Daniel R. DePetris: The Political Docket

Arrogance, Anguish, and Frustration: Mideast Peace a Big Disappointment

Posted in Israeli-Palestinian Conflict by Dan on January 26, 2010

If you haven’t been paying that much attention to the Israeli-Palestinian situation, you are in luck; there is not much to report.  That is unless you are surprised that both sides have continued to stonewall negotiations.

Essentially, this is all that has happened over the past few weeks.  Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian coalition are fixed on their settlement demands (the Israelis must freeze construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem indefinitely) and P.M. Netanyahu continues to meet those demands with more obstructionist rhetoric.

I am beginning to wonder whether George Mitchell’s efforts in the region are worth this type of aggravation.  Stephen Walt tends to think that his reputation can be saved by resigning from his envoy post altogether.  While I would not go that far, I do understand his frustration; the only thing that Mr. Mitchell has managed to accomplish over the past year is a lot of frequent flier miles and a ton of jet lag.

I hate to sound like a pessimist, but no Middle Eastern peace accord will be signed by both parties unless the Israelis are willing to give up some of their privileges. By privileges, I mean the expansion of large settlement blocks that are scattered throughout the West Bank; the same land that Palestinians want for a future state. Unfortunately, P.M. Netanyahu is only willing to go so far. A 10 month settlement freeze is a start, but what is the point of such a measure if building resumes later in the year? This is the equivalent of promising Afghans that U.S. troops will leave Afghanistan for 10 months, only to invade the country again.

And what about the recent demands made by the Israelis over the past couple of days. Not only does Netanyahu want permanent Israeli control over some portion of the West Bank…he wants a permanent Israeli troop presence on the Jordanian border. This goes against the very fabric of state sovereignty; the basic and universal principle that all legitimate players in the international system respect and admire.

The rationale the Israelis use to justify a fixed troop presence on the Jordanian border is also lacking. The Israeli Government argues that this measure would help suppress rocket fire into Israel and would stop any illegal weapons shipments from getting to Hamas militants. Little do they know that it is through the porous borders of Syria and Lebanon- not through Jordan- where weapons, rockets, anti-tank missiles, and mortars slide into the Gaza Strip.

And would an Israeli checkpoint on the Jordanian border really make that much of a difference? The Israelis have a pretty good grasp on their northern border with Lebanon, but a heavy presence does not necessarily stop each and every weapon convoy from reaching Hamas.

The bottom line is that Israelis need to start acting realistically and need to denounce their disillusioned fantasy of a “Greater Israel.” Sure, the Palestinians have some work to do as well; they could stop insisting that their preconditions be met before peace talks resume. No one is immune from criticism.

But Palestinian grievances aside, brute talk from the Israelis doesn’t give Abbas and Company the right frame of mind for peace talking. Citing Israel’s imperialistic demands, why would Abbas return to the table?

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**Comments courtesy of the Economist**

-Daniel R. DePetris


11 Responses

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  1. Extranjero said, on January 26, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    Freedom is the only thing the Natives (Palestinians) have been asking for in 60 years. If the peace process does not include granting them freedom, then there is no point in having peace talks. The Israelis will continue to exploit the land of the Palestinians and continue its settlements and military presence, and the Palestinians will continue to ask for freedom.

    The only hope is if Europe gets more involved and stops backing down every time the United States disagrees with them.

  2. El Toro Es Guapo said, on January 26, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    How can you expect serious peace talks when the government of this country acts in petty, childish and vindictive ways when dealing with foreign dignitaries? (see: Turkish ambassador being purposefully embarrassed).

    This government thinks they are acting like civilized citizens of the world by making the Turkish ambassador sit in a lower chair.
    This clown should have been fired as a disgrace to a proud nation like Israel. Instead it just shows the true character of the politicians…
    Make peace? Give me a break!

  3. Froy" said, on January 26, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    There is little chance that Abbas will resume negotiations in the present circumstances, with settlement construction full throttle, freeze or no freeze, Arab evictions and house demolitions in E. Jerusalem, and an ongoing ruthless siege leaving 1.5m Gazans in a continuous humanitarian crisis. Abu Mazen is already widely considered as a corrupt collaborator, and his PA an outsourced repression tool of Israel. Sitting on the table to negotiate with Bibi now will just not do.

