Saturday, February 21, 2009

Robert Fisk: Obama was unconvinced by Bibi’s desire for peace.

Robert Fisk has an interesting article in this morning's Independent where he talks of what a nightmare the election of Netanyahu in Israel is for the Obama administration. Obama is said to have found Netanyahu to be "arrogant and unconvincing" in his supposed desire for peace with the Palestinians. After all, it's hard for Netanyahu to seriously make that argument when you are campaigning on a slogan of : security for Israel, but no Palestinian state.

Much depends, of course, on whether Tzipi Livni will consent to join a Netanyahu government. For if Avigdor Lieberman slips into a ministerial position, Obama is in trouble. Does he congratulate a new Israeli prime minister who has introduced into his government a man who is prepared to demand loyalty signatures from his own country’s Arab minority? How would that go down in the United States, where a similar proposal – for a loyalty pledge by American minorities, for example – would be a scandal?

But those Palestinians who believe that Lieberman should be in a Netanyahu administration – on the grounds that the “true” face of Israel would then be clear to all Americans – are being a little premature. Obama is not going to change the US relationship with Israel. American foreign policy – like that of most states – is based not on justice but on power.

It is true that little will change in the dealings between the US and Israel no matter who is in charge and that AIPAC and other pro-Israeli organisations continue to exert a huge amount of power in the American political system.

However, Obama has committed himself to engaging with the Middle East peace process from the moment he comes to office and I have no reason to believe that he is not serious about this. Sure, the economic crisis facing all of us has to be the most important priority but Obama, unlike his predecessor, is not unaware of the link between what transpires in the Middle East and terrorism in general. Israel's treatment of the Palestinians is one of the strongest enlisting tools in bin Laden's box and I am sure that Obama is anxious to take that from him.

Obama's task, as I have always said, will be made ten times harder by the fact that right wing extremists now control the Israeli government. However, the present coalition is not one which I see lasting. Any government with Lieberman as part of it would find any negotiations on the subject of a state of Palestine simply impossible, and it is that intransigence which will possibly bring about the collapse of the entire government.

So I actually wonder how long this bizarre right wing coalition will last.

And, no matter who is in power in Israel, Obama has made a commitment to pursue peace in the Middle East "aggressively".
Israelis must sometimes curse the proportional electoral system that brings them the most ungovernable government coalitions. But the Americans will find it hard to dress up a new Netanyahu government as further “progress” in the Middle East “peace process”.
Anytime anyone in the UK talks of the need for proportional representation, I point them towards the Israelis, where we have all the proof we need that, within the proportional representation system, all that ever happens is that parties who didn't get the majority of public support end up being the kingmaker in forming coalitions, which is exactly what we see Lieberman doing in Israel. Which is why Livni can win more seats than Netanyahu but Lieberman, a quasi fascist, can end up ensuring that Netanyahu eventually wears the crown.

So, Obama certainly has challenges ahead of him and Israel and Palestine is nowhere near the top of his list. But, if he pushes forward and honestly pursues peace, Israeli intransigence will be revealed for all to see.

Netanyahu does not and never has desired peace with the Palestinians. He believes that the West Bank and Gaza belong to the Israelis. He's dinosaur, a relic. And his intransigence over this is going to expose the lie that Israel is searching desperately for "a partner in peace".

Click title for full article.

5 comments:

Shachar said...

It is incorrect to compare Israel's civil struggles with those of the USA. I agree that if Israel is to force a pledge of allegiance to anyone, it must to it to everyone in Israel. But after years of intifada where Israelis could not live normal lives because there are extremist Muslims in Israel, it is impossible to compare Israel's Arabs with minorities in the USA.

Another point of journalistic integrity on your part is that you heatedly show Israeli politicians not wanting two states, but you completely fail to show that Israel has offered two states for many years, including the withdrawal of almost all Israeli settlements (except for those crucial to defense of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem) and the Palestinian refusal to accept it has led the majority of Israelis to give up hope, and take more hawkish measures.

