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Israel wants a peace process – but only if it’s doomed to fail

on 22 Comments

In a familiar muddying of the waters, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has spent the past week talking up peace while fiercely criticising Friday’s summit in France – the only diplomatic initiative on the horizon.

As foreign ministers from 29 nations arrived for a one-day meeting in Paris, Netanyahu dusted off the tired argument that any sign of diplomatic support for Palestinians would encourage from them “extreme demands”.

France hopes the meeting will serve as a prelude to launching a peace process later in the year. French president Francois Hollande said he hoped to achieve a “peace [that] will be solid, sustainable and under international supervision”.

With astounding chutzpah, Israeli official Dore Gold compared the summit to the “height of colonialism” a century ago, when Britain and France carved up the Middle East between them. He conveniently overlooked the fact that it was the same British colonialism that promised a Jewish “homeland” in place of the native Palestinian population.

Earlier, Netanyahu and his new defence minister, the far-right Avigdor Lieberman, had publicly committed themselves to an “unceasing search for a path to peace”.

In a two-minute interview on CNN, spokesman David Keyes managed to mention the formula “two states for two peoples” no less than five times.

Rather than the French initiative, Netanyahu averred, Israelis and Palestinians should be left to engage in the kind of face-to-face talks “without preconditions” that have repeatedly failed. That is because Israel, as the much stronger party, has been able to void them by imposing its own conditions.

Netanyahu, it seems, is keen on any peace process, just so long as it’s not the current one launched in Paris.

Part of the reason for bringing Lieberman into the government was to provide more diplomatic wriggle room. With Lieberman cementing Netanyahu’s credentials with the far-right, he is now free to spout vague platitudes about peace knowing that his coalition partners are unlikely to take him at his word and bolt the government.

But while the domestic front has been secured, rumbles of dissent reverberate abroad.

Europe is increasingly fearful that an emboldened Israeli government may soon annex all or major parts of the West Bank, stymying any hope of creating even a severely truncated Palestinian state.

The Paris conference is a sign of the mounting desperation in Europe to restrain Israel.

While France is not about to engineer a breakthrough, Netanyahu is nonetheless worried.

It is the first time Israel has faced being dragged into talks not presided over by its Washington patron. That risks setting a dangerous precedent.

Although US secretary of state John Kerry attended, he was decidedly cool towards the summit. Yet Netanyahu worries that this time Washington may not be able – or willing – to watch his back.

If the conference leads to talks later in the year, that will be when Barack Obama is preparing to bow out as president. Netanyahu is afraid of surprises. Israeli officials have been in near-panic that Obama may seek payback for the years of humiliation he endured from Netanyahu.

One way might be for Washington to agree to French oversight of the talks, following a tight timetable and establishing diplomatic “teams” to solve final-status issues.

Even if negotiations fail, as seems inevitable, parameters for future talks might be established.

Netanyahu also knows that the wider atmosphere is likely to leave him singled out as the intransigent party.

A report by the Quartet, due soon, is expected to criticise Israel for its past failure to take steps towards peace. And a report last week by a joint team of US and Israeli defence experts suggested Israel’s “security concerns” about Palestinian statehood are not as intractable as claimed.

Netanyahu wants instead to deflect attention to a “regional peace summit”. The key has been Egypt’s support for a revival of direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, based on the Arab Peace Plan of 2002. It promised Israel normal relations with the Arab world in return for ending the occupation.

Israel’s sudden interest in the plan is odd, given that it has not been discussed in cabinet since the Saudis unveiled it 14 years ago.

In truth, Netanyahu backs the idea because he knows reaching a region-wide agreement would be impossible with the Middle East in turmoil.

Israeli officials have already insisted that parts of the 2002 plan need “updating”. Israel, for example, wants sovereignty over the Golan, Syrian territory it seized in 1967, and which currently promises newfound oil riches.

At the summit, the Saudi foreign minister said Israeli efforts to “water down” the plan would be opposed. Egyptian officials have hurried to distance themselves from the Netanyahu proposal and throw their weight behind the Paris process.

Still, Israel will try to ride out the French initiative until Obama’s successor is installed next year. Then, Netanyahu hopes, he can forget about the threat of two states once and for all.

