Tue. Nov 20 2018

Abbas, Trump and the illusions of peace

Apr 26 2017

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Motasem A Dalloul The PA, PLO leadership did not learn from history they have not benefited from former US administrations, while they are currently running after current administration seeing it as their saviour.
  The White House is waiting to host PLO leader and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at a meeting with his US counterpart Donald Trump. On the agenda will be a discussion of the “serious” prospects of peace that would end the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A senior PA delegation arrived in Washington on Sunday to prepare the ground for the presidential meeting. Including senior PA negotiator Saeb Erekat, the head of PA intelligence Majed Faraj and Palestinian economist Mahmoud Mustafa, the delegation is scheduled to meet senior US officials. There is nothing unusual in such meetings, but it is strange that the PA and PLO officials are simply brushing aside the history and ideology of the US and Israel regarding peace talks. Nor are they paying much attention to the reality on the ground as they look to the Americans as if they are going to be the saviours of the Palestinians. No great intelligence is needed to know that they habitually take the side of Israel and support its occupation of mandate (“1948”) Palestine and the occupied Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Neither the Obama nor Bush administration made any breakthrough in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not least because they always had to appease the powerful pro-Israel lobby in Washington. Although George W Bush proposed a “road map” based on a full freeze of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, the establishment of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital and finding a just solution for the issue of the Palestinian refugees based on the UN resolutions, little progress was made. According to American writer Nathan Thrall, the intensive US efforts related to the “road map for peace” were intended primarily to bring Arab allies on board for the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. At the same time, he explained, the Arab involvement in the invasion was justified across the region as an attempt to assist the US to find a solution for Israel-Palestine. Nevertheless, the Bush road map was associated with increasing Israeli settlement building; a violent crackdown on the Palestinian intifada; daily military incursions of the Gaza Strip, the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem; the killing of Palestinians; and regular desecration of Al-Aqsa Mosque. Despite this, the PLO and the PA continued to believe that the Americans were working to reach a solution. They went to Annapolis in 2007 for a US-sponsored peace conference with the Israelis and representatives from 15 Arab countries, but nothing resulted. The Americans could not even get an Israeli agreement to start peace talks based on the terms of the road map, but Bush appeared to think that there was an opportunity for peace. The then US president welcomed participants “to one of the finest institutes we have in America, the United States Naval Academy. We appreciate you joining us in what I believe is an historic opportunity to encourage the expansion of freedom and peace in the Holy Land.” In order not to waste this “historic opportunity” the PLO and the PA accepted the US, Israeli and international community’s rejection of the 2006 Palestinian election win by Hamas and basically went to war against the movement. Hamas officials and members were arrested, and torture and assassinations were commonplace. All of this, though, was in vain. With Barack Obama in the White House, the US continued to show an interest in finding a solution for the Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace. The efforts peaked when Senator John Kerry became Secretary of State at the beginning of Obama’s second term. The PLO and PA officials forgot what had happened during the Bush era and applauded the enthusiastic Kerry, who warned: “A two-state solution will be clearly underscored as the only real alternative. Because a unitary state winds up either being an apartheid state with second-class citizens — or it ends up being a state that destroys the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state.” In order to appear practical, Kerry put pressure on both the Israelis and the Palestinians until they agreed to sit at the negotiating table, and set a deadline for them to reach a peace deal. Summing up all the details surrounding the resumption of peace talks, Thrall said that talks started “on terms Israel had long sought.” This time, the US wanted to test its alliance with the Arab states and see whether it was shaken after the invasion and destruction of Iraq. All was well in that respect, and America went on to form a new coalition with the Arabs to get its foot in the door in Syria. Again, the “peace talks” were accompanied by Israeli arrogance, expropriation of Palestinian land and the expansion of illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem. During the nine-month “negotiations”, which ended in April 2014, the Israeli occupation authorities doubled their settlement activities. Around 14,000 new settlement units were announced. This pushed one of the senior PLO and PA officials, Nabil Shaath, to say that this makes negotiations “worthless.” Within the same period, Israel killed 45 Palestinians, in addition to the thousands killed in its three major military offensives against the civilians of Gaza between 2008 and 2014. Kerry and his president have gone, and the Palestinians have not reaped anything from US diplomacy except more UN vetoes of resolutions criticising or blaming Israel for its violations against the Palestinians. In the midst of this, Saeb Erekat commented that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu only attends talks in order to increase settlements. Today, the PLO and the PA officials are running to Trump, who does not think that Israeli settlements are illegal and once supported one of them in the occupied West Bank. He shows his full support for the Israeli occupation authorities very openly. However, in the light of the instability in the region and the urgent need to form a safe zone around Israel, Trump is obliged to show concern about solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is doing his best to show the Arabs that he is willing to help them in order to guarantee that they help him carry out his plans for their lands. Does nobody else think that it is strange that today’s climate is similar to that which prevailed during the Bush and Obama administrations? Israel’s expropriation of Palestinian land is ongoing; it is increasing its settlements in size and number; there is daily desecration of the Palestinian religious sites (Christian and Muslim); and we see continuous aggression against the people of Palestine. Despite this, the PA and the PLO still put their trust in the Americans. It won’t be long before Trump has gone, Israeli settlements will have expanded even more, further aggression against the Palestinians will have taken place, and more peace efforts will have been made. All of that is a near-certainty, as is that the Palestinians will have a big zero, yet again. Will the PLO and PA never learn from America’s illusions of peace?
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