Peace in Our Time
Rejoice, rejoice. That well-known independent John Kerry has finally got Israel and the Palestinians around a table, shaking hands even, after a hiatus of 3 years. After so many years, the man with the lantern-jaw has got them together – peace, in our time.
Yes, that’s sarcasm. Forgive me. But don’t forgive and forget the past, when viewing the present and future, because the recent past casts a dark shadow over these new talks.
The last talks followed Operation Cast Lead, in which white phosphorous bombs were fired indiscriminately at civilians, and infrastructure such as hospitals and power-plants targeted as deliberate punishment of an entire people. The term we have for this kind of behaviour is ‘war crimes’, but the world just moved on. With Israel, the fist is always raised, and often used. With such a posture, how do such negotiations normally go.
Whilst the media is singing from the ‘happy they’re talking’ song-sheet, this is like Mike Tyson sitting down with Michael Spinks after the first round. One has been pummeled, bloodied and is half-conscious, the other inviolably dominant. Spinks lasted 91 seconds. How do such negotiations normally go.
You should not hope. Benjamin Netanyahu has not had a road to Damascus moment in his plush Jerusalem home. He remains a hawk amongst hawks, even within the Knesset, which means he leaves Genghis Khan to the west. Whilst Mahmoud Abbas has nothing to lose, these talks are destined to fail, as so many have done before. Indeed, they’re designed to fail, and they will fail. These are not negotiations amongst equals, it’s an ant negotiating with an elephant.
Since 1963 Israel has occupied and annexed 80% of the former Palestinian territory. Today, over 650,000 settlers live in the occupied territories, in direct defiance of international law. Israel plays the long game, knowing a generation is only twenty years – once that time passes, people can say ‘I grew up here’ to add to the spurious ‘this was our land..once’. The talks, the peace process, the posturing – all is yet another delaying tactic to allow settlement to continue. It’s land grab, pure and simple, and It’s worked for 40 years, why wouldn’t it continue working.
The easiest, and most obvious comparison, when it comes to understanding the situation in Israel and what remains of Palestine, is South Africa. Though the skin-hue is not as obvious, the extraordinary disparity of life is familiar. Israelis live in a first world community, with bins that are collected and tap water you can drink. Palestinians, especially within the Gaza strip, live in the world’s biggest prison, surrounded by a wall patrolled by trigger-happy gunmen, with indignities, violence and murder routinely and casually inflicted upon them, living in collective punishment for a crime that was perpetrated upon them, in their land. The median income in Israel is US$16,000 or more, in Palestine it’s US$1,800. Israel records 3 infant mortalities per 1,000 births, in Palestine it is six times that number. Unemployment in Gaza is over 30%. Johannesburg and Soweto, people living side by side but in different worlds. It’s simpler to understand if just change the colours. Israel is a racist, apartheid state, more an international pariah than South Africa ever was.
Voting at the UN on Israel’s actions is nothing if not uniform. A resolution is made, 189 nations vote in censure, America votes against. England abstains, the sops. Everyone understands the dynamics at play. The world essentially speaks as one. The occupied territories are held illegally under all recognized international statutes, and should be ceded immediately. Boundaries should be based on those prior to the Yom Kippur war of 1973.
Fat chance. America and Israel fail and refuse to recognize international law, despite America’s participation in writing it. In a lawless world, the man with the biggest gun is king. Forty-one times, in votes at the UN Security Council, the United States has been the only country to use its veto to override the votes of every other member.
At the very least, Bibi should shake Abu Hamza’s hand warmly, and offer friendship and co-operation to solve this most vile of stalemates. Abbas is Spinks – he would have no alternative but to grasp the hand. But Netanyahu won’t touch Abbas. The mistrust between these two neighbours goes so deep that the two leaders are unlikely to touch. No matter, Israel’s strategy of divide and conquer means it’s debatable whether the unpopular Mahmoud Abbas really represents the Palestinian people anyway.
Netanyahu has not woken with a vision. It’s just yet another smokescreen, to pretend to the apathetic public that there is some kind of ‘peace process’ going on, while the settlements continue. The entire Israel and Palestine story is one of delayed talks, promises and break-downs, all the while as the bulldozers roll, in one instance straight over Rachel Corrie (the driver ‘didn’t see her’) and the builders construct the swimming pools that go right up to the wire fence that keeps the vanquished back.
You’d be mad not to have a high level of cynicism going into these talks, but forgive me here for seeing no – not one – new angle to the talks between the most belligerent nation and the most put-upon people on earth, mediated by a state that has supported that belligerency without question through forty years or more, and happens to provide billions of dollars in defence ‘aid’ (US$118 billion to date) to keep the hordes at bay.
What possible reason would America have to find a solution. What possible incentive do the Israelis have, when the whole plan is working perfectly.
Until the settlers retreat to the borders of Palestine prior to the Yom Kippur war of 1973, there will never be true peace. And the long game has taken that option off the table. If you want happy endings, you’re going to have to look elsewhere.
When the Palestinians are armed, this ends. There is no other solution.