More Settlements: A Sham Peace Process

Remember all the Bush hoop-la about a new Middle East Peace initiative? Let’s see: There was a Two-State solution in 2003; the last was the Annapolis plan. Like the subprime bubble, they have been exposed as shams, conjured up by right-wingers in the U.S. and their rabid Lakud brothers in Israel. “How so,” you ask?

Consider the issue concerning the settlements. A a now-disclosed secret deal permits more settlements.

Last April, the Washington Post ran a story about a letter between Bush and Sharon, giving the Israel permission to expand the West Bank settlements.

A letter that President Bush personally delivered to then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon four years ago has emerged as a significant obstacle to the president’s efforts to forge a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians during his last year in office.
Ehud Olmert the current Israeli prime minister, said this week that Bush’s letter gave the Jewish state permission to expand the West Bank settlements that it hopes to retain in a final peace deal, even though Bush’s peace plan officially calls for a freeze of Israeli settlements across Palestinian territories on the West Bank. In an interview this week, Sharon’s chief of staff, Dov Weissglas, said Secretary of State Condolezza Rice reaffirmed this understanding in a secret agreement reached between Israel and the United States in the spring of 2005, just before Israel withdrew from Gaza.

(The texts of the letters in question can be found here.)

Israeli News has an appropriate spin on that letter:

So Weisglass’ interview today serves two functions. It reinforces just how tightly wrapped Bush was around their fingers and makes it that much more difficult for Bush to bring into being that Palestinian state which he and Sharon worked so assiduously to prevent. A truly crafty, devious Machiavellian, Weissglas is.

Since the rise of Likud–and the after the assassination of the great Yitzhak Rabin by a right-wing radical–, honest discussion about the Israeli-Palestinian issue has been all but impossible in the U.S. Indeed, right-wing American Jewish groups have provided substantial monetary support for Likud’s efforts to stay in power. I would not doubt that these same groups provide similar support to some here, which is in itself not illegal. But it is always nice to know who is buttering whose toast. Eh, Leiberman?

For a full explantion of the kind of argument now swirling around Rice, Bush, Powell, and Israeli leaders, Glen Kessler of the Washington Post presents a good picture.

Would any presidential candidate actually address this problem, I wondered? Are they all now captive to Lakud spin? McCain certainly is. Is Obama?

Apparently, Obama has decided that Jerusalem will be the new Israeli capital. I thought that issue was still on the table. That tidbit was a pleasant sop tossed Lakud’s way. Needless to say, his remark caused quite a stir in the Arab world.

It certainly looks like Obama is cow-towing to the Likud hard-line lobby–at least on the issue of Jerusalem. (The American Thinker has an interesting take on Obama’s Israeli bona fides. (For the American Thinker, unquestioning support of any Lakud policy is an absolute requirement.)

For a refreshing take on one presidential candidate’s take on the whole issue, try Nader’sNader:

And I give you the example, the Palestinian-Israeli issue, which is a real off the table issue for the candidates. So don’t touch that, even though it’s central to our security and to, to the situation in the Middle East. He [Obama] was pro-Palestinian when he was in Illinois before he ran for the state Senate…. Now he’s, he’s supporting the Israeli destruction of the tiny section called Gaza with a million and a half people. He doesn’t have any sympathy for a civilian death ratio of about 300-to-1; 300 Palestinians to one Israeli. He’s not taking a leadership position in supporting the Israeli peace movement, which represents former Cabinet ministers, people in the Knesset, former generals, former security officials, in addition to mayors and leading intellectuals. One would think he would at least say, “Let’s have a hearing for the Israeli peace movement in the Congress,” so we don’t just have a monotone support of the Israeli government’s attitude toward the Palestinians and their illegal occupation of Palestine.

Nader’s criticism of Obama may sound harsh; certainly Obama is not taking a leadership position in openly supporting the Israeli peace movement. Jerusalem will be the capital of Israel? Obama’s handlers did not like Nader’s reminding voters about Obama’s old positions:

“Barack Obama’s longstanding support for Israel’s security is rooted in his belief that no civilians should have to live with the threat of terrorism,” the campaign statement said. “In Gaza, Hamas continues to fire rockets indiscriminately at Israeli civilians every day, and that’s why it is long past time that Hamas renounces terrorism, recognizes Israel’s right to exist and abides by past agreements.”

