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Opinion

June 10, 2016

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The peace gambit

If you have been following the Middle East ‘peace process’ business in the last quarter of a century, you are certainly aware that the ‘negotiations table’ is nothing but a metaphor for buying time and obtaining political capital. While the ‘peace process’ has failed to deliver neither peace to the region nor justice to the Palestinians, the ‘peace process’ industry has been an unenviable success, at least until 2014 when Kerry and the US administration decided to tend to more urgent regional affairs, for example, the war on Syria.

By then, Israel’s rightwing Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was too empowered by the anti-peace sentiment in his own society to even partake in the charade. There was little capital for him to be seen with aging Mahmoud Abbas, shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries. His rightwing constituency, which dominates Israeli society, could not have cared less. They were – and are – still busy confiscating Palestinian land, issuing more racist laws in the Knesset and fighting dissent among their own ranks.

Prior to that date, and since the very first peace conference in Madrid in 1991, the ‘peace process’ has splendidly paid dividends. The Israelis were finally accepted as a ‘peace partner’ and Israel slowly made its way from the margins of the Middle East to the centre, without having to concede an inch.

The French government has its own reasons for taking the lead on reviving the dormant peace talks and, no, those reasons have nothing to do with French desire to create a more equitable platform for talks, as Palestinian officials conveniently allege. Writing in Israel’s ‘Arutz Sheva’, Eran Lerman, explained the French endeavour in more practical terms. “Broad regional security considerations” are driving the French diplomatic initiatives, he contented.

The Israelis rejected the initiative right away, without even bothering with a public diplomacy campaign to defend their position, as they often do. Dora Gold, director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry repeated on the eve of the conference what Netanyahu and others have parroted for weeks. The conference will “completely fail”, she said, calling on Abbas to engage in direct talks with no prior conditions instead.

The nonchalant Israeli position can be partly explained in Tel Aviv’s trust in the French government, the very government that is taking the lead in the fight against the pro-Palestine Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS).

“On more than one occasion, French positions and actions on this subject have been more reassuring from an Israeli point of view than those of our American ally,” wrote Lerman. “For example, France served as the hardline anchor of the P5+1 [in the Iran nuclear talks]. It was France that raised questions about reliability and implementation (even as it was French business interests that were among the first to bang on Tehran’s doors).”

The conceited Israeli response to the French conference was paralleled with euphoria among the embattled Palestinian leadership. That, too, is understandable. The PA subsists on this sort of international attention, and since the last major meeting between Abbas and the former, now jailed Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, in 2008, Abbas is left on his own, disowned by the Americans and neglected by Arab governments.

“The French Initiative is the flicker of hope Palestine has been waiting for,” wrote Erekat. “We are confident that it will provide a clear framework with defined parameters for the resumption of negotiations.”

Even if – and when – the long-awaited ‘resumption of negotiations’ arrive, nothing good is likely to come out from it, except for political dividends for those who have participated in the 25-year gambit: buying time and acquiring more funds. There is nothing to celebrate about this.

This article has been excerpted from: ‘The Paris peace gambit’.

Courtesy: Counterpunch.org

 

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