’s mid-term elections in mind.
But significantly, they seem also to have responded by speculating on four alternatives to the US-managed “peace process”.
The first three (the PA to ask the US to recognise the “State of Palestine”; the Arab League to petition UN states to do likewise, or to get the UN to take over the occupied Palestinian territories) are complete non-starters: in 1988 Palestine declared its independence and sought UN supervision, and was recognised by 114 states, but where did that get them?
But the fourth could really turn the tables on Israel and its US backer.
This would see the resignation of Abbas (admittedly this has been much threatened already and has never yet happened) and the dissolution of the PA, leaving the OPTs openly under full Israeli sovereignty. This would remove the fig-leaf of the Two States process and open the way for a serious civil rights movement.
Irrespective of who wins or loses the blame game for the failure of the “peace talks” (a game now so tired and overplayed that its outcome is almost irrelevant), such a struggle could expect massive, worldwide support at every level.
Its successful outcome will depend not on negotiations or manoeuvres but on the relationship of forces: there is little doubt that Israel’s economic, military and diplomatic dominance has to be dismantled.
Whatever the “solution” favoured (two states, one democratic state, a binational state etc), it will require a profound transformation to achieve justice for Palestine. And in Omar Barghouti’s words, “if we can resist to the point of saying what we want, we might as well go for the morally best solution, one democratic state”.
As ex-South African president Thabo Mbeki stated last May, “the negotiations (in South Africa) became possible once the dominant ruling power in our country realized that it could not achieve its objectives by any other means, including by continuing resort to the considerable means of repression it had at its disposal …”
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