By Khalid Amayreh
Despite President Obama’s efforts to assure the pliant Ramallah leadership of his continued commitment to a notoriously disingenuous peace process, especially the creation of a Palestinian state, though one of amorphous and uncertain features, it is amply clear that the President has effectively succumbed to Netanyahu’s insolence and rejectionism.
According to reliable sources in Washington, Obama showered the extremist Israeli premier with excessive praise and essentially refrained from casting any blame with regard to a host of misbehavior on the Netanyahu’s government part, including unmitigated anti-Arab ethnic cleansing in East Jerusalem, the recent murderous assault on a peaceful flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to besieged Gazans as well as other provocative Israeli measures making the two-state solution strategy a far-fetched possibility.
In fact, it seems that Netanyahu has been able to obtain from Obama virtually all he wanted, including a pledge to step up pressure on the weak Palestinian Authority (PA) to unconditionally resume dubious peace talks with Israel as well as a harsher approach toward Iran.
Netanyahu knew what he wanted. He wanted to gain more time in order to complete the ongoing Judaizing campaign in East Jerusalem in order to create irreversible facts in the very city Palestinians insist must be the capital of their prospective state.
And there is no better way of gaining this extra-time than under “peace talks” which everyone, including Obama, knows have no substance or promise.
The reason is simple. Israel doesn’t view the West Bank as an occupied territory, but rather as a disputed territory. This is the reason Israel has been building and continues to build Jewish-only settlements all over the area. These frantic efforts were stepped up in recent years, so much so that many experts have concluded that it is already too late for the creation of a viable, genuine and territorially contiguous Palestinian state due to the massive proliferation of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
Netanyahu, who on numerous occasions flew in the face of Obama, undeterred by the latter’s consternation about Israeli behavior, seems to have understood that the balance of power between him and the White House is already tilting in his favor.
This is why Netanyahu utterly resisted any American pressure, real or implied, on Israel to show more “generosity” or even “flexibility” toward the Palestinians.
He refused to commit himself to refraining from demolishing Palestinian homes in Jerusalem. He refused to completely lift the crippling siege on the Gaza Strip, he refused to resume talks with the Palestinians from the point they were left off during the term of the previous Israeli government, and he refused to extend the half-hearted settlement expansion moratorium, due to expire on 27 September.
More to the point, Netanyahu seems to have been assured by Obama that the American administration will further bully the PA to enter into direct talks with Israel. Needless to say, getting the PA to re-join direct talks with Israel is only a symbolic step that will have no substantive effect on the stalled peace process. After all, Israel and the PA had held exhaustive direct talks for many years, but to no avail, due to Israel’s adamant refusal to give up the spoils of the 1967 war, namely ending the occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
Hence, whether the two sides hold “indirect” or “direct” talks, will have no real bearing as far as the real issues are concerned.
However, Obama thinks, rightly or wrongly, that getting the sides to switch to “direct” talks would be viewed as a notable achievement by his administration.
None the less, it is more likely that Netanyahu is lying in wait for Obama, who may have already come to realize that challenging the Israeli lobby in Washington is a losing battle. In turn, this realization seems to have convinced the White House that the best approach to Israel, especially the Netanyahu government, would be the soft-glove approach whereby Israel is never harshly criticized and never pressured but is rather advised and gently asked to do the right thing for its own interests.
That being the case, the Israeli Prime Minister seems to be convinced, probably rightly, that he has already defeated Obama, at least on points, in their erstwhile showdown over the issue of Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank. However, Netanyahu seems unlikely to settle for anything less than a knockout blow that would leave Obama either struggling for political survival at home or begging Israel and its supporters for mercy.
Needless to say, Netanyahu will seek to prolong the static peace talks with a demoralized PA for as long as possible, preferably until the administration finds itself in the throes of the next presidential election when Obama becomes thoroughly preoccupied with his reelection campaign.
If successful, Netanyahu’s tactics would really effectively confiscate the President’s free will, rendering him unable to even clear his throat in the face of Israel and its supporters in the American arena. Such an atmosphere would serve as the optimal occasion for Jewish political blackmail of American politics and politicians.
The brazen Obama capitulation to Netanyahu underscores the futility and stupidity of counting on the United States to pressure Israel to come to terms with Palestinian rights. This is so because Israel, an arrogant state that considers itself above international law, will not give back stolen land until it is forced to do so. But since the US is probably the only force that is capable of doing so (pressuring Israel to end the occupation), and since Israel and her supporters are having an unrelenting stranglehold on American politics and politicians, especially Congress, it means that meaningful American pressure on Israel is unlikely at least in the foreseeable future.
There is another dimension to the American surrender to Israeli arrogance. The Arab-Muslim world, with a few exceptions, continues to behave obsequiously toward the US, irrespective of the latter’s connivance and collusion with Israel against Arab and Muslim interests.
America simply believes that a slave is ought to be treated as a slave, and if the Arabs and Muslims themselves don’t wish to defend their interests, America can’t and won’t be more catholic than the Pope, as the adage goes. This fact should explain Obama’s virtual abandonment of the promises to Muslims he made in his Cairo speech more than two years ago.
In light, one wouldn’t be indulging in excessive exaggeration by saying that all current efforts by the US administration to bring about a semblance of a just solution for the conflict in occupied Palestine will be nothing more than a mere regurgitation of past failed American efforts, ever since the Roger Plan of the late 1960s.
But what can and should the Palestinians do to avert more calamitous scenarios facing their enduring just cause. This is a question that warrants ample attention by Palestinian leaders and intellectuals.
First of all, the Palestinian leaderships may have to really contemplate the dissolution of the Palestinian Authority, an entity of ill repute that has brought more harm than good to the Palestinian cause, if only by cooperating and colluding with Israel against its own people through the repugnant practice of security coordination with the enemy.
Indeed, despite some functional considerations, the PA has been a real liability to the overall Palestinian cause. This liability may have to be terminated, the sooner the better.
Second, the two-state solution strategy looks increasingly unworkable as it has outlived its usefulness, essentially becoming unattainable and unrealistic.
Hence, it might be more expedient for the future of the Palestinian people to abandon the pursuit of statehood and instead opt for a new strategy based on the creation of a unitary state in all of mandatory Palestine-from the Mediterranean to the River Jordan, where by all people, Jews and Palestinians, live in peace and equality.
True, this wouldn’t be an exemplary solution, and an arduous and sustained uphill struggle would be needed to effect such a solution.
However, it is always better to opt for the right choice, even if difficult, rather than succumb to the illusion of a state that has a form but no substance.
Khalid Amayreh is a Palestinian writer from the West Bank
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.