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Talks will keep Palestinians from seeking redress against occupation, news reports say– and Chris Matthews puts himself in Israel’s shoes

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Mainstream news coverage of the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian talks is highly skeptical that the talks will achieve anything. The news stories characterize the talks as a stop-gap measure, intended to forestall European sanctions against the occupation and keep the Palestinians from going to international bodies to seek action against the occupation.

Even the New York Times is raining on the parade, though of course its chief informants are members of the Israel lobby, liberal Zionist and neoconservative. And the Washington Post boldly calls out Israel’s Southern California-style settlements as the problem– and points out that John Kerry’s special envoy Martin Indyk 4 years ago insisted on a settlement freeze before talks could begin, a condition he has now dropped.

First, here’s Ben Lynfield at the Christian Science Monitor writing that the negotiations are a way for the U.S. to attempt to claim to be doing something. And that the Israelis and Palestinians are going along with the talks so as to escape the charge that they are rejectionist.

By saying yes to the American invitation to negotiate, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are avoiding the possibility of being cast as rejectionists by Secretary of State John Kerry, who made six visits to the region in his effort to bring the two sides to an agreement to talk. It is possible that this same desire not to be blamed will keep the two sides engaged for the near future…

Lynfield quotes two Arabs and one Israeli, all skeptical. Here are two of those  views:

“They have zero chances of reaching an end of conflict, end of claims agreement,” says Yossi Alpher, a leading Israeli analyst who is former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies. ”The positions are too far apart on narrative issues like the future of holy places and the right of return” of Palestinians who fled or were expelled at Israel’s establishment in 1948…

Ghassan Khatib, a former minister in the Palestinian Authority, says that the negotiations will in practice continue for some time, albeit without a peace deal.

“Endless negotiation is good for the Americans. They can point to success in bringing the sides to the table and keeping them there. Netanyahu can avoid US pressure and shows he’s engaged in the peace process. Abbas can continue to be fed with money, prisoner releases and other things and maintain the survival of the PA.”

And Lynfield addresses the key issue, American pressure:

But Mr. Khatib does not believe the US will put enough pressure on Israel to force the substantial concessions necessary to enable the emergence of a viable Palestinian state.

That angle, American pressure, is of course completely missing in the story at the Times, by Michael Gordon and Isabel Kershner. Titled, “Talks Begin on Mideast, to Doubts on All Sides,” the article is blunt about the lack of promise in the talks, and about the American interest in trying to do something to stop the Palestinians from gaining traction in the court of world opinion:

The prevailing narrative among the pundits, including more than a few experienced Middle East hands, is that while the Israelis and Palestinians may have sent their negotiators to Washington to placate Mr. Kerry, neither side appears remotely prepared to make the hard calls needed to cement a lasting peace…

With the Palestinians poised to take their claim for statehood to the International Criminal Court and United Nations bodies, American officials say the two sides were facing a downward spiral in which the Israelis would respond by cutting off financing to the Palestinian territories and European nations might curtail their investment in Israel, further isolating the Israelis.

How important is it to head off the Palestinians and the Europeans? The Times’s first expert is… Elliott Abrams, who calls for the Palestinians to take two aspirin and go back to bed in the occupation:

“The existence of talks can have a calming effect while they continue, and if they continue for several months can get us through the U.N. General Assembly without bitter Israeli-Palestinian confrontations,” said Elliott Abrams…

All told, the Times quotes three members of the Israel lobby– Abrams, liberal Zionist Yossi Alpher, and Michael Herzog a retired Israeli general now working at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

The Times’s most hopeful informant is the one Arab the reporters got on the phone, Hussein Agha, who states (dubiously) that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is “the last Palestinian national leader who will be able to weave together the totality of the Palestinian people.”

Surprisingly, the Washington Post covers the talks from Jerusalem, and suggests that the Israeli colonization of the West Bank has gone too far for anything to be achieved in talks:

But the growth of the settlements presents a particularly thorny challenge. About 340,000 to 360,000 people live in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, according to Israeli government data. An additional 300,000 Jews live in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians claim as their future capital.

Although there are still rugged encampments of tents and trailers on isolated hilltops, manned by youths with extreme views, many of the settlements in the West Bank have taken on the air of middle-class permanence: comfortable villas of white stone and red-tile roofs, landscaped with olive trees and date palms. They are the kind of gated communities that look more Southern California than Holy Land.

The Post specifically calls out Martin Indyk– who it notes is closer to Israelis than Palestinians– for contradicting himself on the settlement freeze issue: 

Indeed, unlike the last time that the Obama administration launched Middle East peace talks — a short-lived effort in 2010 — there is no settlement freeze this time around.

….Indyk, who will take a leave from the Brookings Institution, maintains deep contacts in the region, particularly among Israeli officials.

