The charade of US+Israeli Peace talks
truthout, December 6, 2010
Washington's pathetic capitulation to Israel while pleading for a
meaningless three-month freeze on settlement expansion -- excluding
Arab East Jerusalem -- should go down as one of the most humiliating
moments in U.S. diplomatic history.
In September the last settlement freeze ended, leading the
Palestinians to cease direct talks with Israel. Now the Obama
administration, desperate to lure Israel into a new freeze and thus
revive the talks, is grasping at invisible straws -- and lavishing
gifts on a far-right Israeli government.
The gifts include $3 billion for fighter jets. The largesse also
happens to be another taxpayer grant to the U.S. arms industry, which
gains doubly from programs to expand the militarization of the Middle
U.S. arms manufacturers are subsidized not only to develop and produce
advanced equipment for a state that is virtually part of the U.S.
military-intelligence establishment but also to provide second-rate
military equipment to the Gulf states -- currently a
precedent-breaking $60 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia, which is a
transaction that also recycles petrodollars to an ailing U.S. economy.
Israeli and U.S. high-tech civilian industries are closely integrated.
It is small wonder that the most fervent support for Israeli actions
comes from the business press and the Republican Party, the more
extreme of the two business-oriented political parties. The pretext
for the huge arms sales to Saudi Arabia is defense against the
However, the Iranian threat is not military, as the Pentagon and U.S.
intelligence have emphasized. Were Iran to develop a nuclear weapons
capacity, the purpose would be deterrent -- presumably to ward off a
The real threat, in Washington's view, is that Iran is seeking to
expand its influence in neighboring countries "stabilized" by U.S.
invasion and occupation.
The official line is that the Arab states are pleading for U.S.
military aid to defend themselves against Iran. True or false, the
claim provides interesting insight into the reigning concept of
democracy. Whatever the ruling dictatorships may prefer, Arabs in a
recent Brookings poll rank the major threats to the region as Israel
(88 percent), the United States (77 percent) and Iran (10 percent).
It is interesting that U.S. officials, as revealed in the
just-released WikiLeaks cables, totally ignored Arab public opinion,
keeping to the views of the reigning dictators.
The U.S. gifts to Israel also include diplomatic support, according to
current reports. Washington pledges to veto any U.N. Security Council
actions that might annoy Israel's leaders and to drop any call for
further extension of a settlement freeze.
Hence, by agreeing to the three-month pause, Israel will no longer be
disturbed by the paymaster as it expands its criminal actions in the
That these actions are criminal has not been in doubt since late 1967,
when Israel's leading legal authority, international jurist Theodor
Meron, advised the government that its plans to initiate settlements
in the occupied territories violated the Fourth Geneva Convention, a
core principle of international humanitarian law, established in 1949
to criminalize the horrors of the Nazi regime.
Meron's conclusion was endorsed by Justice Minister Ya'akov Shimson
Shapira, and shortly after by Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, writes
historian Gershom Gorenberg in "The Accidental Empire."
Dayan informed his fellow ministers, "We must consolidate our hold so
that over time we will succeed in 'digesting' Judea and Samaria (the
West Bank) and merging them with 'little' Israel," meanwhile
"dismember(ing) the territorial contiguity" of the West Bank, all
under the usual pretense "that the step is necessary for military
Dayan had no doubts, or qualms, about what he was recommending:
"Settling Israelis in occupied territory contravenes, as is known,
international conventions," he observed. "But there is nothing
essentially new in that."
Dayan's correct assumption was that the boss in Washington might
object formally, but with a wink, and would continue to provide the
decisive military, economic and diplomatic support for the criminal
The criminality has been underscored by repeated Security Council
resolutions, more recently by the International Court of Justice, with
the basic agreement of U.S. Justice Thomas Buergenthal in a separate
declaration. Israel's actions also violate U.N. Security Council
resolutions concerning Jerusalem. But everything is fine as long as
Back in Washington, the Republican super-hawks are even more fervent
in their support for Israeli crimes. Eric Cantor, the new majority
leader in the House of Representatives, "has floated a novel solution
to protect aid for Israel from the current foreign aid backlash,"
Glenn Kessler reports in The Washington Post: "giving the Jewish state
its own funding account, thus removing it from funds for the rest of
The issue of settlement expansion is simply a diversion. The real
issue is the existence of the settlements and related infrastructure
developments. These have been carefully designed so that Israel has
already taken over more than 40 percent of the occupied West Bank,
including suburbs of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv; the arable land; and the
primary water sources of the region, all on the Israeli side of the
Separation Wall -- in reality an annexation wall.
Since 1967, Israel has vastly expanded the borders of Jerusalem in
violation of Security Council orders and despite universal
international objection (including the U.S., at least formally).
The focus on settlement expansion, and Washington's groveling, are not
the only farcical elements of the current negotiations. The very
structure is a charade. The U.S. is portrayed as an "honest broker"
seeking to mediate between two recalcitrant adversaries. But serious
negotiations would be conducted by some neutral party, with the U.S.
and Israel on one side, and the world on the other.
It is hardly a secret that for 35 years the U.S. and Israel have stood
virtually alone in opposition to a consensus on a political settlement
that is close to universal, including the Arab states, the
Organization of the Islamic Conference (including Iran), and all other
With brief and rare departures, the two rejectionist states have
preferred illegal expansion to security. Unless Washington's stand
changes, political settlement is effectively barred. And expansion,
with its reverberations throughout the region and the world,