The victory of the Republican right wing in the November elections for the House of Representatives has allowed the Israeli government to simply refuse to cooperate with a weakened President Barack Obama on a renewed peace process with the Palestinian leadership. The message of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to Obama? Translated from the Hebrew, it amounts to “jump in a lake!”
Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestine Authority again on Monday broadly hinted that he may declare a Palestinian state unilaterally if the Israelis undermine direct negotiations by refusing to halt their colonization of the West Bank. The Palestine Authority feels as though it is negotiating for what is left of a slurpy with Israelis who have long straws in it and are sucking down the very thing over which they are pretending to negotiate. Abbas thinks that at the end of the talks, if they are conducted in this way, he’ll just be handed an empty paper cup with other people’s spit at the bottom of it.
In Ankara, Turkey, for talks, Abbas said, “We cannot maintain peace negotiations if settlement building is not stopped. We have other options, and we have informed Turkey and the Arab countries that if the talks cannot be restarted, then we will pass on to implementing those options…”
So he said he can’t keep the negotiations going if the Israelis won’t stop colonizing Palestinian land.
Then today the Obama White House announced that it had given up trying to get the Israelis to agree to an extension of the freeze on the initiation of new colonies on the West Bank and around Jerusalem.
Netanyahu, who is essentially a righwing Republican in American terms, took advantage of the victory of the Republicans in the House of Representatives to simply defy Obama. He has refused even to present a proposal for a freeze on further colonization to his cabinet! This notwithstanding an offer by Obama to give Israel advance fighter jets in return. The Guardian revealed that the Obama administration had pressed the Israelis to come up with a map with clearly defined borders of what they claimed as Israeli territory. The US hoped that such a clearly drawn border would discourage further Israeli settlement in what would surely be Palestinian territory. Netanyahu blew Obama off and refused to consider starting with the shape of the borders.
On the other hand, Washington doesn’t want the Palestinians to go it alone in declaring a state. The USG Open Source Center translated this report from Voice of Israel radio:
Israel: US To Fight PA Moves To Circumvent Direct Talks, F-35’s Still on Agenda
Voice of Israel Network B
Tuesday, December 7, 2010 …
Document Type: OSC Translated Text…
The United States has abandoned its efforts to reach an understanding on freezing construction in the territories. It will instead seek other ways to promote the diplomatic process.
Senior US Administration sources said that the United States will hold separate discussions with Israel and the Palestinians. Our political correspondent Shmu’el Tal reports that Yitzhaq Molkho, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s special emissary, will meet with US officials over the coming days.
Israeli sources said that the United States will oppose any Palestinian attempt to circumvent the direct negotiations track with Israel. The sources asserted that Israel’s request for additional F-35 jets from the United States was still on the agenda.
(Description of Source: Jerusalem Voice of Israel Network B in Hebrew — State-funded radio, independent in content)
Likely, bad things will now happen, despite Obama’s perpetual optimism.. If the Likud-led government won’t negotiate into being a two-state solution, granting a Palestinian state in 22% of the League-of-Nations-defined Palestine, then only three possibilities remain.
1. Israeli colonization could proceed apace, reinforcing an Apartheid in which stateless Palestinians without rights precariously eke out a life under foreign military occupation, while being actively stolen from by a horde of Israeli squatters. While such an Apartheid situation is not stable, it could go on for decades before producing a real blow-up.
2. There could be, willy-nilly, a one-state solution. Apartheid could place so many boycotts and so much opprobrium on Israel that ultimately the welfare and livelihoods of ordinary Israelis would be badly affected. They could react by emigrating, or by voting citizenship for the Palestinians as a means of ending a growing international boycott (something that may only develop gradually over the next two decades).
3. The Palestinians could unilaterally declare a state. This step is being toyed with by Mahmoud Abbas. The plan was probably helped by the declarations during the past week on the part of Brazil and Argentina that they recognized the Palestinian state.
AP reports: “Argentina announced Monday that it recognizes the Palestinian territories as a free and independent state within their 1967 borders, a step it said reflects frustration at the slow progress of peace talks with Israel.” Brazil took the same step only a few days before, and much of the rest of South America is expected to follow suit. These recognitions are not earth-shattering, since dozens of countries had already done the same thing, with no discernible effect. They did anger the Israelis, who see the few remnants of the legitimacy of their policies in the international community slipping away.
One problem with a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state is that Israel and the United States reject any such move, and it is hard to see how such a state can come into existence if the Israelis don’t want it to. The second problem is that the final collapse of the peace process could provoke another round of Palestinian uprisings. Stay tuned.