Journalist Henry Siegman titled his August 2007 London Review of Books article, “The Great Middle East Peace Process Scam,” calling it likely “the most spectacular deception in modern diplomatic history.”
This writer omits most likely calling it the no-peace peace process, stillborn from inception, while Haaretz writer Gideon Levy, on March 7, 2010, wrote “There has never been an Israeli peace camp,” saying “let’s call the child by its real name: The Israeli peace camp is still an unborn baby,” the mother yet to become pregnant given decades of Israeli-Washington rejectionism.
In September 2009, former IDF chief of staff and current Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Strategic Affairs, Moshe Ya’alon, said Jews have an “unassailable right (to) settle anywhere, particularly here, (in) the land of the Bible,” and earlier called the peace process a useful fiction “to sear deep into the consciousness of Palestinians that they are a defeated people.”
In 1968, former IDF chief of staff and then defense minister, Moshe Dayan, called the West Bank occupation “permanent,” and a decade later reiterated his commitment to the status quo, the same position held by all Israeli officials to the present.
Former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir (1983 – 1984 and 1986 – 1992) once said he wanted to drag out peace talks for a decade while vastly expanding settlements.
Current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier called the peace process “a waste of time,” is obstructionist on the right of return, backs continued settlement expansion, won’t ever withdraw from East Jerusalem or return to 1967 borders, and, in subtle terms, wants negotiations based solely on Israeli dominance .
Given its decades of financial, military and diplomatic support, America holds the trump cards, its position consistently one-sided under Republican and Democrat administrations, and, rhetoric aside, for decades has rejected an equitable, sustainable peace.
With its Security Council (SC) veto, it’s blocked past efforts in spite of the General Assembly (GA) regularly supporting conflict resolution and Palestinian self-determination by overwhelming margins, including:
— GA Resolution 3236 (1974) recognizing Palestinian self-determination; and
— most recently on December 2, 2009 passing:
“six resolutions aimed at promoting the inalienable rights of Palestinians – particularly to statehood – and permanently ending Israel’s ‘illegal’ actions in Jerusalem and Syrian Golan.”
The votes passed by margins of 109 – 8, 112 – 9, 162 – 8, 164 – 7, 163 – 7, and 116 – 7. Those against, in one or more resolutions, included America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Panama, Ivory Coast, a few tiny Pacific islands, and, of course, Israel.
Yet peace and Palestinian self-determination remain stillborn because Washington and Israel reject them – even though around 130 nations diplomatically recognize a Palestinian state, and the UN grants Palestine all member rights except to vote.
Further, on November 15, 1988, the Palestine National Council (PNC) proclaimed the existence of an independent Palestinian state. According to the 1925 Palestine Citizenship Order in Council, Palestinians, their children and grandchildren are automatically citizens, including those in the diaspora.
Provisionally, Washington recognizes an independent Palestine, and under UN Charter Article 80(1), can’t reverse its position by vetoing SC resolutions calling for its UN admission. Doing so is illegal and subject to SC action under the Charter’s Chapter VI. The Security Council recommends admissions. The General Assembly affirms them by a two-thirds majority. In December 1988, it did so for Palestine, and at the same time called for:
— ending Israel’s occupation of Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem;
— dismantling Israeli settlements;
— resolving the Palestinian refugee problem;
— placing Palestine under interim UN supervision; and
— requesting the SC convene an international Middle East peace conference.
Three earlier Security Council resolutions are also noteworthy:
— SC Resolution 242 (1967) calling for an end of conflict and withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from occupied territories;
— SC Resolution 338 (1973) repeated the same demand; and
— SC Resolution 298 (1971) affirming “acquisition of territory by military conquest is inadmissible.”
Rejecting Legitimate Peace Talks
In his book “The Peace Process,” William Quant traces American-led negotiations from the mid-1970s when the term signified a “gradual, step-by-step approach to resolving one of the world’s most difficult conflicts.” At best, it was a “process,” at worst, “little more than a slogan used to mask the marking of time,” what, in fact, it’s been for the past 35 years. As a result, since 1967, Israel expropriated valued Palestinian land, dispossessed tens of thousands incrementally, and, through violence and oppression, continues to commit slow-motion genocide – hardly a recipe for peace and conflict resolution.
