COMMENTARY ARCHIVES, 15 Nov 2009
It’s time to stop the verbal pretense. In the Near East, there is no negotiation "process" underway. Furthermore, there is also no prospect for peace. The situation is nonetheless not in a state of status quo: it is regressing. Dangerously. The United States bears the primary responsibility. Several months ago, Barack Obama had placed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the top of his priorities. He demanded that Israel stop the expansion of settlements within Palestinian territory on the West Bank. It was, if not a prerequisite, at least a condition to allow the reopening of negotiations with the Palestinians.
The Israelis said no: settlements will continue to expand, but at a somewhat slower rate, replied Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The United States just took it: speaking through Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, it flatly endorsed Mr. Netanyahu’s, position…. Within a few weeks, Mr. Obama lost the credit in the Arab world that his remarkable speech in Cairo in June had gained him. Even in diplomatic language, that’s called a monumental fiasco.
The head of the Palestinian Authority and Fatah leader, Mahmoud Abbas, reckoned he was betrayed by Washington. The United States had already manhandled him by compelling him to neither defend nor bring before the UN a report that stigmatized Israel’s behavior during the Gaza War. Seventy-four years old, Mr. Abbas is a man of exemplary dignity. He is one of the few leaders in the region to have publicly attacked the sacrosanct model of "armed struggle" so popular with the Palestinians. Today, largely repudiated by the population for the meager results obtained peacefully, he is threatening to resign. With what result? The other branch of the Palestinian national movement, the Islamists of Hamas, exult.
Mr. Netanyahu has consolidated his majority on the right. He is supported by public opinion in Israel which deems that Israel has also been betrayed, obtaining nothing but volleys of rockets in return for leaving southern Lebanon and Gaza. By continuing settlement, Mr. Netanyahu knows that he makes the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel less likely than ever.
Small-minded calculations here, weakness and cowardice there. And yet, the settlement of a question that is at the heart of Arab-Muslim world resentments would change the face of the region. All conflicts would be presented in less-acute form, beginning with the Iranian nuclear issue. Here’s our question: Is the 2009 Nobel Peace Laureate up to the challenge?
Translation: Truthout French language editor Leslie Thatcher.
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