The peace process is at a dead-end. Israel will never end its Occupation voluntarily and the best it may agree to is apartheid, but the permanent warehousing of the Palestinians is more what it has in mind. Given the massive “facts on the ground” Israel has imposed on the Occupied Territories, it is clear that the international community has not exerted enough pressure on Israel to realize even a two-state solution (which leaves Israel on 78% of historic Palestine, with no right of refugee return). And the Palestinians, fragmented and with weak leadership, have no clout. Indeed, they’re not even in the game. In terms of any sort of rational, linear, government-led “peace process,” we have arrived at the end of the road.
But now in 2011 there is a new set of circumstances in which a just peace is possible.
The vote in the UN on 18 February 2011 in which the US refused to follow the other 14 members of the Security Council in condemning Israel’s ongoing settlement project – including such traditionally pro-Israel stalwarts as Britain, France and even Germany and India (for whom Israel is the #2 supplier of arms, as it is with China) – revealed the international isolation into which the US has fallen. Without being pollyannish over the human rights records of the other members of the Security Council, human rights does, nevertheless, motivate the foreign policy of many countries of the world, if only because to be seen respecting human rights has become a standard of national legitimacy. Israel’s blatant violations of international law threaten the consensus upon which the international order rests.
The message of the American vote is this: we do not see ourselves subject to international law and human rights; we set the policies and rules, not the UN or international courts. The United States simply cannot deliver on a just peace in Israel/Palestine because the overwhelming majority of Congress, in both houses and both parties, feel they must be unwaveringly and uncritically “pro-Israel” if they are to be re-elected. The strategic funding and political support (or the threat of withdrawing them) of candidates in both parties by AIPAC and the clout of the Christian Right in the Republican Party is matched by the influence of Pentagon defense contractors, who keep members of Congress in line by arguing that any cut in the billions given to Israel and, by extension, to the other countries in the region (totaling some $125 billion over the next decade), will cost jobs in their states and districts.
If the US cannot actually deliver on a just peace for structural reasons, and yet insists on an absolute monopoly over any “peace process,” the time is long overdue to develop a “working around America” strategy. Let’s look at the world beyond the US:
At least ten countries in Europe seem to be moving towards unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state within the ‘49/’67 borders. In fact, public opinion favoring the Palestinians is far in advance of their governments.
Most Latin American countries have already recognized a Palestinian state within recognized borders, although they have also accepted Israel as the first non-Latin American country to sign a trade agreement with Mercosur, the region’s emerging common market.
Turkey has become a leading player against the Occupation in the Middle East and internationally, while the fundamental changes sweeping the Arab world signal a fundamental shift in relations to Israel and the US. Perhaps this will impel the Arab League to become more active and constructive in supporting the Palestinians’ struggle. New possibilities of mobilizing the wider Muslim world are also arising.
South Africa, recently made a member of the BRIC group of countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), is capable of taking a more active role on this issue given its expressed support for the Palestinian cause, and could play a leading role in mobilizing other African states.
Russia recently reaffirmed its recognition of a Palestinian state, although it does not seem eager to confront the US in an American “sphere of influence.” China and India have yet to play a major role and much more could be done to mobilize their governments.
The UN vote demonstrates the great potential in organizing beyond the US, although it remains to be seen whether the PA is capable of pushing its case beyond the confines of American patronage, or having the courage to do so.
(1) By September, if there is no political process underway and little chance that a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders will be recognized by the UN, the Palestinian Authority will either resign or collapse, throwing the Occupation back on the lap of Israel. This may force Israel to reoccupy all the Occupied Territories, unleashing violence and protests worldwide.
(2) As fundamental changes sweep the Arab world, Latin American states begin a campaign of recognizing Palestine and world public opinion shifts significantly in favour of the Palestinians, the international community may be ready to by-pass America’s steadfast refusal to broker a just peace.
(3) How will Europe act in the months leading up to September? Will public opinion finally force European governments and the EU into an independent and constructive role?