Akiva Eldar, too: the new U.S. position offers "an alibi for deepening the occupation"

Akiva Eldar wrote in Haaretz today — after the U.S. declared last week that it would no longer press Israel to reinstate even its porous settlement “moratorium”, and after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a speech at the Saban Forum over the weekend that she was encouraging both sides to come up with a model for their favorite solutions to the “core issues” of the conflict — that “the focus on the final-status talks offers an alibi for deepening the occupation. The high and mighty words about two states for two peoples silence the protest voices of a nation that for more than 43 years has lived under the occupation of another nation … Contrary to the impression that government spokesmen are trying to create – that Israel is gradually withdrawing from the territories based on the necessary caution dictated by security needs – the soldiers [who gave their personal testimony to the Israeli organization Breaking the Silence] describe a steadfast effort to tighten Israel’s hold on the West Bank and the Palestinian population. … It says in the [new] book [published by Breaking the Silence] that the continued construction in the settlements is not only about stealing land whose future the two sides are meant to decide through negotiations. The increased presence of a Jewish population brings with it an increase in security measures such as the policy of ‘separation’. The testimonies show that this policy practically serves to control, plunder and annex the territories. It funnels the Palestinians through the Israeli control mechanism and establishes new borders on the ground through a policy of divide and rule. These borders mark the ‘settlement blocs’, which Israeli politicians argue are part of Israel (greater Ariel and the areas around Ma’aleh Adumim ). Soldiers who served in the Civil Administration say the settlers play an active role in imposing military rule over the Palestinians. The settlers hold public positions and are permanent parties to the discussions and the decisions by the army on matters concerning the Palestinians in areas where they live. Settler violence against the Palestinians is also used to control the Palestinian population. Stories about ‘economic prosperity’ in the West Bank create the impression that life under foreign occupation can be tolerable and even not so bad. So it’s not so bad that negotiations continue for a year or two. But the soldiers who have served at the checkpoints or the fence crossings describe how they decide who will pass, which goods may move from one city to the next, who may send his children to school or make it to university, and who will receive medical treatment. The book has testimonies about the confiscation of homes, agricultural land, vehicles and even farm animals, sometimes for security reasons, but often because annexation is the motive. Sometimes the Israel Defense Forces also ‘confiscates’ people too, for ‘training’. They break into a house at night and take someone into custody until the end of the exercise”… This Akiva Eldar analysis is posted here.

Why is the U.S. so oblivious to all of this? Why does it think that it is tolerable for people (Palestinians, in this case) to have to live under these conditions, under this occupation?

Here is a synopsis of what we’ve posted on our sister blog, www.UN-Truth.org, in recent days:

The latest U.S. position — scrapping its efforts to get Israel to extend its one-time unilataral settlement “moratorium” which expired on 26 September — is simply resuming former American positions. “The recommendation to decide on borders first, because this would determine which settlements are ‘illegal’, dates back a position formulated by the previous U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during the Annapolis process of negotiations that began at the end of November 2007, just over three years ago. The flaw here is that Israeli negotiators [and apparently also the Americans] seem to believe that the Palestinians they are dealing with will accept large-scale territorial swaps which may legitimize the major Israeli “settlement blocs” in the West Bank. However, for Palestinians, all the Israeli settlements constructed on land that Israel occupied in the 1967 war are illegal. And, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that the Palestinians are ready to do engage in swaps on such a large scale, though Palestinian negotiators have stated that a compromise may be reached on something about halfway between the 2.4 percent or so of the West Bank that the Palestinians have suggested, and the 9 percent or so that they say the Israelis have put on the table … All of this is predicated on the assumption that the Palestinians will agree, now, to go ahead with the tweaked American approach while Israeli construction in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, proceeds apace… and here again, there is little evidence that the Palestinian leadership will be able to agree to do so, even if it wanted to”. We published this last week, here.

A day later, we wrote this: At the Saban Forum in Washington on Friday, “Clinton indicated that sometime between September and 10 December ‘both sides decided together to pursue a framework agreement that would establish the fundamental compromises on all permanent status issues and pave the way for a final peace treaty’. So, how does the U.S. intend to proceed, now that it has announced it has abandoned attempts to persuade Israel to reinstate a ‘moratorium’ on settlement building in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem)?
Note the key phrase here, core issues:
…”in the days ahead, our discussions with both sides will be substantive two-way conversations with an eye toward making real progress in the next few months on the key questions of an eventual framework agreement. The United States will not be a passive participant. We will push the parties to lay out their positions on the core issues without delay and with real specificity. We will work to narrow the gaps asking the tough questions and expecting substantive answers. And in the context of our private conversations with the parties, we will offer our own ideas and bridging proposals when appropriate” …

But, what does it mean to say that the U.S. will deepen its support for Palestinian “state-building efforts”, while seeming to disagree with moves (at least, unilateral moves) to seek United Nations membership + recognition for a Palestinian State? On the face of it, this can only mean one thing: the U.S. will continue to throw money at the Palestinian Authority, while doing nothing to end the occupation… and the day-to-day misery and depression among Palestinians will continue, as the risk of mini-explosions of violence grows. [However, there is no prospect now of any outright revolt, or any new Intifada — both because there is “no decision” for this, as Hanan Ashrawi recently said, and there has simply been no preparation at all, either].

So, just more of the miserable and soul-deadening status quo, with misleading statistics about Palestinian economic growth [in the West Bank], and a slight rise in Palestinian income [again, only in the West Bank], and extremely misleading stories about the Ramallah “bubble” and the frenetic nightlife [NOT] of its party people. Can’t the U.S. do any better than this?
This was posted here.

Earlier in the week, we had these observations: “Meanwhile, in the face of the now-widely-proclaimed death of U.S.-led peace efforts, the latest Palestinian debate (beyond one state vs. two) is:
(1) whether to move, in the United Nations (Security Council and General Assembly) to secure full membership + recognition for the State of Palestine (this is the position of the two-staters, including the current Palestinian leadership), or
(2) to disband Palestinian Authority, and make Israel face up to its costly responsibilities as occupier (this is the position of those Palestinians who are furious and fed up with false negotiations and who believe in continued resistance — though it will surely cost the Palestinians dearly).

But, for Palestinians, the Israeli refusal to extend its unilateral ten-month settlement ‘moratorium’ is the reason for the failure of American efforts to restart negotiations. Israelis say, in riposte, that Palestinian ‘preconditions’ undid any deal.

There is considerable Israeli commentary this week to the effect that Palestinian moves to seek recognition + UN membership are only ’empty threats to squeeze concessions from Israel’. The energy being put into public argumentation against this strategy to legitimize a Palestinian state, however, belies the claim that it is an empty threat … Israelis also say that the furious Palestinian reaction to Israeli demands for recognition as a Jewish State have raised many major questions. Palestinians say this is an unreasonable demand that was not required for Israeli peace deals with neighboring Egypt or Jordan, and they also argue that it is Israeli code for refusal to deal justly with the Palestinian refugee issue which also gives an advance pass to possible further ethnic cleansing. (Israeli-Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel have strongly urged the Palestinian Authority to reject this Israeli demand, also for the reason just given.)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) is reported to have told his team to move to Plan B, while Egypt — playing the good cop — is asking the Palestinian leadership to hold off until an Arab League meeting next week (16 December) which will endorse whatever the Palestinians want (with significant Egyptian input). Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may, or may not, present some kind of formal American proposal. And U.S. Special Envoy George Mitchell is due back in the area at the end of the weekend. This was published here.

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