The “peace process,” in fact, subverts it in a region Dwight Eisenhower called the most “strategically important area in the world” with its enormous energy reserves. Pressured by the Israeli Lobby, Washington’s prevailing view is that Israel is vital to US Middle East dominance, part of a plan to control all Eurasia with 75% of the world’s population, most of its resources and physical wealth, and three-fourths of its energy reserves – the grandest of grand prizes, too valuable to slip away, and one not to let peace obstruct.
It’s no surprise that Washington vetoed SC Resolution 11940 (January 1976) calling for a pre-1967 border settlement with “appropriate arrangements….to guarantee….the sovereignty, territorial integrity and the political independence of all states in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries,” including a sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and the PLO backed it. Israel was opposed. Washington obliged with a veto as it’s done dozens of times over the past half century blocking resolutions harmful to Israeli interests.
Israel’s record is even worse. With full US support, it’s ignored over five dozen UN resolutions condemning or censuring it for its actions against the Palestinians or other Arab states, deploring it for committing them, or demanding, calling on, or urging the Jewish state to end them. To the present, Israel never did, acting with impunity to obstruct peace, continue conflict, and deny Palestinians a sovereign independent state or a viable one-state solution for all its people.
After the 1967 Six Day War, the “Allon Plan,” named after Defense Minister (later Prime Minister) Yigal Allon, was an early rejectionist measure by proposing:
— “maximum land with minimum Arabs;”
— annexing the choicest 40% of the West Bank and Gaza, including the Jordan valley and “back of the mountain,” the Jordan River remaining Israel’s eastern border;
— expropriating a substantial area around Greater Jerusalem, including the Latrun salient, seizing future portions thereafter to secure full control of a united city, never again to be divided;
— dispossessing Palestinians from areas Israel wants solely for Jews;
— building permanent settlements and army bases; and
— making remaining parts of the West Bank an autonomous region economically linked to Israel.
These strategic concepts have been part of Israel’s military doctrine since 1948. Thereafter, they influenced Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and still do today. The terms “territorial compromise” and “land for peace” refer to Allon’s rejection of Palestinian self-determination. They still do today.
Ilan Pappe on Faulty Peace Efforts
Israeli historian Ilan Pappe says Washington promotes peace “based on three faulty principles:”
— the area’s balance of power giving Israel a one-sided advantage; genuine peace talks are impossible unless both sides are equal partners working for a just solution;
— letting Israel set the terms “even though this…crucially limit(s) the range of possibilities….for negotiation;” and
— each effort must begin from scratch, “as if nothing had been tried before.”
According to Pappe, the roots of the problem date from the 1948 war and dispossession of around 800,000 Palestinians from land they lived on for centuries and rightfully claim. Also to have Jerusalem as their capital. Not addressing these issues assures failure, continued hostility, oppression, and violence, the consistent pattern for over six decades and over four under occupation.
A First Step
Under UN auspices, the first peace conference took place in Lausanne, Switzerland in April 1949, proposing a three-tier settlement:
— the unconditional right of return;
— Jerusalem as an international city; and
— a two-state solution, on equal portions of land.
Israel rejected it, kept 78% of historic Palestine, and granted Jordan the right to annex the West Bank and part of Jerusalem. Egypt controlled Gaza. Peace efforts were suspended, and weren’t resumed until after the 1967 Six Day War, the West Bank and Gaza then occupied creating an unfavorable environment for negotiation.
It’s more than ever true today, given 300,000 Jews in the West Bank, another 200,000 in East Jerusalem, and Israel controlling over 40% of the Territory for settlements, the Separation Wall, military bases, no-go areas, nature reserves, Jews-only roads, and hundreds of checkpoints and barriers, restricting Palestinians to shrinking cantonized communities surrounded by growing numbers of hostile Jews.
Peace Process Rejectionism
From 1967 through the 1980s, the PLO was rejected as a legitimate peace partner, even after Chairman Yasser Arafat’s November 13, 1974 (first ever) appearance before the UN General Assembly saying:
“The difference between the revolutionary and the terrorist lies in the reason for which each fights. Whoever stands by a just cause and fights for liberation from invaders and colonists cannot be called a terrorist. Those who wage war to occupy, colonize and oppress other people are the terrorists….The PLO dreams and hopes for one democratic state where Christian, Jew and Muslim live in justice, equality, fraternity and progress….I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom fighter’s gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand.”
