Trending Topics:

The curious case of US domination of Palestine-Israel peacemaking

on 23 Comments

Berkeley, CA, February 26 — How weird is it that Palestinians, Israelis, and the rest of the world have been agog for months, awaiting the launch of a new “peace process” from a young, seldom successful real-estate developer named Jared Kushner?

There are many different levels at which this is weird. First, it’s very strange that, though a robust and much respected global organization dedicated to the resolution of international conflicts has existed for 74 years now, nonetheless, all the other nations of the world still seem content that the United States, which represents fewer than 5% of the world’s people, has monopolized all decisionmaking on this vital issue for the past 45 years.

Secondly, the content and track record of the policies Washington has pursued in this diplomatic venture over this period have been bizarre, one-sided, and unsuccessful in the extreme.

(From that perspective, I guess we could say that having Jared Kushner now be Washington’s “peace process tsar” is par for the course?)

But why have so few people in the U.S. political elite ever remarked on all this weirdness?

At the level of the long history of U.S. monopolization of the peace diplomacy, I suppose a general U.S. jingoism has—since the days of Henry Kissinger’s much-publicized “shuttle diplomacy” in the 1970s—made U.S. “peace diplomacy” in the Middle East seem like some noble national mission?

I’m skeptical.  But the truly disgraceful moment in global politics came in 2002, when Pres. George W. Bush created something called the “Middle East Quartet”. The “Quartet” was—and sort of still is—an organization of four bodies: the United States, the United Nations, the EU, and Russia… but always under the clear leadership of Washington.

Yes, that’s right: Back in 2002, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan actually agreed to subordinate the world body that he headed to the “leadership” of Washington, regarding Palestinian-Israeli peacemaking. (Russia’s President Putin and the EU also went along.)

The UN’s subordination to the US in the Quartet has had huge consequences. Throughout the past 17 years, the United Nations as a body has (like the rest of the Quartet) issued no significant challenge at all to Washington’s diktat on the Palestine Question, whether on Jerusalem, Gaza, Israel’s settlement-building, or any other issue related to Palestine.

A few years ago, it seemed as if the Quartet had died a quiet and blessed death. But last September– well after Pres. Trump had moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and kicked the PLO’s representative out of Washington– it showed a brief sign of revival. Its four members issued a short joint statement expressing “concern” about the possibility of escalation between Israel and Gaza. But no word at all about Jerusalem, or the brutal siege of Gaza, or Israel’s continued settlement-building project.

And regarding the big, central issue, that is, the question of how to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the Quartet–including the UN– has also remained mum. This, despite 50 years’ worth of resolutions from the UN’s (non-executive) General Assembly calling on Israel to end its occupation of the Palestinian territories and to allow the Palestinians to exercise their right of self-determination… And despite the fact that the UN’s executive body, the Security Council, remains committed to its own key resolutions 242 of 1967 and 338 of 1973, which underline “the inacceptability of the acquisition of territory by force” and call on Israel to withdraw from lands its army occupied in 1967.

By subordinating the UN to the “leadership” of the United States in Palestinian-Israeli peacemaking and by failing to insist on the UN’s own clearly stated goals in this diplomacy, successive Secretaries-General of the UN have given a greenlight to the very specific kind of “peace-free process” that Washington has pursued continuously since 1993.

Washington’s approach to this diplomacy has focused overwhelmingly on the “process” rather than the attainment of any actual peace. And it has cast aside any reference to international legality or international resolutions regarding the content of the peace, laying stress instead on the (always fruitless) search for a formula that “the two parties can agree on.”

If you were Benjamin Netanyahu and you could blow off all the entreaties from a US President that you throw some small crumbs to the Palestinians, and you could march into the U.S. Congress and openly humiliate the President (as he did to Pres. Obama back in 2015), and could pummel Gaza’s civilians to smithereens every couple of years—and still get a commitment of $38 billion of US armaments over ten years from Obama… Then why on earth would you ever bother to make “peace” with that fraction of the Palestinian people who’ve been your captives for the past 51 years?

The US approach of focusing endlessly on the “process” rather than the attainment of peace and giving Israel complete veto power over the peacemaking was the brainchild, primarily, of one man, an eminence grise who has popped up again and again in high-level posts in Washington’s Middle East diplomacy—in administrations run by both parties. His name is Dennis Ross. He’s someone who’s been much more consistently committed to the Zionist project itself than he has to any of the presidents he’s worked for.

Ross’s whole biography is fascinating. One notable point came in the mid-1980s, when along with his ally Martin Indyk he co-founded a brand-new, AIPAC-backed think tank called the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP).