Lieberman and Netanyahu are old friends. Their rise to power is the result of the Palestinian's refusal to accept a peaceful two state solution.

You fail to show the Palestinian leadership's responsibility for their people's situation.

Kel said...

Another point of journalistic integrity on your part is that you heatedly show Israeli politicians not wanting two states, but you completely fail to show that Israel has offered two states for many years, including the withdrawal of almost all Israeli settlements (except for those crucial to defense of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem) and the Palestinian refusal to accept it has led the majority of Israelis to give up hope, and take more hawkish measures.

Israel have simply never ever made the offer you claim they have made. I think you are falling for the Hasbara which Clinton circulated stating that Barak made such an offer at Camp David and that Arafat refused. The truth is that Barak had an election to fight and said that was more important and left Camp David without ever allowing the offer to be made to Arafat.

And the excuse that Israel needs land for "self defence" is simply a laughable attempt to justify land theft. I do not accept that premise, nor do I accept that the Palestinians are responsible for the position they find themselves in.

Steel Phoenix said...

Force a pledge of allegiance? Is that even effective?

I must agree with your assessment that Arabs in Israel are a whole different issue than in the U.S. I do empathize with you having to live with such extremists as neighbors. There isn't land holy enough to drag me to such a place.

I can believe that Israelis would like a two state solution. I don't believe it has been offered by your government in a reasonable fashion. Don't offer the withdrawal of illegal settlements as if you are doing them a favor, just do it. If you want a two state solution, just declare it, without preconditions. What do you have to lose?

I'm not sure who the Palestinian leadership even is, Israel keeps killing them.

The Palestinians fired rockets. They have killed quite a few Israelis. It is the nature of conflict. Both sides take losses and act the martyr. Neither side is innocent, and I think admitting such would be a good step. As long as Israel refuses to recognize Palestine as a nation, then their actions are those of terrorists. Recognize it as a nation and then the actions of both sides can fall under the rules of war. At that point, as long as they abide by them, and I'm not financing it, I'll likely keep my nose out of their business.

Shachar said...

Kel - Israel did indeed make the offer, and the Palestinians response was to pretend that the offer was made, but that it included Palestine broken up into 30-40 little pieces that cannot trade or meet. This was not the case, as Clinton made clear - Israel offered complete withdrawal, except for settlements immediately near Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, which are very defensively important. The Palestinian response to another offer of a nation, was to change a nationalistic movement into a Jihadist movement and the initiation of another war led by the Al Aqsa Martyr's Brigade.

Steel, I know that neither side is innocent. That is the nature of war. If Israelis chose to be innocent, we would also be the victims of another genocide. So, we choose to defend ourselves however we can.

Your idea of Israel pulling out of the West Bank unilaterally is a cute and naive ideal. Israel tried that in Gaza and southern Lebanon. For obvious reasons, most Israelis now regret having done that, and certainly would not allow it to happen in the West Bank, because doing so would cause all of Israel to be vulnerable to extremist violence.

Israel has been faced with the extremes of submitting to genocide and committing genocide, and has chosen instead to keep a middle policy of "low-fire", trying to keep the Arab extremists from being able to murder our people.

Kel said...

Israel did indeed make the offer, and the Palestinians response was to pretend that the offer was made, but that it included Palestine broken up into 30-40 little pieces that cannot trade or meet. This was not the case, as Clinton made clear

Jimmy Carter has already made clear that Clinton was being less than honest when he made that claim.

Your idea of Israel pulling out of the West Bank unilaterally is a cute and naive ideal. Israel tried that in Gaza and southern Lebanon.

Israel has never fully pulled out of southern Lebanon, and a negotiated settlement in the occupied territories is required under res 242. I don't think asking Israel to obey international law and to negotiate a way to return those territories to the Palestinians is either cute or naive. It's international law.