Thursday, June 04, 2009

"Assessing the Role of US Foreign Policy, Israeli Security, & Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories" part-2

Transcribed by Scott Senn

"Assessing the Role of US Foreign Policy, Israeli Security, & Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories" part-2

Part 2

Well, Obama is an intelligent man. He's literate. He chooses his words carefully. So we can learn something from what he said and what he didn't say. What he didn't say is what the content of the Arab League proposal is. Slight omission. The content of the Arab League proposal is simply a reiteration of the international consensus, which in fact the Arab States had agreed to 30 years earlier. They reiterated it in the 2006 proposal, just as before, same as the Volcker commission, same as everyone who's talked about it: two states on the international border with maybe minor modifications. And they said in that context the Arab States should proceed to normalize relations with Israel. Well, Obama very scrupulously avoided the content and just talked about the corollary: normalize relations with Israel. To any rational person, that tells us what he has in mind: namely, a continuation of US rejectionism which unilaterally has blocked a diplomatic settlement for over 30 years.

Well, there's a more extensive presentation of the Obama administration's position in an important speech that was given by the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic nominee. He's very close to the administration. He gave a speech ["Restoring Leadership in the Middle East: A Regional Approach to Peace " - 4 March 2009 - http://kerry.senate.gov/cfm/record.cfm?id=309250] to the Brookings Institution in Washington, considered kind of "center-left" – whatever that's supposed to mean. And it was a very interesting talk and should be read carefully. I'll quote some parts of it and comment on it. He began by saying that we should recognize the failure of our past efforts to bring about a political settlement among these two adversaries. He said we've tried honorably to reach a political settlement; we have failed because of the intransigence of the Arab States and because – I'm quoting – although "for years everyone has talked of the need to give the Israelis a legitimate partner for peace...", we and our Israeli ally have failed in that effort and we should therefore agree that it's behind us. So we have to – As he put it, we have to "reconceptualize" the problem. Since our efforts to act as an honest broker have failed – we haven't been able to find "a legitimate partner for peace" for Israel – , we've got to look at the whole issue in a different framework. We should look at it as a "regional" issue. We should put the Israel-Palestine conflict to the side. We've tried; we can't solve it. And we should form a "coalition" against Iran, including Israel and the "moderate" Arab States. Now, "moderate" is an interesting word in the techical jargon of diplomacy; "moderate" means you follow orders. So the "moderate" Arab States are the brutal Egyptian dictatorship and the most extreme, radical Islamic-fundamentalist state in the world – also a dictatorship – Saudia Arabia. Those are the "moderates", because they more or less do what we say and they are our natural allies. So we should form a coaltion between the "moderate" Arab States and Israel, under our aegis, to confront the "real" problem in the region: namely, Iran. And, he says, it's been difficult in the past, but now it's possible. It's possible because he says there's been what he calls a "techtonic shift in Middle East geopolitics". I'm quoting now: "The rise of Iran has created an unpredented willingness among moderate Arab nations to work with Israel. This realignment can help to lay the groudwork for progress towards peace." And he says there's a crucial new fact: the Arab peace initiative of 2006. And he goes on: "Whereas once the Arab world voted unanimously for the three no's [of Khartoum], [meaning] no dialogue with Israel, no recognition of Israel, and no peace with Israel," – that was before – "there are now three different no's which dominate many discussions in the region; no Iranian nukes, no Iranian meddling, and no Iranian hegemony."

Well, the "three no's" were in 1967 and a few things have happened between 1967 and today, which he omitted. What happened? Well, the first thing that happened was in fact in 1967, right after the "three no's". President Nassar of Egypt began trying to open up ways for peaceful settlement, rejecting the "three no's". At that time, the United States was still part of the world, which is important. The US had a position; its position was UN 242, November 1967. The US interpreted that as meaning: no acquisition of territory by force, Israel returns to the international border, and there's a diplomatic settlement. Now 242 has nothing in it for the Palestinians; so therefore the US and Israel like it. In every international negotiation, they constantly insist that 242 has to be the sole topic under discussion, because it has nothing about Palestinian rights. There's a whole series of other UN resolutions, but they're off the agenda. And of course Israel and the United States don't interpret it the way they did when the United States was part of the world. Well, that was 1967. And that lasted for a few years.

In 1971 there really was a tectonic shift, a significant one, so significant that it's been wiped out of history. You've got to look hard to find the evidence; but it's there. In February 1971, Egypt offered Israel a full peace treaty – a full peace treaty – everything – in return for Israeli withdrawal from Egyptian territory. They mention "territories"; they only cared about Egyptian territory. Again, nothing about the Palestinians. Okay, Israel had what it regarded as a genuine peace offer. Egypt is the – by far – in fact the only major military force in the Arab world. If it made peace with Israel, Israel's security problems would be eliminated. There was no Palestinian issue to speak of at the time. So they could have had security. They rejected it. They rejected it in favor of expansion. At that time, it was expansion into northeastern Sinai. There was some settlement in the West Bank, but it was mostly northeast Sinai, where Israel was planning to – it was the Labor government incidently – the doves – were planning – and soon did – expel thousands of Bedouin farmers into the desert, pretty brutally, destroy the villages, destroy the mosques, the cemetaries, everything, driving them behind barbed wire into the desert, and proceed to develop a major city – it was intended to be a million people – a seaport – Yamit and a lot of settlements. Well, that was the choice: security or expansion. And Israel chose expansion. And in fact that's continued until the present.


(continuing to part 3)

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