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November 24, 2010 Edition 2

What peace process? What peace?
As'ad AbuKhalil

With every new US administration, especially toward the last year of the term of a US president, the talk about "Arab-Israel peace" increases. Usually, people are invited to Washington, DC to attend a ceremony of speeches. Arab official expectations usually rise, while Israeli governments get accustomed to resisting any signs of US pressures. Pressures never come, but the perceptions of imminent US pressures are deliberately promoted to bring a level of enthusiasm from Arab official delegations.

Articles in this edition
American public opinion and the Middle East peace process - John Zogby
The real issue is political leadership - David Pollock
Consistent support - Ghassan Khatib
The iron wall - Tamar Hermann
It is high time to expose the obvious: there has not been a peace process since it started back in the early 1970s, with the Rogers Plan. It is usually forgotten that National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger scuttled the Rogers plan and Secretary of State William Rogers himself had to resign. What we call a "peace process" is no more than US political and diplomatic cover provided to Israel to give it time to achieve its objectives through war, occupation, and assassinations. The "peace process" was also used in the mid-1970s to give Anwar Sadat enough time to prepare for his trip to Jerusalem.

The long and unending duration of this peace process refutes assumptions about an urgent need (made by every US administration) to end once and for all the Arab-Israel conflict. Usually in a president's second term, efforts by administrations intensify and offers are made to induce Israel to make minimum concessions, while Arab (usually Palestinian) negotiators are pressured and bullied into accepting humiliating conditions forced on them by the US. Yet, the conditions are typically too humiliating and well below the minimum standards of national consensus for any Palestinian leadership to accept. And even when a Palestinian leadership inches toward accepting the humiliating conditions, like the Arafat leadership in the Taba negotiations toward the very end of the Clinton second term, the Israeli government makes it clear it won't agree to the minimum demands of the Palestinian delegation.

The Arab-Israel conflict is not at a crossroads. It has not ended. Yet, supporters of Israel want to believe that the weakening position of the Palestinian leadership (in the rival camps) is enough to predict the demise of the Palestinian national movement. New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner recently wrote that "the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has been largely drained of deadly violence in the past few years." Bronner may have not noticed, but Palestinians--civilians and combatants--are being hunted down regularly by Israeli gunfire. Yet, Israel may feel gratified because the Palestinian house is divided and a Palestinian party (the Fateh movement) is now largely funded, armed, and supported by supporters of Israel in the US and EU.

Of course, Arab governments never cease to take US peace seriously--more than a bit too seriously. Ever since the King Fahd Plan (later modified to be re-produced as a Reagan Plan), Saudi Arabia has thrown its weight and money behind US diplomatic efforts in the region, imposing its standards for Arab-Israel peace on Arab governments. The so-called Arab peace plan is a culmination of Saudi efforts to control the Arab state system on behalf of the US in order to facilitate US foreign policy initiatives and to atone for Saudi sins prior to 9/11. It seems that no one is taking it seriously, except the Saudi king and his media propagandists. The Saudi government hoped for some western attention, but none was displayed. The Saudi government even paid for expensive one page ads in key western newspapers, but they were ignored. Now, the Saudi government is relegated to repeating its mantra about the need for basing future talks on this initiative. As for the Arab public, it never identified with that peace initiative. It was seen, rightly, as a calculation of an Arab government desperate for US support and approval.

Israel has a different agenda: its agenda is to stick to that classic Zionist formula: that the Arabs only understand the language of force. As Hannah Arendt observed back in 1951: "All hopes to the contrary notwithstanding, it seems as though the ONE argument the Arabs are incapable of understanding is force."

Israel had a chance to reach an unfair and unjust deal with Yasser Arafat. Instead, it fought him at every corner. Zionism is based on a firm belief in the fundamental inferiority of the (Arab) enemy in every facet. Even the nationalist impulse was ignored by the Zionists in dealing with Arabs. The Arab-Israel conflict is one that will not be solved except in a bloody and total war--and that may come on gradually. The performance of the Israeli army in the face of hundreds of Hizballah volunteers in 2006 may point to a direction that is way out of favor for Israel. Despite the fulfillment of the Zionist dream in the Holy Land, Israel's years may be numbered. Peace may come then, depending on the way the victors fashion their new political state. Published 24/11/2010 © bitterlemons-api.org

As'ad AbuKhalil is professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus and webmaster of the Angry Arab blog.
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