The world is once again being treated to yet another round in the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process” charade.
The “usual suspects” are posturing, pronouncements are being made, speeches are being given, and hints and rumours about a supposed “toughening” in the US government’s approach to Israel are filtering out from the press. We are supposed to think that something different is about to happen, and that, as the old American folk song had it, “The times, they are a-changing.” It is all nonsense. The whole exercise strikes me as what the old Soviet Army used to call a maskirovka, sort of a complex strategic masquerade on steroids, with rehearsed actors playing their scripted roles before a fully aware and involved audience, and that includes the head of the American NSC and his “leaked” memos. There may be some blunter words said to Netanyahu than he (or other Israeli prime ministers) has heard in a while, but it isn’t unprecedented.
Former President Reagan was very pro-Israeli, but he got so incensed at Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon that he reportedly yelled at then-Israeli Prime Minister Begin and deployed Marines with naval support to block them around Beirut. And regardless of how the intervention ended, there were occasions when US Marines and Israeli troops came right up to the edge of a full-scale fire-fight, and I was assured at the time by several Marine officers who were there that they were fully prepared to slug it out with the IDF if that was required, and the 6th Fleet had standing orders to go to the mat in their support if that happened - a far cry from 1967, when it had stood back in the face of the deliberate Israeli air and naval attack on the USS Liberty that killed or wounded more than 200 American sailors and Marines.
Today that would never happen, of course, or the US Navy & Marine Corps would have punched a hole through the Israeli blockade on Gaza and ended their assault on it a few months ago. They didn’t, and President Obama wouldn’t have sent them in, either — most of the rest of the world has been outraged by the brutal Israeli action that killed over 1400 Palestinians and wounded thousands more, the majority of them women and children, but all Obama does is talk about America’s undying commitment to the security of “our staunch ally Israel,” while the US Congress declaims its support of “poor, brave little Israel” (sic) and continues to vote billions of dollars in assistance to it. What is going to happen is that stories will leak about “full & frank” discussions between Obama & Netanyahu, and then after hemming and hawing for a while, Netanyahu will grudgingly agree to negotiations leading towards a two-state solution, he will be praised as a “man of peace” (just like Ariel Sharon, right?), and that pot will just keep boiling and boiling until both Obama and Netanyahu go away.
Besides, the two-state solution is a dead-in-the-water derelict, and given the Israeli attitude, probably always was. For it to be viable, three things would absolutely have to happen. First, all Israeli settlements would have to be withdrawn from the West Bank and Palestinian refugees allowed to return without Israeli interference. That isn’t going to happen. Second, a viable Palestinian state would have to be sufficiently well armed to make the Israelis think 10 times before doing a Gaza strike in either part. And last, a viable Palestinian state would need armed guarantees from other nations.
Looking beyond the two-state political zombie requires one to look at the key players. Aside from their impoverishment, geographical separation and vulnerability, about the only cards the Palestinians hold are a willingness to persevere and a comparable willingness to die. The misbegotten Palestinian Authority (PA) is so useless, and its top leaders — Arafat as well as Abbas — have been so bad, that I cannot decide if it and they are creations of Mossad, or simply tolerated to ensure that nothing much better will come along.
Hamas is better for Palestinians, of course, which is why it won the election a few years ago, and it is for that reason more than any other that the Jewish lobbies in the US and elsewhere have made its presence in negotiations all but unthinkable.
Israel itself is a fascinating case study in the principle that people often acquire the worst habits of their oppressors, for the dominant Israeli attitude — views Arabs generally and Palestinians in particular much the way their last oppressors viewed Jews.
There is only one possible fly in this ointment, from the Israeli perspective, and it is the only one that anyone wishing to unravel this Gordian knot can exploit: American public opinion. At present, a large majority of Americans support Israel, having been fed a steady diet for decades of Israeli “victimisation” in the face of Arab “barbarism.” But that support is, as the saying goes in America, “a mile wide and an inch deep,” and AIPAC and company know this, which is why they work so hard to filter what most Americans see, hear and read about the Middle East. But it is a filter that is starting to weaken — a difference that is reflected in growing criticism of Israel and of US support for it. Disrupt this pro-Israel filter, make historical events like the Israeli assault on the USS Liberty and the IDF’s murder of a young American woman named Rachel Corrie household words in the US, bring images of ravaged Gaza into American homes, and watch the world start to change — because it can. And the technology is there to do this.
Alan Sabrosky (Ph.D, University of Michigan) is a ten-year US Marine Corps veteran and a graduate of the US Army War College. He can be contacted at