In the 1990s, Ross and Indyk completely dominated all of Pres. Clinton’s Middle East policymaking. One of the key innovations Ross introduced was wherever possible to avoid any discussion of a “final status” agreement between Palestinians and Israelis. Whenever he came under unbearable pressure to do “something” in the peacemaking, he would pull something we could call “the Ross confidence trick”: He would argue that the parties could not address the final issues until more “confidence” had been built between them.

So his diplomacy would focus on ever smaller and smaller interim-stage issues. And meanwhile, Palestine and the Palestinians remained occupied, and the Israelis built yet more settlements.

In 2002, after his gig with Clinton ended, Ross went to Jerusalem. There, on behalf of the Jewish Agency, he and veteran Democratic pol Stuart Eizenstat founded a think-tank called the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI),  which is dedicated to the idea that “the Jewish People” worldwide constitute a single people “with Israel at the core.” (Convicted felon Elliott Abrams is also on the board.)

Throughout the years that Ross and Indyk ran Washington’s Middle East policy, they failed to complete any of the negotiations they attempted (except for the always-easy, 1994 “final peace” between Israel and Jordan.) Yet these days, Ross, Indyk, and their wingman Aaron Miller regularly get quoted in the corporate media as if they are somehow “experts” on negotiations, on “the Arab mind”, or on Palestinian affairs! Go figure.

The long, sorry story of Washington’s monopolization of Israeli-Arab peacemaking has many chapters.

Americans who want to push for a just and sustainable peace between Israel and Palestine need, I think, to break free of the mindset that it’s somehow “desirable” or even “normal” that this monopoly should continue. Instead, we should demand that our government and the Israeli government both comply fully with international law. There should be no “Israel Exception” to international legality– and no “American Exception”, either. We need to work with likeminded allies around the world to ensure that the U.N. and the legitimate international bodies take back control of the diplomacy… and that they do so on the basis of the long-stated principles of international law.

And this just in from Trumpworld: At the recent “Warsaw summit” that Mike Pompeo convened as part of the current push against Iran, guess which former U.S. official was given a starring role? Yes, Dennis Ross. Watch closely to see whether he will now slide back, perhaps alongside Jared Kushner, into some even more powerful government position.

Helena Cobban
About Helena Cobban

Helena Cobban is the President of Just World Educational (JWE), a non-profit organization, and the CEO of Just World Books. She has had a lengthy career as a journalist, writer, and researcher on international affairs, including 17 years as a columnist on global issues for The Christian Science Monitor. Of the seven books she’s published on international affairs, four have been on Middle Eastern topics. This new series of commentaries she’s writing, “Story/Backstory”, will have an expanded audio component published in JWE’s podcast series. They represent her own opinion and judgments, not those of any organization.

Other posts by .


Posted In:

23 Responses

  1. annie
    annie on February 27, 2019, 1:17 pm

    reading this, thinking of dennis ross, i had to stop and watch the gimp scene in pulp fiction.

    • Citizen
      Citizen on February 28, 2019, 1:04 am

      Ross was notorious for going behind Mitchell’s back and negotiating with the Israelis himself. The Palestinian negotiators considered him Israel’s agent. He also had a reputation in diplomatic circles of aways going to Israelis first, before he supported any diplomatic move. Perhaps this pattern suggests why he has had such a long career life no matter which US regime was in power?

      • James Canning
        James Canning on February 28, 2019, 11:35 am

        Agreed.

      • annie
        annie on February 28, 2019, 9:06 pm

        of course he’s israel’s agent. he’s the kingpin ‘negotiator’.

  2. JWalters
    JWalters on February 27, 2019, 7:01 pm

    A sane, rational examination of an absurd charade.

    “The long, sorry story of Washington’s monopolization of Israeli-Arab peacemaking has many chapters.”

    This bizarre story all makes complete sense if we consider Washington as the puppet and Israel as the puppeteer. For which there is overwhelming evidence.

  3. Kay24
    Kay24 on February 27, 2019, 9:40 pm

    Jared Kushner, another crooked member of the Trump clan, is way over his head, in that role of peace-maker. No peace-maker would have taken Jerusalem off the table, and given it so boldly to the occupier, who has been strongly condemned for theft of lands, and other crimes. No other diplomat, or even President, made such an idiotic move. Perhaps he was doing his buddy, Netanyahu’s bidding, but he enraged the Arab world, by making such a stupid move, which above all, showed he was NOT an honest broker, and was biased toward the aggressors.

