UPDATED | Mike Pence Just Confirmed America’s Exit From the Mideast Peace Process

Such a rush of newsworthy developments coming out of the Israel-Palestine sphere these days — one hardly knows where to grab hold! I’ve almost given up trying to deal with them in order, so the following will suffice for today.

Commentator Sam Bahour (yes, he’s a Palestinian-American) gives his take on the US vice president’s Zionist sermon before the Israeli Knesset on Monday. In my opinion, Bahour hits the right notes: America should stop pretending to be an “honest broker” spearheading some non-existent “peace process”. In light of the United State’s official, unabashed love-fest with the State of Israel, the Palestinians have good reason to feel desperation. As for the world community, in their search for creative solutions and leadership in this arena, they absolutely must look elsewhere, not to the USA.

The text of Bahour’s opinion piece, as published in the Israeli daily Haaretz appears in full below. The full text of Pence’s speech can be found HERE.

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Mike Pence Just Confirmed America’s Exit From the Mideast Peace Process

When Pence says: ‘We stand with Israel. Your cause is our cause, your fight is our fight’, it’s clear America is only interested in offering Israel blind political support and abandoning the Palestinians. Real peace must now mean circumventing the U.S. administration

by SAM BAHOUR / 24 JAN 2018

U.S. Vice President Pence couldn’t have said it more clearly.

“I am here to convey one simple message. America stands with Israel. We stand with Israel because your cause is our cause, your values are our values, and your fight is our fight,” he said Monday in Israel’s Knesset.

He doubled down on the Trump administration’s plan to move its embassy to Jerusalem, and repeated, mantra-like, the claim that the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was justified as “fact”. The word “Palestinian” was barely mentioned, and “Palestine” – not at all.

Pence also said the U.S. would support a two-state solution, but only if both sides support it – echoing Trump’s comments at his Jerusalem announcement. The meaning? The U.S. is abandoning the two-state solution. A sovereign Palestinian state is no longer a necessary and critical aim of U.S. foreign policy.

Donald Trump, it appears, will do nothing to stop or rebuke Israel’s accelerated settlement building, or its retroactive licensing of outposts built on private Palestinian land, having watered-down the tired-old U.S. rhetoric of “settlements are an obstacle to peace” to settlements “may not be helpful” to peace. So their construction will continue, indefinitely. Israel’s settlement enterprise has bought — and the U.S. willingly sold — time and space to further entrench itself, thereby making the realization of a two-state solution increasingly impossible.

In light of this reality, the international community must now recognize that “the U.S. leads” approach to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is doomed to failure. There now appears no doubt that the elusive peace will not happen anytime during Trump’s presidency. It is blindingly clear – in light of two decades of failed negotiations under U.S. auspices – that  American leadership in this conflict resolution efforts is pointless and counter-productive.

If the international community’s policy is to achieve two states for two peoples, it will have to pursue an independent policy position that circumvents the Americans. The international community’s political influence in this arena has long been negligible, given the U.S. monopoly over the peace process. Now, it’s time for them to step up.

The international community has relied on the wrong leadership for too long. This tragic, historic mistake has not only cost international community taxpayers billions, but has also led to a reality that is the diametric opposite of what global policy-makers intended.

After 24 years, reliance on American “leadership” has led to the creation of numerous Palestinian Bantustans, surrounded by an occupying military power that continues to occupy with impunity, bankrolled by European taxpayers: the EU and its member states are by far the largest donors to the Palestinians.

Israel – delighted that another party is willing to subsidize its military occupation – continues to expand and consolidate its settlement enterprise, with the support of large sections of the American public and government.

Historically, the U.S. and EU have shared a common objective of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the framework of a two-state solution. But just as Trump occupies the White House, and Republicans now control all three branches of U.S. government, there’s been a significant shift to the right in the GOP’s policy to Israel-Palestine.

By contrast, Europeans have moved towards recognition of the State of Palestine. Sweden’s recognition is now official while parliaments in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Spain, France, Luxembourg, along with the European Parliament, have all approved recognition. Following Trump’s Jerusalem declaration, all indications are that more countries will move to recognize Palestine in order to safeguard the two-state solution.

America supports Israel’s occupation. Europe inadvertently subsidizes that occupation.

The Trump administration will do little to antagonize its own party or risk the wrath of Israel’s influential pro-settlement lobby in the U.S.  Trump will continue to advocate a hands-off, “it’s up to the two parties to decide” approach. As a result, Israel, which has all the power, has little incentive to concede, while the Palestinians, who have no power, and are supposedly “protected” under international law, are left to their own despair.

America is part of the problem

Israeli intransigence and blatant violation of international law are fueled by its belief that, no matter what its does, the U.S. will always insulate it from meaningful rebuke. Palestinian desperation is driven by a conviction that America’s overwhelming support to Israel makes negotiations pointless, as Israel has little incentive to concede when it receives so much money, weapons and blind political support.

Palestinian protest JAN 2018

Palestinians shout slogans as they demonstrate against U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to Israel. Nablus, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. January 22, 2018 (Credit: JAAFAR ASHTIYEH/AFP)

So what can the international community do more than vote against Trump’s statement [on Jerusalem as Israel’s capital] in the various chambers of the United Nations? The international community can roll up its sleeves, play power politics, and take on the occupier, without waiting for American leadership to produce results.

If the experiences of Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor and South Africa are anything to go by, an occupier or an apartheid regime will only change its ways with a nuanced combination of sanctions, international isolation and, as a last resort, military force.

The international community must rise to the occasion and demonstrate to its constituents that Europe is squandering its money and credibility by indulging in American charades of impartiality. It is clear that America has no moral or political qualms with Israel remaining an occupying force.

Once the international community finally acknowledges this reality and moves on, it will find the strength and legitimacy to propose policies of its own, in line with its international law, the UN Charter and its own moral standards.  [END]

sam bahourSam Bahour

Sam Bahour is a policy adviser to Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network; Chairman of Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy; Co-editor of HOMELAND: Oral History of Palestine and Palestinians (Olive Branch Press). He blogs at www.epalestine.com. @SamBahour

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MORE…

Israeli commentator Uri Avnery also has an interesting take on Pence’s speech — and the fallout for Arab MKs who staged a protest in the Knesset as the VP started speaking. Here are excerpts from Avnery’s article:

THE AMERICAN vice president honored Israel with a visit and was received like a king.

Why? Don’t know. To my mind, the man is a good-looking and well-dressed fool. Wherever he stopped, he made speeches that should have made even ardent Zionists blush. He lauded Israel in terms of childish adulation, heaping shameless flattery upon fake history. […]

The high point of the visit was Pence’s speech in the Knesset plenum. This in itself was curious. Such honors are reserved for foreign heads of state. Pence, as a mere vice, had no such right. But the Israeli government was set to flatter the man, who might one day become president himself. […]

When the vice president started to utter his chain of flatteries, the members jumped up and gave him a wild standing ovation. This was repeated again and again, up and down, up and down, and looked both ridiculous and disgusting.

Contrary to the US congress, the Knesset does not allow applause. In all my 10 years as a member, during which I attended every single session, I don’t remember a single hand-clap, not to mention multiple standing ovations. […]

When Pence started to speak, the members of the Arab United List stood up and waved placards protesting Trump’s recent recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The Knesset Guard seems to have been forewarned. In a split second, they set upon the 13 members of the list and evicted them forcibly. It was an ugly sight, made even uglier by the stormy applause from most Jewish members.

 

 

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