Jonathan Cook
About Jonathan Cook

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His new website is

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22 Responses

  1. Kay24
    June 6, 2016, 10:48 am

    A good article, and I like the head lines too. It simply puts the entire Israeli narrative in a nutshell.
    Every time there is a hint of some (foolishly hopeful) nation wanting to initiate peace talks, Netanyahu and his merry band of zionists must be groaning with frustration, and showing their disapproval secretly, because they have to go through the motions of pretending they really do want “peace”, when in reality they do not give a damn about it, and want to keep the status quo going until they have taken all the land they can, and diminished those pesky Palestinians. If they have to paint the occupied people as NOT wanting peace (anyone heard of people occupied for 60 years and having their lands stolen NOT wanting peace?) they can easily do that too. That narrative will be regurgitated ad nauseam by American media and politicians.
    Meanwhile the US will pretend Israel is sincerely looking for peace once again.

    • Marnie
      June 6, 2016, 11:05 am

      Kay24, I tend to think that Netanyahoo and his zionist horde actually love the opportunity to do the circle jerk with anyone who wants to waste their time. What does Netanyahoo have to lose playing this half-assed game? Just more delay, more pulling each other’s chains, more get back to you, etc., etc., ad infinitum and nauseum. It’s a win-win for them, they talk the talk (sort of), but have no intentions of doing anything more and as long as some schmuck thinks they’ll be the one to get peace in the middle east, that just gives Netanyahoo and the zionist horde more time to play. Bastards.

      No more talking. It’s time for serious action by the united nations and sanction the SOBs, serious consequences and no more [email protected]#!$ talk.

      • Kay24
        June 6, 2016, 2:48 pm

        I think the US has a lot of blame to accept too. If only they had the spine to threaten the occupier that if it does not get their behinds to a peace table for serious talks, their pipeline to billions of dollars and shiny new weapon will be stopped and sanctions will begin (like they so easily did for Arab nations). It is obvious that the US and other western nations play this game of good cop to Israel’s bad cop, giving it time to steal all they can, while keeping the Palestinians in a stranglehold. Israel has been bullshetting the world, and everyone knows it.

      • JWalters
        June 6, 2016, 8:35 pm

        “It’s time for serious action by the united nations and sanction the SOBs, serious consequences and no more [email protected]#!$ talk.”

        I agree, time to pull the plug on these murderous thugs.

  2. amigo
    June 6, 2016, 12:36 pm

    The french have stated that in the event the talks fail , then they , france will recognise a Palestinian State.Where would that leave Israel.Recognising a Palestinian State would require identifying borders.

    Seems to me , the international community has had enough of Israel,s games and is finally , (with thumbs up from Obama and co )going to put them on the spot.Lets,s see if they will back up their words with actions.One can dream.

    • K Renner
      K Renner
      June 6, 2016, 12:57 pm

      Good. Considering that the Israelis will ensure that the talks fail, it seems inevitable that France will finally formally recognize the Palestinian state.

      • WH
        June 7, 2016, 2:48 am

        The question is, what good would this recognition do Palestinians? Many countries already recognise their so-called state, but it only really exists on paper.

    • Kay24
      June 6, 2016, 2:53 pm

      If France was sincere enough to follow through with the consequences of zio land refusing to cooperate with the talks, it would be great. I think the world has had enough with the zionist excuses and dishonesty, and it is long overdue that the occupier was held responsible for the misery it has caused to those they occupy.

      • Citizen
        June 7, 2016, 12:50 pm

        One never knows with the French…

  3. K Renner
    K Renner
    June 6, 2016, 1:01 pm

    @ “two states for two peoples”: a tired old refrain that’s essentially meaningless in practise.

    The only way a two-state solution will work is if the Israelis go back to the 67 borders, if the Palestinian state is economically viable, has the right to self-defence, and is geographically contiguous, if all the “settlers” and the illegal occupation are both removed from where they have no right to be– with the Palestinians acquiring the assets in the “settlements” built by the Israelis– and if the Palestinians are allowed a partial right of return within the confines of the new Palestinian state.

    Israel, of course, isn’t for any of these things, because Israel doesn’t want peace and seeks to make an utter farce out of any “peace process” or “negotiations”.

    Even if Hillary wins– the rest of the world is going to get increasingly tough on the so-called “Jewish state”– especially if that state causes another massacre of the innocents in Gaza, or the West Bank, or in Lebanon.

  4. Ossinev
    June 6, 2016, 1:10 pm

    Meanwhile back in BibliZioland one of the main players in the two state charade seems to have overdosed on Ziopills.

    “Bennett said Saturday that while he vehemently opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state, he does back the formation of “a Palestinian autonomy on steroids.”

    It would appear in his demented opinion the current PA doesn`t need to be upgraded to a Palestinian State it just needs needs a bit of pumping up.