    In any case, pundits always like to repeat like parrots the official Israeli view about how Abbas has climbed up a tree because of Obama’s “unrealistic” initial demands, but fail to see the tree on which Netanyahu has himself climbed, with his promises to the radical settlement movement, his declared position about Jerusalem, and all his other arrogant declarations against any kind of meaningful compromise to satisfy his ultra-right-wing electorate, that also make impossible that he can agree now to any sensible starting point to restart the process. But of course, it’s always more politically correct to blame it all on the Pals.

    The best poor old Abbas could do now is hold on tight, until the Shalit deal is finally finished (maybe by pressing the US to stop objecting about the release of “terrorists”, that is the ultimate reason of the stalemate), and let Marwan Barghouti take over Fatah and the PA, hopefully in a unity government with Hamas, that would have credibility and legitimacy in the Palestinian eyes, and would surely maintain a less defeatist position in the peace negotiations.

  4. stands for truth said, on January 26, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    HOW sad to see the world’s only Super power hamstrung by a tiny country,Israel and its host of hardline backers inside USA.
    Perhaps it is an unprecedented phenomenon of tail wagging the dog.
    No other country is more dependent than Israel on US largesse.Yet no US President can nudge the defiant Israeli to honour dozens of UN Resolutions including the moribund UN Resolution 242(over 6 decades old).
    The self smae mighty US launched an illegal war against Iraq to enforce get it UN Resolutions.

    Once again we are witnessing that “Jordan Option” is being bandied around.
    Hilary Clinton’s famous declaration that Netyanhu has made an unprecendented concession was a death knell to Mr Obama’s attempt to solve the problem.
    Look from any angle,Mr Obama’s intention to revive the Peace proces was just a theatric.
    Meanwhile,Israeli ruling junta is busy gobbling up more land from the Palestinians.
    Yet it is the Palestinans who are asked to be reasonable and return to the table “without any conditions”.
    The US Congress is too subservient to the dictats of AIPAC which to all intents and purposes runs US Middle East policies.
    The favourite whipping horse for US Media is Radical Islam.
    No one has dared to investigate the causes of its rise!
    By merely focussing on the symptoms and presenting Israel as the Victim our Political establishment and the Media has killed any hope of reolution.

  5. Vladek2 said, on January 26, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    The objective is lasting peace in the Middle East, between Israel and the Palestinians and between Israel and the Arab nations. However that can only come with a foundation of justice.

    The impediment to peace is an Israeli culture and leadership which views all Arabs as inferior, whether they are Palestinians, Arabs in neighboring states, Muslim or Christian, or even those that are Israeli citizens. Israel’s laws assure the existance of a Jewish state where non-Jews can never achieve equality.

    Israel has the economic and military strength which can assure peace by applying the very tenets of its Judaic heritage, namely truth, justice and concern for the welfare of those least able to help themselves. It can restore the balance and respect that existed between Jew, Muslim and Christian for centuries preceeding the 20th century and the Jewish migration from Europe. It can invest in and develop a regional partnership that can guarantee the security of all against any extremism.

    Whether one or two states exist, there must be just treatment of the Palestinians. That means equal human rights; equal economic rights; freedom without checkpoints and travel restrictions; restoration of homes and farms; equal education; family reunification; no more arbitrary arrest and detention without charges; no more home demolitions; no more second class citizens.

    Until Israel begins treating Palestinians as equals and grants them their human rights, no Arab nation can support normalized relations with Israel. To do so would be collusion with the very nation that is oppressing Arabs within its borders, the West Bank and Gaza. Israel alone can bring peace.