It was a watershed moment. America and Israel stood practically alone opposing Arafat’s appearance and Palestinian self-determination. Most UN members supported it, finally (on November 12, 1975) getting US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near East and South Asian Affairs, Harold H. Saunders, in testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East, to say:
“In many ways, the Palestinian dimension of the Arab-Israeli conflict is the heart of that conflict….The Palestinians are a political factor….The legitimate interests of the Palestinian Arabs must be taken into account in the negotiating of an Arab-Israeli peace.”
The comments so upset Israel that Secretary of State Henry Kissinger discounted them as an “academic and theoretical exercise,” even though he approved them in advance. Nonetheless, US policy remained unchanged, Congress further marginalizing the PLO by enacting Kissinger’s non-recognition pledge until it “renounce(d) terror,” meaning its struggle to be free from occupation.
Proclaiming An Independent Palestine
In 1988, Arafat proclaimed it, renounced terrorism, accepted SC Resolution 242, and called for an international peace conference under UN auspices. The Reagan administration ignored him until December 14, 1988, thereafter saying America would recognize the PLO. Talks began in Tunisia the next day, achieved nothing, and were broken off.
Continued Peace Process Subversion
After the 1991 Gulf War, America and the near-powerless Soviet Union (two months before its dissolution) jointly sponsored the Madrid peace conference where Israel negotiated face-to-face for the first time with Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and US-Israeli approved Palestinian representatives as part of the Jordanian delegation, but not in good faith.
Haaretz writer Danny Rubinstein explained the “autonomy” offered “as in a prisoner-of-war camp, where the prisoners (are) autonomous(ly allowed) to cook their meals without interference and to organize cultural events.”
Afterward, talks continued on two parallel tracks to resolve past conflicts and sign bilateral peace treaties along with multilateral negotiations on issues affecting the whole region. The whole process was a charade, a precursor for subsequent efforts.
Begun secretly, the Oslo Accords and Declaration of Principles followed in September 1993, denounced by Edward Said, explaining:
“the fashion-show vulgarities of the White House ceremony, the degrading spectacle of Yasser Arafat thanking everyone for the suspension of most of his people’s rights, and the fatuous solemnity of Bill Clinton’s performance, like a 20th century Roman emperor shepherding two vassal kings through rituals of reconciliation and obeisance, (and) the truly astonishing proportions of the Palestinian capitulation.”
It was unilateral surrender, a Palestinian Versailles, affirming a vaguely defined negotiating process. No outcome was specified. Israel obstructed and delayed, refused to make concessions, and continued its colonization agenda unimpeded.
Palestinians got nothing for renouncing armed struggle, recognizing Israel’s right to exist, and leaving major unresolved issues for later final status talks. They included an independent Palestinian state, the right of return, the future of settlements, borders, water rights, and status of Jerusalem as sovereign Palestinian territory and future home of its capital. Under Arafat, a new Palestinian Authority (PA) was established as Israel’s enforcer.
In September 1995, Oslo II followed, concluded in Taba, Egypt, countersigned in Washington four days later, it called for further Israeli troop redeployments from Gaza, major West Bank population centers and rural areas, except for Israeli settlements and designated military zones.
The West Bank was divided into three parts, each with distinct borders, administration, and security rules – Areas A, B and C plus a fourth for Greater Jerusalem. A complicated system was as follows:
— Area A under Palestinian control for internal security, public order, and civil affairs;
— Area B under Palestinian civil control for 450 West Bank towns and villages, Israel retaining overriding authority for settler safety; and
— Area C, its water resources, and settlements under Israeli control on the West Bank’s most valuable land connected by special by-pass roads for Jews only.
Israel controlled the Territories, occupying today over 40% of the West Bank with expanding settlements, by-pass roads, the Separation Wall, military areas, no-go zones, nature reserves, and hundreds of checkpoints and barriers, excluding Palestinians from their own land, thus effectively in charge of all parts they inhabit.