    So who in their right mind thinks the Palestinians will take the crumbs naive Jared will throw at them, with appreciation, and satisfaction? When the Palestinians reject Jared joke of a peace plan, with nothing on the table, they will once again, be blamed for being difficult. The only way the Palestinians could have had some fair dealings from Jared, would have been if they were as wealthy as Saudi Arabia.
    Jared loves wealthy Arab people.

  4. brent
    brent on February 28, 2019, 12:19 am

    Excellent analysis.

    However, things may be different with Trump. He doesn’t refer to a process but a plan. He’s said good things will be coming and his embassy move did not determine Jerusalem’s sovereignty or boundaries.

    Perhaps one side or the other will eventually put a specific plan on the table and take it out of America’s hands. By putting the one-state ( secular democratic and bi-national) on the table, Trump may have incentivized the Israeli side to be thinking about a proposition to keep a Jewish State if or when Palestinians decide to test the equality route.

    • annie
      annie on February 28, 2019, 9:29 pm

      Trump may have incentivized the Israeli side to be thinking about a proposition to keep a Jewish State if or when Palestinians decide to test the equality route.

      what do you mean by “when Palestinians decide to test the equality route”. how is equality a palestinian decision? what would be the point of boycott divestment and sanctioning israel if they could just decide to be equal?

      also, what does “the Israeli side — thinking about a proposition to keep a Jewish State” mean? i’m confused.

      • brent
        brent on February 28, 2019, 11:38 pm

        Annie- The equality route would look something akin to the one Blacks engaged in the ’60s or the “Black Lives Matter” of late. “I am a human being and demand respect”. Not that either was full panaceas, as campaigns take a generation or more to achieve desirable results. They cannot simply decide to be equal, but, can decide to campaign for equality. That builds the bridge necessary to humanist Jews and American progressives, who were so facilitative to campaigns for equality in the US and in S. Africa. Very importantly, it would turn upside down the victim narratives so effectively used by Israel to suppress. Equality and freedom imply a desire to live harmoniously, would upend Israel’s characterizations and create the safe political ground for activists to move their politicians to. The concept of a secular democratic bi-national state (the founding PLO position) would be very appealing to the great majority of Americans who believe in equality and own the purse strings. Because there would be no defense against a campaign for equality, it would be embraced politically. The very concept of a “Jewish State” on all the land would be in jeopardy so propositions for two states would arise precisely to keep what’s more important. Supporters of a “Jewish State” would have to rein in their Greater Israel proponents.

        Placards, not stones could eventually lead America to what’s in their self-interest, the Peace of Jerusalem. Israelis, like Americans, are unlikely to succumb to pressure via demands and threats. Another way of saying this is, “Gorbachev ended the Cold War by denying America an enemy. Threats and pressures had no chance.

        I anticipate when Palestinian citizens of Israel decide to campaign for full civil and human rights, equality under the law, everything can evolve for the better, the process of reconciliation can commence and lead to a return to the pre-Zionist days when Jews enjoyed the best of neighborly relations.

        Thanks for asking.

      • Mooser
        Mooser on March 1, 2019, 2:54 pm

        “lead to a return to the pre-Zionist days when Jews enjoyed the best of neighborly relations.”

        “A return to pre-Zionist days”? Hurrah! Another committed anti-Zionist!

      • annie
        annie on March 2, 2019, 12:13 am

        thank you so much brent for such a thorough answer. a couple things. when you speak of something akin to the one Blacks engaged in the ’60s i am reminded of NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co. which i covered here: https://mondoweiss.net/2016/04/anti-bds-legislation-faces-crucial-hearing-tomorrow-in-california-judiciary-committee/

        Sixteen years after Black citizens of Claiborne County, Mississippi voted to boycott white merchants in the area because white elected officials refused their demands for racial equality and racial integration in 1966, resulting in the longest economic boycott in the history of the United States known as the “Port Gibson Boycott”, the Supreme Court settled NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware in 1982:

        “although States have broad power to regulate economic activities, they could not prohibit peaceful political activity such as that found in the boycott that was the subject of the case… nonviolent elements of the petitioners’ activities were protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and holding that the petitioners were not liable in damages for the consequences of their nonviolent, protected activity.

        iow, palestinians have already begun the engagement that (i believe) you’ve characterized “as campaigns take a generation or more to achieve desirable results.” they’ve “decide to campaign for equality”. that campaign is BDS. not much different than NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co.