  6. RKyankya said, on January 26, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    So long as there is still terrorism, Israel will not be secure enough to make any peace deal. This is reality, anything else skirting around this issue legitimizes the concept of “resistance” (i.e. armed conflict) as a viable alternative and will lead to continued war. Mitchell and the Economist are playing a game of smoke and mirrors by ignoring this fundamental issue (and for anyone attributing this violence to settlements, or borders of any configuration is glossing over the fact that Arab violence against Jews existed long before the formation of Israel during the Mandate period).

    • Froy" said, on January 26, 2010 at 6:15 pm

      Rkyanka, so long as there is occupation, Palestinians will not stop engaging in legitimate resistance, violent or otherwise, against the colonialist occupation regime. Israel is the one playing games by ignoring this fundamental issue, and anyone attributing this violence to religious prejudice or “terrorism” is glossing over the fact that the origin of this conflicts only appeared as soon as European Jewish colonialists declared their intentions to found a state on Arab land with full Western support and against the indigenous inhabitants’ will. Native Arabs have just been reacting since like any other native people have been reacting to colonization, either in America, Vietnam, Indonesia or South Africa: with legitimate (if violent) resistance.

      Anything else skirting around this issue will lead to continued war.

    • MyopicTailor111 said, on January 26, 2010 at 6:17 pm

      To say that: “as long as Israel is under attack they need strong support and the freedom to break the rules of war and strike back ruthlessly” is the wrong question.

      Rather, if Israel withdrew from occupied land, apologized, and stopped being this terrifying war machine and bully, terrorism would have nothing to feed on.

      The key to the global terrorism and the clash between the muslim world and the West is the blind and unconditional support by the United States to the military-totalitarian suppression regime in Israel.

      But as usual, US policy is determined by the power of the lobbyists to bribe Congress with campaign financing. Blind support for Israel is a threat to vital national security for the US (and Europe), it increases the risk that Americans will be killed by terrorists.

      These politicians in Washington should be trialed for treason.

      The key to world peace is to destroy to pro-Israel lobby in Washington.

  7. Straight Forward said, on January 26, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    The Palestinians do not have a free Palestinian State, because they do not take ‘yes’ for an answer.

    They refused the 1927 Peel partition plan;

    They refused the 1947 UN partition plan;

    They refused to establish Palestine in the West band & Gaza until 1967;

    They called for Israel’s destruction before the 1967 war:

    They refused to recognize Israel until 1993. As we know now, they were just implementing the first phase of the 3 phases plan for destruction of Israel;

    They violate all agreements with Israel, refusing to dismantle Hamas and the rest of the terror organization;

    And now they refuse to negotiate, as if they are doing some a favor if they agree to talk;

    The Palestinians live the life they choose to live. They get what they deserve.

  8. Bill Day said, on January 31, 2010 at 3:08 am

    “Little do they know that it is through the porous borders of Syria and Lebanon- not through Jordan- where weapons, rockets, anti-tank missiles, and mortars slide into the Gaza Strip.”

    This sentence seems odd on its face.

    First, are we really to believe that an American political science graduate student knows more about the flow of weapons to the Gaza Strip than the Mossad?

    Second, without more explanation, the claim seems geographically implausible, since none of the countries mentioned shares a border with Gaza.

    • Dan said, on January 31, 2010 at 7:07 pm

      Haha well I cannot argue about your second statement. If a political science student actually knew more about weapons movement than the Mossad, then…well…Israel would be in big trouble.

      But let’s get serious. If you look at the facts, the vast majority of weapons flowing into the Gaza Strip does originate from Syria and Lebanon. Sure, the Gaza Strip does not share a border with Syria or Lebanon, but that does not automatically close this venue off. After all, Syria is sympathetic to both Hezbollah and Hamas; two Islamic militant groups that are fighting for a specific cause (getting rid of Israeli occupation). Lebanon, while technically a pro-western government, also has elements within its society that support of the Hamas movement. Hezbollah- which has relatively free reign in Southern Lebanon- is only one of them.

      Jordan, on the other hand, is one of Israel’s most trusted Arab allies. Besides the Muslim Brotherhood (which is more of a political organization these days than a violent terrorist group) and a few Al’Qaeda individuals, what threat does Jordan pose?

      Thanks for the comment, I hope you continue to stop by!

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