US Secretary of State John Kerry’s foray into the politics of peace between Israel and Palestine appears to have run aground despite his tireless and single-minded efforts. It is clear that Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu never believed in it.
Israelis often see their predicament as David against Goliath. In truth it is the reverse. Contrary to popular belief Israel had larger, better-equipped and better-led forces, during the 1947 war of independence against the joint Arab armies. The Israeli Defence Forces won quick and easy victories against Egypt in 1956 and against Egypt, Jordan and Syria in 1967. All this was done before US aid starting flowing in large amounts. Few doubt it has overwhelming power today, not forgetting its sizeable armoury of nuclear weapons.
Another way to look at the David/Goliath analogy is to look at child deaths as a result of the conflict. The ratio of Palestinian to Israeli children killed is 5.7 to 1.
Even though the Palestinian leadership has “never missed a chance to miss a chance” and has done some very foolish things — and Hamas, the ruler of the Gaza Strip, has done even worse, not least in its rocket bombardment of civilians in Israel between 2011 and 2012, the fault clearly lies with Israel. As one who has spent most of his life fighting discrimination against the Jews, let me say that as clearly as I can. I always remember the words of David Ben-Gurion, the founding prime minister of Israel, “If I was an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural. We have taken their country. Sure, God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? …We come from Israel, it’s true, but two thousand years ago, and what is that to them?”
In more recent years the Israeli grab of Palestinian land has continued. Israeli settlements have so encroached on Palestinian land that they are almost up to the gates of Bethlehem. Not even the assassinated peace-making prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, was willing to offer the Palestinians a viable state. Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who led the Camp David negotiations presided over by President Bill Clinton, only offered a disarmed set of Bantustans, under de facto Israeli control. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had President George W. Bush “wrapped around his little finger”, says his father’s national security advisor, Brent Scowcroft. The principle US Jewish lobbying organisation, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, made sure of that.
Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security advisor to Jimmy Carter, who helped the president broker the one and only peace agreement- between Israel and Egypt, wrote recently, “Netanyahu’s unrelenting efforts to establish equivalence between Israeli and Palestinian demands, insisting that the parties split the difference and that Israel be granted much of its expansive territorial agenda beyond the 78 per cent of Palestine it already possesses, are politically and morally unacceptable. The US should not be party to such efforts.”
Although Palestinians have conceded fully half of the territory assigned to them in the UN’s Partition Plan of 1947, a move Israel’s president, Shimon Peres has hailed as unprecedented, they are not demanding a single square foot of Israeli territory beyond the June 6th, 1967, armistice line drawn at the end of the first Arab-Israeli war.
Brzezinski, widely considered as the wise old man of US foreign affairs, has penned recently, together with a former US secretary of defence and a former chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, among others, a strong statement. They write of the growth of Israeli settlements in Palestine: “Halting the diplomatic process on a certain date until Israel complies with international law and previous agreements would help stop this activity of settlements and clearly place the onus for the interruption clearly where it belongs.”
Brzezinski and his co-authors go on to say: “Clarity on America’s part regarding the critical moral and political issues in dispute will have a far better chance of bringing the peace talks to a successful conclusion that continued ambiguity or silence.”
The US must gather its wits, assert its power and speak clearly. It must fish or cut bait with the peace business. Israel’s uncompromising stance has been allowed to go on for too long. I would add a point to Brzezinski: economic sanctions should be called for.
Jonathan Power is a veteran foreign affairs analyst
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