        I anticipate when Palestinian citizens of Israel decide to campaign for full civil and human rights, equality under the law, everything can evolve for the better

        currently, only one regime controls the entirety of israel / palestine. within this territory, people, citizens and non citizens alike, have radically different statuses. all palestinians within this territory share radically different statuses. singling out “Palestinian citizens of Israel ” will not solve the problems that exists. the israeli regime either needs to release 1/2 the population under its control from bondage, or else they should be included into any assessment of a “campaign for full civil and human rights, equality under the law”, currently the goal of BDS.

    • Sibiriak
      Sibiriak on March 1, 2019, 1:59 am

      Brent: By putting the one-state ( secular democratic and bi-national) on the table….
      ——————————————

      Get real! Trump has not put a democratic single state solution on the table.

      • brent
        brent on March 1, 2019, 1:24 pm

        I understood that Trump turned to Netanyahu at their first joint press conference and essentially said, “one state or two, so long as you both agree, I’ll be good to go.” Later that Jerusalem’s borders and sovereignty were on the table too. Yesterday Kushner said their goal was eliminating borders to allow for full movement of people. It is my guess Netanyahu was sufficiently intimidated that Abbas would follow through on his past statements about going to the one state, to which he would have no defense, that he moved forward with his nation-state law as a roadblock.

        No Trump did not officially offer one state, secular and democratic and with equality for all, but he gave those who like the idea or see the power behind running with it, a big card to play. He opened the door. He continues to appeal to Abbas to play in the game.

      • brent
        brent on March 1, 2019, 1:28 pm

        Sibiriak- I understood that Trump turned to Netanyahu at their first joint press conference and essentially said, “one state or two, so long as you both agree, I’ll be good to go.” Later that Jerusalem’s borders and sovereignty were still on the table. Yesterday Kushner said their goal was eliminating borders to allow for full movement of people. It is my guess Netanyahu was sufficiently intimidated that Abbas would follow through on his past statements about going for the one state, to which there would be no defense, that he moved forward with his nation-state law as a roadblock.

        No Trump did not officially offer one state, secular and democratic and with equality for all, but he gave those who like the idea or see the power behind running with it, a path forward. He opened the door. He continues to appeal to Abbas to play in the game.

  5. JaapBo
    JaapBo on February 28, 2019, 2:21 am

    The so-called “peace process” is actually an extortion process in which Palestinians first have to recognize Israeli rights, and then have to accept the extortion of their rights. And even this process is unwanted by Israel, because it wants more than it can get from this extortion process!

    And the US is complicit both in the extortion, and in sabotaging it so that Israel can take more!

    • eljay
      eljay on February 28, 2019, 8:09 am

      || JaapBo: The so-called “peace process” is actually an extortion process in which Palestinians first have to recognize Israeli rights … ||

      Palestinians are expected to recognize and accept not just Israeli rights but also supremacist Jewish / “Jewish State” rights.

      • eljay
        eljay on February 28, 2019, 8:26 am

        || eljay: … Palestinians are expected to recognize and accept not just Israeli rights but also supremacist Jewish / “Jewish State” rights. ||

        Correction: … supremacist Jewish / “Jewish State”  rights.

  6. just
    just on February 28, 2019, 8:19 am

    … “Speaking at a press conference in Vietnam following a second summit with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un, Trump was asked about the upcoming indictment decision. “He’s tough, smart, strong,” the president said on Netanyahu.

    The U.S. president then spoke of his plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, a plan said to be unveiled following Israel’s April 9 general election.

    “All my life I heard that the toughest of all deals – and everyone loves deals – would be peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” Trump said. “They say it’s the impossible deal, I’d love to be able to produce it.”

    Speaking about the plan, Trump mentioned the military aid Israel is receiving from the United States and the U.S. aid cut to the Palestinians. “We were paying the Palestinians a lot of money and we ended that a couple of years ago because they weren’t saying the right things. And they’ve been much better. We have a great shot at peace.” …”

    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/trump-ahead-of-netanyahu-indictment-decision-he-s-done-a-great-job-as-pm-1.6979189

    There will never be ‘peace’ as long as the US is in the mix. DJT~ you and your kin have no standing in this debacle to which you’ve contributed mightily and granted unending and criminal succor to Israel. You have no understanding that the Palestinian people cannot, and will not, succumb to bribes or threats. It’s not in their DNA and it’s little wonder that you and your ilk can’t grasp that. So what is your vacuous Zionist son- in- law doing? He’s visited MbS, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman. (?????) US taxpayer dollars at ‘work’… and for what? While you’ve been crowing about your (failed) visit with Kim Jong Un and finding time to tweet about Cohen, India and Pakistan are in a terrible state and perhaps it’s best that you stay away from that considering that you have no real state department, a terrible (horrible) NSA in Bolton, and loads of ignorance and prejudice.

