Sunday, December 19, 2010

Didn't Your Grandmother Tell You Not to Settle?

The bribe was rejected.  Whether it was simply not large enough, or whether ANY bribe would have been accepted in this case is unclear, and ultimately unimportant.  The direction that Netanyahu and Lieberman along with the rest of the Likud leadership has chosen is unequivocally clear now, for all to see.  Only the most strident propagandists can continue to argue otherwise.  The talks never really had a chance - when the party with the power to enforce the status quo wishes to preserve the status quo, it is probably unreasonable to expect anything to truly change.  And now that the Israelis have made their choice abundantly clear, it is the Palestinians who have some difficult choices ahead of them.

If there is any glimmer of good news in all this, it is that at long last it appears that the Palestinians are beginning to learn how to play this game.  They know that in the current security and diplomatic environment, armed resistance is not just futile, but counterproductive for it accomplishes nothing and fuels the Israeli narrative of Palestinian violent intransigence.  At the same time, they have finally figured out that peace talks that don't start from a standpoint of Israeli borders and boundaries are not negotiations at all, but rather a manipulative ploy to keep a lid on a stateless people under military occupation while the land that might have eventually comprised a Palestinian homeland is systematically looted.

Instead, they have begun to look to the history of the South African people, and the end of Apartheid, and even to black Americans' own struggle for civil rights..  The comparison is imperfect, but the tactical mechanisms couldn't be more clear.  And this time, it's Europe and Latin America that will provide the impetus for widespread global opprobrium of Israel over the treatment of the Palestinian population both in the occupied territories and increasingly in Israel itself.  It is genuinely odd that the Israeli people are having so much difficulty in recognizing that the way history has played itself out, that it is Israel whose survival depends upon a viable Palestinian state even more than the Palestinians.  The other options are an Israel that ultimately succumbs to demographics and becomes a Jewish minority state or permanent occupation, conflict and apartheid, neither of which end well for Israel as we know it.

If the Palestinians can heal their rift and continue to become increasingly media savvy while the Israelis, led by their hard-line anti-Arab secular and violent expansionist religious fundamentalist factions continue to act in heavy handed and arbitrary manner toward their Arab and Muslim constituencies, time will work to move global public opinion to a position of sympathy toward the Palestinian position.  Increasing economic sanctions, divestment and boycotts, along with actions from the UN and other extra-governmental organizations will eventually force Israel to allow the creation of a Palestinian state, and at that point the terms will not be so much in Israel's favor.

Which brings us to the US.  No matter what the rest of the world might be doing, the US political leadership is deeply beholden to the Israeli lobby.  Particularly in Congress, the American elite will always work to enable the Israeli leadership, and will legislate with a bias towards implementing whatever the Israel lobby supports.  But while it would be nice to see the US adopt a more even-handed approach to mid-east political affairs in general and play a more aggressive role in Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking specifically, it is increasingly apparent that it's not necessary.  As long as the Israelis continue to take over from the Palestinians the task of shooting themselves in the foot, the US and Israel will find themselves increasingly marginalized in world opinion.  In Europe, Asia and Latin America, even in Africa the brutal oppression of the Palestinian people is driving people to exercise their political and economic power to influence what they see as an untenable situation.

But after being repeatedly snubbed, rejected and ignored by the Netanyahu government, America may well decide to moderate her position vis a vis Israel in the near future.  And she doesn't need to reject Israel or withhold economic or military aid, or even vote against Israel in the UNSC.  Indeed, all America need do is consider her own interests and global agenda in the decision-making process, just as she so commonly does when negotiating aid packages with other nations.  It's hard to imagine the US providing economic or military assistance to other nations, even Saudi Arabia or Egypt without insisting upon certain quid pro quos to align those nation's behaviors with American Interests.  Which isn't even to consider the outcome of those negotiations if those allies chose to ignore those demands and continue behaving in direct defiance of American interests and desires.  For that matter, it's easy to imagine what might happen if those nations were involved in a brutal military occupation in violation of multiple UN Resolutions.  By merely considering our own interests ahead of those of other nations, as is the case in all other bilateral relations, the US could send a signal to the Israelis that some some modification of their hard-line, unilateral intransigence is going to happen one way or the other - it might as well happen on terms the Israelis deem favorable, or at least less unfavorable.

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