  5. Rosebud
    June 6, 2016, 3:17 pm

    I especially liked the part about Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman publicly committing themselves to an “unceasing search for a path to peace.” Reminded me of O.J.’s commitment to find the real killer.

  6. xanadou
    June 6, 2016, 11:45 pm

    “(…)US secretary of state John Kerry attended, he was decidedly cool towards the summit.”
    “Israeli officials have been in near-panic that Obama may seek payback for the years of humiliation he endured from Netanyahu.”

    BO and JK are half way down the slide, with a clear view of the Exit sign out of the WH and a dismal record as their “legacy”. Inasmuch as I would like to share JC’s hushed optimism, BO’s mentor, Joe Lieberman, will make sure that BO will not forget who got him this cushy gig. JK owes as much to his missus. So much for the not-so-grande world of bit players with delusions of self-importance.

    Payback time may be Europe’s to exact; the tab is long and pricey for having had to endure the epic arrogance of a band of parochial amateurs from a blood-soaked tiny theatre of the absurd.

  7. xanadou
    June 7, 2016, 12:49 am

    Meanwhile NYC bans BDS:

    The ban is illegal, even worse (better) it will only make the issue bigger and better known to many. The commenters revulsion is palpable.

    Cuomo has to go for violating the US Constitution.

  8. JLewisDickerson
    June 7, 2016, 8:06 am

    RE: “Israel wants a peace process – but only if it’s doomed to fail”

    MY COMMENT: Most recently Netanyahu added the requirement that the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish nation (i.e. the nation-state of the Jewish people) to help bring about the failure of the most recent Kerry-led peace process. What will be the next new requirement? What about requiring the Palestinians to acknowledge that God gave Israel to the Jews as documented by the Old Testament in the King James version of the Bible.
    John Hagee would certainly say ‘amen’ to that!*
    But as to the Saudis, it might just get their dander up!*

    *According to Rachel Tabachnick: In his books and sermons [John] Hagee has promoted a “greater Israel,” that will reclaim all of Israel’s former biblical territory, stating “In modern terms, Israel rightfully owns all of present-day Israel, all of Lebanon, half of Syria, two-thirds of Jordan, all of Iraq, and the northern portion of Saudi Arabia.” ~

    • xanadou
      June 7, 2016, 4:22 pm

      By ancient standards, mythological Israel is no greater than the size of the scrolls holding the stories.

      Assuming Hagee’s (non-existent) logic, what is he still doing in this country without the permission of the Native Americans? Moreover, the stories about Israel-that-never-was are about 2500 y/o. The part of the continent we know as the USA was forcefully appropriated 500+ y/ago from flesh and blood human beings. Hagee, start packing…

  9. Vera Gottlieb
    Vera Gottlieb
    June 7, 2016, 9:42 am

    The Zionists have never aimed at reaching any agreement and anyone thinking their intentions are “honourable” is living on another planet. Que pais mas asqueroso.

    • Citizen
      June 7, 2016, 12:57 pm

      Yep, their track record goes back to never honoring the specific protections for the natives in Balfour Declaration, doubled down with never honoring their condition subsequent promise to the UN upon UN recognition to allow return of the booted-out natives immediately.

  10. ET
    June 7, 2016, 3:41 pm

    I Having no relations is not equal to being at war: Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations Article 2,International Relations are through mutual agreement

    II Peace summit predicates that State of Israel shall enter into International Law Compliance of UN Charter & LOAC I_973 Geneva
    III State of Israel is at war with only three Arab States:
    1 UNGA 181 State of Palestine:
    1.1 Occupied Whiteline Palestine territories of Negev, East & North Gaza, Jaffa District, Beersheba, Rams Head, & Galilee, e.g., Acre since 1949
    2 Occupied Geenline Palestine since its June 5th 1967 Breach of 1949 Armistice of Gaza & West Bank territories
    2 Syria: Occupied Golan Heights
    3 Lebanon
    IV UN Charter UNSC 242; LOAC I_973 Geneva; & Vienna Convention on Laws of Treaties, Article 53 jus cogens govern International Conflicts of
    1 Israel VS Palestine: UNGA 181 State of Palestine occupied Gaza & West Bank
    2 Israel VS Syria: Occupied Golan Heights
    V Israel_Lebanon Conflict can be resolved through mutual acknowledgement of UNGA 181 & UNSC 242 vis-a-vis State of Israel, UNGA 181 Palestine, & Syria

  11. James Canning
    James Canning
    June 7, 2016, 4:54 pm

    Full points to France.

    I think it incorrect to claim Britain wanted to displace the native Palestinian population, to enable creation of a “homeland” for the Jews.

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