Lack of pressure lets Israel maintain status quo

7 Feb

US President Donald Trump, right, looks over to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the White House last week to announce the Trump administration’s plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

OPINION by Donna Miles-Mojab, The Press (Christchurch), 6 February 2020

As the veteran Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk commented, Donald Trump’s so-called “deal of the century” for Israel and Palestine is so absurd, “it’s impossible to take it seriously”.  

The deal is a gift to the indicted Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, who faces the fight of his political life, heading into a third election in less than a year. 

But Trump’s gifts are never one-sided. 

The president’s evangelical base and his wealthy conservative donors are big supporters of Netanyahu. These are the same people who cajoled Trump to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. They sat in the front row at the inauguration ceremony, beaming with glee while, in a jarring contrast, 58 Palestinian protesters were shot dead only a few kilometres away.

Trump’s unworkable peace plan gives Israel everything straight away while Palestinians get crumbs with preconditions. 

It is indeed a ‘deal of century’ but for Trump and Netanyahu only. Trump would get money and votes from his supporters while Netanyahu and his followers would get what they want: humiliation for Palestinians. 

In fact, incessant humiliation has been an enduring principle of Israel’s occupation. 

In the 1970s, the late Moshe Dayan, an Israeli political and military leader, advised the cabinet that Israel should make it clear to refugees “we have no solution, you shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wishes may leave”. 

When challenged, Dayan cited David Ben-Gurion, the primary founder of the State of Israel and its first Prime Minister, who said “whoever approaches the Zionist problem from a moral aspect is not a Zionist”.

The Palestinians have long suffered the result of Israel’s immoral policies, involving torture, terror, destruction of property, displacement, and the takeover of crucial resources such as water. 

The US gives Israel $3 billion a year in military aid, more aid than goes to all the world’s other nations combined. With US support, Israel runs the longest military occupation in the world. 

When Palestinians rightly rejected Trump’s joke of a peace plan, Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and the main architect of the deal, lost no time in adapting Israeli diplomat Abba Eban’s most famous line, by saying the Palestinians “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity” (the original quote said the Arabs). 

Of course, the same could be said of Israel. There have been many Palestinian proposals, not to mention the Arab Peace Initiative, none of which have been accepted by Israel. 

As for proposals initiated by the US since the early 1990s, there has been endless analysis over why each round of talks failed, from bad timing and artificial deadlines, to inadequate confidence-building and leaders devoid of courage, to the most clichéd of all, lack of trust. 

US President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan is already having an impact on the final weeks of Israel’s election campaign.

To understand the real reason for the failure of peace talks, one has to remember how unequal the two sides are. 

Israel has all the power, the resources, and a mighty military. Furthermore, it has benefited hugely from its occupation by grabbing more land, building more settlements with every failed peace plan. Palestinians have no power, no military, and no economic resources. They keep losing more territory and suffering more repressive conditions as peace plan after peace plan fails.

Now ask yourself this: why should Israel compromise its current strong position? For Israel, the cost of compromise could never match the benefits of maintaining the status quo.

Although Palestinian demands are in line with international law and supported by most nations of the world, they are likely to cause massive political upheaval and come at huge social and economic cost to Israel. 

Sure, there would be some benefits. Israel would like to shed the stain of occupation and its label as a pariah state. It would also benefit from the normalisation of relations with other nations in the region and reverse its dwindling support from many progressive Jews at home and in its diaspora. But these benefits would only offset a fraction of the high costs of a peace deal.

For Israel, the calculus of high profits and low costs of occupation translate to a commitment to the status quo. 

Peace will only come when external pressures interrupt this. At the moment the US is helping maintain Israel’s low cost of occupation by showering it with money and arms. 

Moshe Dayan famously said, “Our American friends offer us money, arms and advice. We take the money, we take the arms, and we decline the advice.” 

And therein is the problem. Israel has been getting away with ignoring its greatest ally as well as the international community because of lack of external economic pressure. Noam Chomsky was right when he said “the solution is the problem”.

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) is the only way to force Israel to feel the pain of its occupation. It is the only solution to peace and we can all help by supporting this movement.

Donna Miles-Mojab is an Iranian-Kiwi freelance journalist based in Christchurch. Her commentary on topics relating to human rights, migration and Middle Eastern politics are published regularly in the New Zealand media including at The Press where she is a columnist.

 

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