In September 1999, the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum was next – implementing Oslo II and other post-Oslo I agreements, including:
(1) a 1994 Protocol on Economic Relations favoring Israel;
(2) a Cairo Agreement on Gaza and the Jericho Area the same year;
(3) the 1994 Washington Declaration and Agreement on Preparatory Transfer of Powers and Responsibilities between the two parties; and
(4) the 1995 Protocol on Further Transfer of Powers and Responsibilities.
Both sides agreed to resume permanent status talks and discuss other peace elements relating to Israeli troop redeployments, land transfers, safe passage openings between Gaza and the West Bank, a Gaza seaport, prisoner releases, other security related issues, normal civilian life activities, international donor aid, and a timetable for final status talks on the toughest issues.
In July 2000, Bill Clinton hosted Arafat and Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Camp David, again delivering rejectionism. Barak insisted Arafat sign a “final agreement,” declare an “end of conflict,” relinquish all legal claims for additional land, but offered nothing in return. There was no written offer, no documents, and no maps, just a May 2000 one dividing the West Bank into four isolated cantons under Palestinian administration, surrounded by expanding settlements and other Israeli controlled land.
They included Jericho; the southern one to Abu Dis; a northern one including Nablus, Jenin and Tulkarm; and a central one including Ramallah. Gaza was left in limbo, later resolved after Israel’s summer 2005 disengagement. The deal was so duplicitous, Arafat rejected it. Yet he was pilloried afterward up to his death in a Paris hospital in November 2004, strong evidence suggesting he was poisoned and couldn’t be helped after he arrived.
In July 2001, a Taba summit aimed to address final status issues, showed serious gaps remained, ended in failure like before, and left resolution for future negotiations.
Next came the “road map,” announced by George Bush in a June 24, 2002 speech. He called for an independent Palestinian state along side Israel by 2005 – disingenuous rhetoric with no substance, meaning prospects were doomed from the start. Straightaway, violence beset the region. Israel increased land seizures, oppression, and targeted assassinations. Conditions in Palestine became dire, leaving peace hopes again stillborn, the same way they’ve been from inception.
Once again from the November 2007 Annapolis travesty, attended by officials from the Quartet, EU, Arab League, UN, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and many other countries, except one – democratically elected Palestinian representatives, perhaps the first time ever one side was excluded, dooming the conference from the start. Or as some put it then and now: How can you negotiate in good faith without a willing partner, meaning Israel and Washington orchestrated the process to fail, so it did.
Conflict resolution wasn’t intended, just a (rejectionist) show of good faith before Bush’s second term ended. Israel quashed it quickly, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert promising faster West Bank colonization, especially in East Jerusalem, saying settlement building was an internal Israeli matter, no one else’s.
Thereafter, Israeli-Palestinian negotiations produced nothing, for reasons like today. There isn’t, nor has there ever been, a viable peace process. Given Washington-Israeli rejectionism, talks are a charade, nothing else.
Edward Said, in a January 1999 op-ed, anguished over “a disheartening bloody impasse,” Palestine an isolated prison, a vast wasteland of destruction and human misery, an entire people suffocating, tanks and F-16s slaughtering defenseless civilians, enduring every imaginable indignity and degradation for their faith, ethnicity and presence.
Yet once again, on his March visit to Tel Aviv, Vice President Joe Biden, called for the resumption of peace talks, saying:
“The most important thing is for these talks to go forward and (do it) promptly….in good faith.” Not with Palestine’s democratically elected government, with the Abbas-led coup d’etat one under Fatah.
In good faith? Henry Siegman explained the charade, calling it “the most spectacular deception in modern diplomatic history,” clearly shown in chief negotiator Saeb Erekat’s December 2009 document (for the Negotiations Affairs Department of the Palestine Liberation Organization – administered by a UK free-market think tank) titled, “The Political Situation in Light of Developments with the US Administration and Israeli Government and Hamas’ Continued Coup d’etat: Recommendations and options.”
It accepts Israeli demands, is silent on the right of return, recognizes Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, and agrees to Israeli annexation of large settlement blocs throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem, rendering a viable Palestinian state null and void, and “peace” solely on Israel’s terms – a “fantasy world” for Said, and no hope for justice unless grassroots outrage forces things.
Why not, as famed anthropologist Margaret Mead (1901 – 1978) explained, saying: “Never underestimate the power of a few committed people to change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has,” or ever will, so imagine the power of millions if they’ll use what they’ve got.
Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.