In his 2009 memoir of the Clinton-era efforts to win a peace deal, “Innocent Abroad,” Indyk wrote that “future presidents need to insist that during final status negotiations all settlement activity be frozen, including in the settlement blocs, unless it is done in agreement with the Palestinians.”

At +972, the Israeli human rights attorney Michael Sfard says the peace process is legitimizing continuing colonization and human rights abuses.

The peace process, he says, has historically had negative consequences on human rights in the occupied territories.

“While talks are happening Israel gets away with anything. Land grabs, the expansion of settlements, even [Operation] Cast Lead was waged while there were peace talks.”

When the world focuses its attention on the peace process, he explains, it is much less attentive to Palestinian victims and the cries of human rights organizations and civil society.

In the past decade or two, “the peace process has become one of the major enemies of human rights,” Sfard continues, and “no peace process will be fruitful if people are suffering on the ground.”

Now a couple more hopeful voices. Roger Cohen calls Netanyahu a peacemaker, and quotes Jimmy Carter to support that view:

The notion that Netanyahu the Likudnik — fierce opponent of the late Yitzhak Rabin’s peace push, reluctant latecomer to the notion of two states, longtime ideologue of the Jewish right to all the Biblical land of Israel — might reinvent himself as peacemaker is not new. I have heard it from several people who have spent long hours with Netanyahu, including former Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain.

Skepticism is de rigueur, but it would be wrong to dismiss the idea. Never give an inch was Begin’s fierce creed forged in European persecution — and yet. The controversial release of 104 Palestinians is not the action of an Israeli prime minister unserious about final-status negotiations. Carter said, “I think this concept that John Kerry has pursued now secretly, very secretly for five months, I think it has much more chance of success than I had believed before we met with him.”..

Carter, speaking at Chatham House in England, comes out for land swaps in Cohen’s piece and sells out the Palestinian right of return:

Carter said a resolution should be based on the 1967 borders, “with one exception — that is that there can be land swaps very near Jerusalem for the major Israeli settlements, and acre by acre or hectare by hectare the land that’s given by the Palestinians to Israel for these major settlements will be repaid to the Palestinians on an equal basis.”

He said Palestinian return would have to be to the West Bank or Gaza — “unless it’s a few dozen or something like that” to Israel. He said, “I have met many, many hours with Hamas leaders, and they have assured me for a long time that they will accept any negotiation that is successful between the P.L.O. and Israel if it is put to the Palestinian people in a referendum.”

Finally, here’s Chris Matthews celebrating the talks and then asking what risks he would be willing to take as an Israeli to gain acceptance from his neighbors. Not what risks he would take as a Palestinian to gain freedom from occupation. The lecture is entirely from an Israeli point of view, including the incantation of the words, Jewish state, and the credit to Abbas for curtailing his demands to meet Israeli needs:

It’s the beginning of real negotiations over the future of the Middle East…negotiations aimed at the creation of an Arab state alongside the Jewish state. These are not talks about talks, but the real thing astounding as that sounds. I give credit to the Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu for taking the step needed to make this happen and Mahmoud Abbas for limiting his demands to what the Israeli government was willing to accept…

I often ask myself what I would support if I were a typical Israeli. Would I risk a deal on land to get a peace deal… do if I wa Would I make concessions if it meant formal recognition of my country by the many Arab countries in the region….

Will they get as far as they did when Yasir Arafat pulled the plug in the last days of the Clinton administration?

Note that Matthews calls Netanyahu “Bibi Netanyahu” and blames Yasir Arafat for the breakdown of the Camp David talks in 2000. No wonder you don’t want to be called a rejectionist!

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7 Responses

  1. Justpassingby
    July 30, 2013, 11:40 am

    The quote below is the only thing we need to know why Israel accepted “talks” now.

    “The news stories characterize the talks as a stop-gap measure, intended to forestall European sanctions against the occupation and keep the Palestinians from going to international bodies to seek action against the occupation.”

  2. anthonybellchambers
    July 30, 2013, 11:46 am

    An Israel government that has no intention of co- operating in the establishment of a Palestinian state – ever!

    The concept of a Jewish homeland, although not new, was encapsulated in the seminal work of Austro-Hungarian journalist, Theodor Herzl, entitled Der Judenstaat, (The State of the Jews), written in Paris in 1896. It was sub-titled, ‘Proposal of a modern solution for the Jewish question’.

    The book was used by Zionists to encourage Jews from across Europe, and America, to purchase land in Palestine, although in his book, Herzl was opposed to this and indicated his preference for a future Jewish state to be in Argentina. Subsequently, the British government proposed that it be located in British East Africa – a proposal that was rejected by Zionists in favour of Palestine. However, Palestine was not ‘a land without people for a people without land’ which was the widely-cited, but widely-misleading, Zionist political slogan of the time.

