September 9, 2010

US Tilt Breaking Israeli-Palestinian Scale

If direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) could manifest as a balance, the US beam would tip the Israeli scale to the ground and leave the Palestinians hanging. No Lady Justice in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, bias infests America’s position during war and peace.

Among the many examples:
  • built-in biases such as the US public and US Congress, both influenced by the Jewish voting bloc and Israeli lobby,
Resulting in conscious biases such as:
  • prominent Israeli advocates manipulating US policy vis-à-vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without equal Palestinian representation
  • protecting Israel during war against the Palestinians, Lebanese, and, theoretically, Iranians
  • shielding Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s negotiating position over PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s
Now US bias is on full display following the remarks of Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Though the hard-line nationalist, who many Arabs consider a racist, claims he doesn’t oppose direct negotiations between Israel and the PA, he also believes peace won’t be reached during this generation. That may have something to do with Lieberman’s vow to block any extension of Netanyahu’s settlement “freeze” in the West Bank, a Palestinian demand to continue negotiations.

“Yisrael Beitenu has enough power in the government and in parliament to make sure that no such proposal succeeds,” he told Israeli Army Radio on Monday.

Imagine the Israeli uproar if a Palestinian of Lieberman’s ranking warned that peace is impossible within a generation and threatened to block the negotiations. Imagine the US uproar. President Barack Obama wasted no time condemning Hamas for obstructing the peace process after its attacks on Israeli settlers. Yet two days after Lieberman’s interview and neither Obama, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, special envoy George Mitchell, nor any US official have responded. The word “Lieberman” was conspicuously absent from the next two days of State Department briefings.

The man supposed to represent Israel to the world is a taboo in Washington.

Barring some extremely tough negotiating and a small miracle, Obama might want to savor the next 18 days of direct negotiations before they come to another predictable halt. The Palestinians must resent how freely Netanyahu and Lieberman can undermine the peace process without reprimand from Washington, always promised but rarely enforced. Meanwhile the Palestinians face constant US pressure to negotiate on these mens’ terms.

So, given a leery PA negotiating team, what reason is there to expect a compromise on Israeli settlements? Although the State Department briefings ignored Lieberman’s interview, spokesman Philip Crowley conformed to his position when grilled over the settlement issue and the upcoming meetings in Sharm el-Sheikh and Jerusalem:
MR. CROWLEY: As we said last week, we’re going into this process of direct negotiations not with the intent of having one or two sessions and leaving it there. This is going to be an intensive process that carries over weeks and months. We understand there are some hurdles that we have to get past. We’re actively working on those as we speak. And we are satisfied, based on last week’s discussion, that the leaders have come with a seriousness of purpose, a determination to move forward. We are gratified that the meetings last week took place despite the transparent attempts by Hamas to derail them before they got started.

So we look forward to the meetings next week in Sharm and in Jerusalem, and we’ll continue to attack earnestly the issues at the heart of the process.

QUESTION: Right. But presumably, you want to make progress in this meeting, correct – in Sharm and Jerusalem?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, there was a question about getting progress in a particular area. We’re going to address issues across the board. And I’m, again, just not going to predict what the specific outcome of next week’s meeting will be.

QUESTION: Well, I guess – we’re not – I don’t think we’re looking for a prediction. I mean, we’re looking for what are you hoping to achieve, not a prediction of what you will achieve. But it seems to me that if you’re not – if you’re just going to ignore this looming date of the 26th, which is a --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I’m not ignoring anything. We – as George Mitchell explained last week, we hope over the course of the next year to reach – to complete negotiations on all of the major issues within the process. Our first target is a framework agreement, an understanding on the core issues. We understand what the core issues are. I can recite them to you if you wish.

QUESTION: No, no, that’s okay. In fact, you can stop right there --

MR. CROWLEY: Thank you. We --

QUESTION: -- if you’re still answering my question, because I’m obviously not going to get an answer.”
Crowley later replies, “ultimately, as we know, the leaders themselves, Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas, they are the ones who have to make the difficult decisions. It is, in essence, their process.” However Netanyahu and Abbas have made their decisions, with the former telling Clinton that he won’t extend his “freeze” and the latter threatening to withdraw. Abbas, along with Egypt, has requested that Washington intervene in the settlement issue, but all public announcements indicate that America will back Netanyahu’s position: settlements will be addressed the same as every other final status issue, to be implemented at the end of negotiations.

Hopes for a compromise around the settlement “freeze” should be realistically framed.

“Just one follow-up question on the settlement issue,” continues one reporter later in the briefing. “I talked to the Palestinian delegations and they are quite adamant that if the settlement activity resumes on the 26th, then they will walk out. What is Plan P – what is your Plan B if that is the case?”

“Well, that’s – we are mindful of statements,” Crowley responds, “we’re mindful of the calendar. That’s why we felt it was important to meet next week at a high level.”

That Washington has reacted to Lieberman by gliding over West Bank settlements illustrates the frail condition of direct negotiations. Crowley repeatedly spoke of “the next year,” overtly ignoring the possibility that negotiations will collapse on September 26th, when the UN Security Council also happens to convene. Not only do US officials ignore Lieberman as standard policy, they appear in denial that Palestinians will pull out of negotiations. Maybe they know how much pressure Washington will soon apply to Abbas.

Clinton believes the doubters are "wrong" and that negotiations are gaining "momentum", even as PA officials resist a "Jewish state" and settlements are ready to continue. The question is, even if Obama manages to strike an 11th hour deal between Netanyahu and Abbas, how can America mediate an equitable two-state solution when it doesn’t treat both sides equally?


  1. I am not a college educated person.
    I am just a common sense street guy.

    This is all B.S.
    The settlements issue is first and fore most important.
    Israel wants Abbas to concede to all Israeli demands first.
    Then they will refuse to let up on the settlements any way.
    What is it that these people do not understand about the goals of Zionism.
    The O Team should be asked one question, and one question only now.
    Will the illegal settlement stop? Yes, or no.

  2. Anything other than a yes is a no.