    Thanks, Helena.

    • eljay
      eljay on February 28, 2019, 10:09 am

      || just: … The U.S. president then spoke of his plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians …

      … “We were paying the Palestinians a lot of money and we ended that a couple of years ago because they weren’t saying the right things. And they’ve been much better. … ||

      Trump’s “art of the deal”: Punish the victim, reward the rapist. But what can you expect from a “neutral” guy like Trump:

      ” … I’m very pro-Israel. In fact, I was the head of the Israeli Day Parade a number of years ago, I did a commercial for Netanyahu when he was getting elected … People are born with hatred, they’re taught hatred. And I have to say, it’s mostly on the one side, not on the other side. But they’re taught hatred. … ”

      “I am a great friend of Israel. I was the Grand Marshal of the Israeli Day Parade… I have so many friends. In fact one of them, one of my great friends — where is Jared, my son-in-law? Where is he? My son-in-law is Jewish, and he’s fantastic … So, there is nobody closer — and Bibi Netanyahu asked me to do a commercial for him, for his campaign. I did a commercial for him.”

      • just
        just on February 28, 2019, 11:16 am

        Yep, eljay! So his great friendship with Bibi comes to this~ what will he and his ‘team’ say now?

        “Netanyahu to Be Charged With Bribery Pending Hearing

        Attorney general also intends to indict Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for breach of trust in two other cases ■ Decision comes a month and a half before the election …”

        https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/netanyahu-to-be-charged-with-bribery-pending-hearing-1.6961872

        Out, out damned spot(s)!

      • amigo
        amigo on February 28, 2019, 2:26 pm

        ““We were paying the Palestinians a lot of money and we ended that a couple of years ago because they weren’t saying the right things. And they’ve been much better. …” Eljay.

        Does that mean that the Palestinians have taken up Trumps offer to pay for their travel costs to one of those many Arab Countries and as punishment ,to leave their properties to the Jewish victims they treated so badly for the last 70 plus years.

        Do you get the idea , that someone in the GOI wrote Trumps response for him.

    • just
      just on February 28, 2019, 10:31 pm

      Nice to read that Elijah Cummings wants to question Ivanka, Donnie Jr. and others mentioned by Cohen yesterday in open session.

      Also nice to read that Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell are going to investigate the “oft- repeated lie that Kushner had been granted the clearance at the conclusion of a normal process.” This occurred after today’s closed session.

      “Chairman Adam Schiff:

      “The revelation that President Trump personally intervened to overrule White House security officials and the Intelligence Community to grant a Top Secret security clearance to his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is the latest indicator of the President’s utter disregard for our national security and for the men and women who sacrifice so much every day to keep us safe. There is no nepotism exception for background investigations.”

      and

      “Chairman Eric Swalwell:

      “As chair of the Intelligence Modernization and Readiness Subcommittee, I’m concerned the President has jeopardized our national security by putting clearances in the hands of unscrupulous people, and against the recommendations of background investigators. To ensure our deepest secrets are protected, we will work to ensure clearances are granted based on trust, not by blood or bond.””

      https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/live/2019/feb/28/cohen-testimony-closed-doors-congress-latest-trump-kim-summit-us-politics

  7. Kay24
    Kay24 on February 28, 2019, 12:16 pm

    I don’t know about peace making, but here is a scathing article on Israel, accusing it of having it’s fingerprints on the India – Pakistani conflict. Once again, like Myanmar, it seems Israel is war mongering, advising, and prodding India, to enter into some conflict, so that Israeli weapons can be used to kill. War mongers.

    “For months, Israel has been assiduously lining itself up alongside India’s nationalist BJP government in an unspoken – and politically dangerous – “anti-Islamist” coalition, an unofficial, unacknowledged alliance, while India itself has now become the largest weapons market for the Israeli arms trade.

    Not by chance, therefore, has the Indian press just trumpeted the fact that Israeli-made Rafael Spice-2000 “smart bombs” were used by the Indian air force in its strike against Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) “terrorists” inside Pakistan”.

    https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/israel-india-pakistan-conflict-balakot-arms-trade-jaish-e-mohammed-a8800076.html

    Where is conflict, bloodshed, wars, and violence, you will find either the US or Israel’s dirty fingerprints somewhere.

Leave a Reply