    In Der Judenstaat, Herzl envisaged an agrarian Jewish society that would offer a political, religious and social haven free from the endemic anti-Semitism that was then to be encountered in all levels of European society. The eventual result of the Political Zionism movement, would be the creation, in 1948, of a state of Israel, in Palestine, by virtue of Resolution 181 of the then newly established United Nations by a vote of the General Assembly in 1947 that was passed by just 33 votes to 13, with 10 abstentions including that of the United Kingdom. Those who voted against included all those Muslim states that would be directly affected i.e. Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Yemen and, to a lesser extent, Turkey.

    The creation of a non-Muslim state in the centre of the Middle East, ostensibly to accommodate the millions of Jewish refugees from war-torn Europe and the Nazi Holocaust (in which six million Jews and, at least, five million non-Jews were murdered), was arguably one of the most divisive and controversial decisions ever taken by a United Nations that was at the time unrepresentative of global, international opinion. Today, there are 193 member states of the UN General Assembly – as compared to just 57 in 1947.

    Fast-forward to 2013, with the Middle East in turmoil and a conference in Washington between Israel and the Palestinians on talks about talks. The agenda being: whether Israel’s government, under Binyamin Netanyahu, is prepared to listen to the demands of the UN, the EU and the US to stop the illegal settlement building on occupied Arab land, which is a deliberate attempt to abort the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. And to repatriate all illegal settlers back to Israel.

    It is accepted that this conference is merely a façade on behalf of an Israeli government that has no intention whatsoever of co-operating in the formation of a Palestinian state or in the evacuation of its citizens from the Occupied Territories.

    But the State of Israel possesses a massive, undeclared arsenal of nuclear weapons that is estimated to be the most powerful in the world after the United States and Russia. It now also has a second-strike capability by virtue of a large, nuclear-powered, and nuclear-armed, Dolphin class, submarine fleet inexplicably supplied and subsidised by Germany. This nuclear-armed fleet is many times larger and infinitely more dangerous than any in France, Germany, Britain or the EU. Its submarines have reportedly been secretly armed with Popeye Turbo SLCM cruise missiles with a range of 1500kms, each capable of carrying a nuclear warhead of up to 200kgs.

    But the most disturbing aspect is that Israel has never ratified the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty; is outside the regulation of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency, and that its secret underground arsenal of nuclear weapons, now estimated to contain between 300- 400 warheads, whilst undeclared to the IAEA is powerful enough to destroy both the entire Middle East and most of Europe.

    Which means that Israel, under a political trick known as ‘nuclear ambiguity’, is the only undeclared nuclear-weapons state in the world, today, and probably the greatest threat to global peace.

  3. Les
    July 30, 2013, 12:07 pm

    “Southern California-style settlements.” California casual ethnic cleansing.

  4. Don
    July 30, 2013, 12:25 pm

    I realize this a bit off topic, but when the topic is negotiating with Palestinians, the Israeli capacity for obfuscation is extraordinary. Here is a link to an article in YNET, in which the author points out that…

    1. “No preconditions were required from (Ariel) Sharon, (Ehud) Barak or (Ehud) Olmert, and there is no reason the situation should change now.”,7340,L-4398500,00.html

    Which is quite correct. But it fails to point out Ariel Sharon imposed a variety of almost impossible preconditions on the Palestinians.

    Is is effortless to find these, and many other similar links…just type Ariel Sharon and preconditions in to Google…

    2. “His (Sharon’s) insistence on absolute security as a precondition for negotiations…”

    3. Sharon Adds “reform” to talks preconditions

    4. Sharon reiterates 7-day of Quiet as precondition for Peace efforts

    5. “Ariel Sharon has requested as a precondition for any further negotiations with the Arabs that they withdraw their demand for the “right of return” of the 1948 refugees…”

    We must have these preconditions before we will talk to you!

    How dare you impose preconditions!

    And blah blah blah

  5. Citizen
    July 30, 2013, 12:35 pm

    Israel has a habit of releasing prisoners as promised–only to rearrest and imprison them again later. Carter should be more circumspect. Ditto re his OK with the land swaps, with Israel keeping its key big settlements. Acre for acre, but where? The key Israeli settlements are on prime terrain, and on land best supporting Palestinian land contiguity, continuity.

    Chris Matthews is ultimately only concerned with paycheck and career with his Zionist bosses. He’s a saturday goy if there ever was one, and he weeps PC tears. He’s proud of being Irish, so one would think he’d identify more with the Palestinian “troubles.”

  6. OlegR
    July 31, 2013, 4:40 am

    /Israel has a habit of releasing prisoners as promised–only to rearrest and imprison them again later. /
    Cause you don’t get a free bill after you get released out of jail.
    Misbehave and you get right back surely you are familiar with the concept.

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