An estate agent with guns: Israel’s new settlements disable peace process
Only days before bilateral negotiations were scheduled to resume
between Israelis and Palestinians, the Israeli government
announced the construction of some 1,200 new apartments for
Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. And so
begins the great peace process.
Washington’s role in this diplomatic theater is already well known and is similar to that of a match referee who has already been passed the brown envelope by the away team. Never in the history of this peace process has Israel ever had to make any actual concessions. Part of the reason for this is because Washington is there to help ensure certain outcomes on behalf of the Israel’s powerful lobby in the US.
The EU’s role in this process is much less influential than
Washington’s, but is slightly more dynamic because unlike in the
US, in Europe there is a genuine interest among the populations
to see a peaceful and just settlement in the Middle East. The
EU’s recent anti-settlement initiative against Israel is evidence
of political movement on the issue. Whether it yields any results
on the ground is another matter.
If you look at a map of Palestinian land in 1947 compared to now,
you’ll see that Israel has annexed over 90% of it. It’s a
haunting graphic which clearly demonstrates the scale of the
hurdles any peace negotiations must overcome.
‘God promised us this land’
Some critics of Israel call it religious fundamentalism, while
others call it Zionism, but for native Palestinians and Arabs in
the region, Israel’s continuous building and ethnic cleansing is
viewed simply as colonial expansion.
At the heart of the Israeli mindset is their firm religious belief that all the land from the Mediterranean to just beyond the River Jordan, including the Dead Sea, belongs to the Jewish state of Israel. They base this land stake holding roughly along the borders of the ancient Kingdom of Judea.
Other Israeli cartographers might even extend that claim even
farther – south including the Sinai Peninsula, parts of South
Lebanon and Syria’s Golan Heights.
The basic problem with all these grand claims of ‘ethnic
ownership’ is that Israel’s alleged portfolio of title deeds for
these lands is not based on any legal claim as such, but rather,
their belief that God has gifted this land to the modern state of
Israel. In a modern world which struggles with religious dogmas,
the idea that the world could be forced to accept one group’s
interpretation of Biblical text to define national borders in the
21st century will never be an easy pill to swallow.
Peace Talks: Set-up to Fail
Now the peace talks are set to begin. Enter stage right John Kerry, the US Secretary of State. His role is simply to orchestrate proceedings, and to be photographed in the middle between the Israeli and Palestinian representatives. That’s it.
Any concessions offered by Israel’s Netanyahu government will
have already been rubber-stamped by the US in advance, fully
designed to advance Israel’s ultimate objectives, and not those
of Palestine’s. As the peace process reaches its next inevitable
impasse, or “imminent collapse” moment, that is when you
can expect the Israeli delegation to produce a withering carrot.
Journalist Jonathan Cook recently described one such rotten offering:
“That may prove a tempting moment for Israel to carry out its
much-longed-for annexation of Area C, the bulk of the West Bank
and the site of the settlements. With as few as 100,000
Palestinians left in Area C after decades of ethnic cleansing,
Israel can offer them citizenship without threatening the state’s
One-State, Two-State, Three-State – No-State
The biggest carrot of all in this story can never be eaten, and
that’s the promise of an independent Palestinian state. The
“two-state solution” – one state for Israel and one for
Palestine, has been rigged to fail ever since it was hatched at
the Madrid Conference in 1991. Some critics of the effort
blame Israel’s continual sabotage of the process, while others
point out that if the two-state solution had any legs it would
already have been implemented. The UN’s recognition of Palestine
is based on its pre-1967 borders with Israel. On the surface,
this may appear to legitimize the Palestinian cause, but in
actuality, alongside the “right of return” clause, it’s a
central source of tension between the two sides.
Then there’s the “three-state solution,” also referred to
as the “Egyptian-Jordanian solution,” which effectively
gives control of the West Bank to Jordan, and control of Gaza to
Egypt. As the geopolitical scene continues to evolve in the
region, this type of settlement cannot be completely ruled out.
Conversely, talk of a “one-state solution” – everyone
living together in a democracy – at least has some grounding in
reality as there are already 1.2 million Palestinian residents
living within Israeli borders. Unfortunately, Israelis would
never embrace such a future, even though they are forever touting
their credentials as “the only democracy in the Middle
East.” If they were to integrate all of Palestine into a
single multi-ethnic and multi-faith state, then Christian and
Muslim Palestinians would soon outnumber Jewish Israeli voters,
so from an Israeli point of view, such a “democracy” would
There are other reasons besides Israel’s policy of rogue expansion that are hammering additional nails in the coffin of any peace settlement. Israel seems to reserve the right to knock over the negotiation table at any point in time, and will even hold talks without Palestine's legitimate government. This would naturally be blamed on some militant activity kicking off in Gaza at some juncture during the peace process.
The world has grown accustomed to watching Israel using its
bulldozers to destroy farmland, or to demolish Palestinian homes
in order to clear residents from strategic areas. We’ve seen
their soldiers firing live rounds, targeting the most vulnerable,
as they did with central Gaza's Al-Boreij refugee camp.
Israel will cry foul, but in the end, if by magic, it always manages to maintain its status quo – continued expansion, by way of ethnic cleansing.
After all, Israel holds all the cards, and holds the guns too.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.