John Kerry came to Israel and announced to the world that a peace deal is possible, and that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu wants peace. Time and time again American “peace” organizations and American media outlet sources are finding ways to make Americans believe that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu believes in this idea of a “Two State Solution”. One glance into the Likud party platform and you will find that the idea of “Two States for Two Peoples” is nowhere to be found in the charter. Actually, when we come to think about it we don’t recall a time where Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ever did support a true and just peaceful resolution to the conflict. From our observations here in the Diaspora it appears Netanyahu is stuck in the Ze’ev Jabotinsky Revisionist mentality, “Kick the Palestinians out.” Around the time of the signing of the Oslo Accords Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was known to be spotted hanging around with various Jabotinskytes at protests carrying coffins with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s name inscribed on them. More recently when various members of Netanyahu’s ruling coalition were asked how they felt about the idea of Israel returning to its pre-1967 borders they called them the “Auschwitz Borders.”
So why do Peace negotiations fail? Well, because Israel holds all the power, Palestine holds none. Nothing about this dynamic has changed. Palestinians living in the Gaza strip live in the world’s largest open air prison system. Due to the blockade of Gaza there are several restrictions that violate Palestinians basic Human Rights. First, Palestinians are not allowed to move freely from the Gaza strip to the West Bank. Second, Israel subjects Palestinian residents of Gaza to a form of collective punishment by restricting what goes in and out of the borders. Palestinians living in the in the West Bank undergo numerous obstacles and morbid human rights violations on a daily basis as well. The right to peacefully protest against racist land grabs is usually met with excessive force by IDF soldiers. Palestinians living in the West Bank are still subjected to Martial Law while Israeli colonial settlers are given trial under Civilian Law. Settlements have been increasing and Israel’s military occupation only seems to be getting worse with increased home evictions in Israel proper (The Prawer Plan), to home demolitions in the Occupied Territories, and new settlement expansion in East Jerusalem.
When John Kerry arrived in Israel he said that a peace agreement was achievable. However, what does Netanyahu do before John Kerry arrives? He arranges for 900 new settler homes to be built in the West Bank, on the eve of new negotiations. Even now, with the talks set to begin in just a few days, Israel announces plans for a new railways system inextricably linking Israel and the West Bank together.
Needless to say, countries do not spend billions of shekels on infrastructure that they expect to soon be in someone else’s country. Israeli apologists often protest that Israel would like to make peace, but those radical settlers just won’t let them. The truth is the settlements are only viable because of massive tax cuts provided by the government. The settlements are not an impediment to government policy; they are its inevitable result.
It is impossible to overstate how great the power disparity is between the two sides in these negotiations. On one hand, we have the State of Israel. Israel is proud, “prosperous”, recognized by the International Community, and armed with nuclear weapons and the Middle East’s largest army (funded by US tax dollars).
And on the other? The PA. After Oslo, when the Palestinian Authority was created, it was hoped that it would function as a true Palestinian government. But this has not proven to be the case. As the Israeli government continues to slice the West Bank apart with settlements and sterile roads, the PA finds itself merely to be the municipal authority of a dozen disconnected cities. If it is a nation, it is a nation without an army, without control over its borders, without control of its own finances, and without control over internal movements. In short, it lacks any kind of true authority. The main purpose of the PA these days is as a fig leaf for the Occupation. So long as it exists, Israel can point to it as proof of Israeli support for peace. Occupation? How can there be an occupation when the Palestinian flag flies over Ramallah? And as they say that, another dozen settlements are built.
If the PA were merely useless, it would be a tragedy. But the PA has gone from being merely a non-entity to being an active impediment to any form of a peace process. As much as we may dislike Prime Minister Netanyahu, we must admit that his government was elected by a majority of Israeli citizens. It has the necessary legitimacy to negotiate peace, if it so wished. But the same cannot be said for the Palestinian Authority. It has been seven years since the last elections in Palestine, and there are no indications that more will ever be held. The PA is rife with corruption, and its police forces actually assist Israel in repressing dissent. Even if, by some miracle, Abbas and Netanyahu reached an agreement, it would be hard to argue that Abbas has any kind of mandate from the people of Palestine. As it stands, Israel has no incentive to negotiate a peace treaty, and it has made sure that the PA has no ability to.
Some may accuse us of cynicism for this view, but the truth is, even if Netanyahu was sincere about wanting peace, there is no chance that it can emerge from these talks. Even before they have begun, Israel has made it clear that there are certain doors it will not open. The status of Jerusalem, the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees, what to do with Gaza and Hamas; all of these issues are of vital importance to any lasting peace. But they will almost certainly not be discussed at next week’s meeting in Washington. Netanyahu has already declared the first two closed in Israel’s favor, and nobody seems willing to even think about the third. And so, even the best case scenario for these talks results in only a flawed, partial agreement that addresses only a few issues.
Peace talks are good, but only if they are real. At this point, it is time for Americans to acknowledge the obvious. The hope that these talks can lead to a true peace is nothing but a delusion, a mirage that somehow continues to fool millions of otherwise sensible people. It is time to put it to rest, and to begin searching for a new solution to the Israel-Palestine Conflict, one that involves equality under the law and universal human rights. The search for a peaceful agreement seems to be over. The search for a peace based on justice, human rights, and Democracy for all, regardless of ethnicity or religion, has now begun.
Nathan Goldwag is going to be a Sophomore at Brandeis University and is interning with Jewish Voice for Peace in NY. Lawrence is currently with Jewish Voice for Peace as well.