That kind of remark is standard no-think fare, a cover for Israeli brutality and duplicity. More and more, Nader seems to have a point. No mention is made of Israeli brutality…or of Israeli settlements. Who is noticing? Mention a new settlement, defenders of Israeli policies cite the standard line: Palestinians have to stop protesting, i.e., sending in rockets.

While Obama was not asked about the settlements, he certainly seemed to be toeing the official Israeli line–and the official line of our own right-wingers.

A few days ago, I read again that Israeli

officials on Thursday revived plans to construct a new settlement in the occupied West Bank, two years after U.S. pressure forced Israel to shelve the idea.

And, of course, pouring new Israelis into old settlements has not abated:

The new settlement would be the first in a decade and would contribute to a wave of building going on across the West Bank, as Israel adds thousands of new homes to existing settlements despite international calls to halt construction. An estimated 260,000 to 280,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank, not including those who live in parts of East Jerusalem that Israel has annexed, a move not recognized internationally.

Interesting slant, especially when we consider that letter between Sharon and Bush four years ago. Doesn’t “Machiavellian charade” describe the whole “peace” process? And we wonder why the Palestinians and other Arabs do not trust us, and why, God forbid, they may actually hate us.

As Americans, we are all too willing to look the other way, to complain loudly at the insanity of suicide bombers, to acknowledge politely that the Wall does cause some inconvenience, and to tsk tsk when people throw rocks at tanks and expect not to get hurt. What, Rachel Corrie, a young American woman, protesting Israeli occupation in Gaza was crushed when she confronted an Israeli bullozer? Guess she should have know better. Officially, We studiously ignored her sacrifice. Ho hum.

Often Americans will simply throw up their hands, saying the whole thing is too circular: action-reaction: Violence begets violence. This kind of thinking Israeli right-wingers will indulge; it does not call into question their policies. It does not look at the tanks, the bulldozers, soldiers, and warplanes that move with impunity across Palestine. It does not look at the systematic and economic violence being done to an impoverished people.

Think about it: Three hundred Palestinians to one Israeli. Houses bulldozed; new settlements popping up, checkpoints established, roads controlled. Ask yourself: What if a Moslem country had the power to divide up America in this fashion. Would you, protest? Toss a few rockets? Maybe even, if despair seized you, tie a bomb to your waist and march forward? Take the analogy a bit further. Suppose Russia was the powerful arbiter of a presumed peace process between you and that Moslem country. And suppose you knew that Russia and that Moslem country were in cahoots. How would you feel about Russia? How would you feel about that Moslem country? Sorry, you don’t get any nukes with which to play.

This kind of analogy may seem extreme, but consider it a task for the imagination.

Now, again, there are more settlements. There has not been an honest peace process.

To Arabs, the Palestinian plight has been “our calling card” and their rallying cry.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is “central to our security.” Ignore it and we continue to radicalize other Arabs, with the possible result, of war…right where the oil is. Ignore it and we will continue to fret about our security, spending untold billions. Ignore it and we will continue to abandon our freedoms as we shudder in fear about the next attack. Ignore it and we risk our safety, our wealth, and our identity. We are better than this, fairer than this. Guantanamo is an extension of this conflict.

We risk everything in not demanding parties talk without preconditions…that means Israel must agree to talk with Hamas without preconditions. That means that all parties must obey the rules…and that includes Israel, especially Israel because it is demonstrably the more powerful of the two. Israeli power requires that Israel act with real restraint. No more settlements means not only no more settlements, but no settlements at all. Further, there can be no private and secret arrangements between the U.S. and Israel on the shape of things to come. If we cannot stand up to Lakud and the right-wing radicals in Israel, , we will give the radical Ben Ladens of the world more power.

In the final analysis, we are not Israelis, nor are we Palestinians. We are Americans: Our interest comes before Israel’s. Roll back all the settlements, now. No settlement should stand. All must go. We cannot allow each new settlement to be a new bargaining chip at the peace table. No debate here. Such an action is in our best interest. It will demonstrate that we are indeed honorable.

Thus the sting is drawn from the Ben Ladens of the world.