The Al Jazeera collection of secret documents from US, Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiators, paints a highly negative picture of the three participants.
We will need a biblical parable to help explain how these three governments fell so far so fast.
The homiletical interpretation of the parable is my own, though I confess the idea came by way of Kathleen Christison’s essay in Counterpunch, in which she wrote:
“A London Guardian editorial captures the essence of US policy as it has been pursued since the first days of the Obama administration and indeed, since the first days of Israel 63 years ago: The Americans’ neutrality, the Guardian writes pointedly, “consists of bullying the weak and holding the hand of the strong”.
Israel is the spoiled strong bully in the parable, the prodigal younger son. The US is the indulgent father who favors the prodigal for reasons known only to him. This indulgence has increased as the father holds the hand of the strong son, through the past three presidential administrations.
The Palestinian Authority is the elder brother, the son who knew he was not loved by his father but still did what he was told to do. He stayed on the farm. Now that the prodigal has returned, in my reading of this version of the parable, he must endure his daily humiliation of bread and water while the prodigal eats his fill of fatted calves.
The elder brother has been reduced to a pathetic stance of begging the prodigal son for enough crumbs from the table to keep his family from starving. What is the elder brother’s reward? His every begging act is made public through secret papers which reveal a cravenness no father ever wants his family to see. Like Noah of old, his nakedness is exposed to his family.
The Papers, however, are not easily refuted. They provide facts that verify what observers of the peace process, including many Palestinians, assumed all along to be true.
Kathleen Christison is a retired CIA analyst and author of the book, Perceptions of Palestine. She has studied the documents. Writing on the Counterpunch web site, she finds “excessive US complicity in Israeli expansionism”. She also finds a “desperate acquiescence” by Palestinian leaders who offered compromises to Israel “that verge on total capitulation”. As for US involvement, she writes:
“The pressure one US administration after another has exerted on Palestinian negotiators to make these concessions and accommodate all Israel’s demands shows US conduct throughout almost two decades of negotiations to be perhaps the most cynical, and indeed the most shameful, of the three parties.”
Christison found that at one point in 2008, during talks that included then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and his negotiating team, offered Israel “the 1967 borders, the Palestinians’ right of return, and Israeli settlements on a silver platter,”
“The Palestinians would have agreed to let Israel keep all settlements in East Jerusalem except Har Homa; allowed Israel to annex more settlements in the West Bank (altogether totaling over 400,000 settlers); agreed to an inequitable territorial swap in return for giving Israel prime West Bank real estate, and settled for the return of only 5,000 Palestinian refugees (out of more than four million) over a five-year period.”
The papers reveal that Israel rejected the offer, which Israeli negotiators said “does not meet our demands.” This sounds very much like a negotiating team determined not to reach any agreement. It also sounds like a prodigal son who has come to love his sheltered life as the neighborhood bully.
The Palestine Papers are a collection of almost 1,700 documents, obtained from unknown, possibly Palestinian, sources. They cover a decade of “peace process” maneuvering during the Bush, Clinton and Obama administrations.
Ali Abunimah spent the past few weeks in Doha, examining the Palestine Papers leaked to Al Jazeera, He wrote Saturday on his US based Electronic Intifada:
“We are in the middle of a political earthquake in the Arab world and the ground has still not stopped shaking. To make predictions when events are so fluid is risky, but there is no doubt that the uprising in Egypt — however it ends — will have a dramatic impact across the region and within Palestine.
If the Mubarak regime falls, and is replaced by one less tied to Israel and the United States, Israel will be a big loser.
As Aluf Benn commented in the Israeli daily Haaretz, “The fading power of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s government leaves Israel in a state of strategic distress. Without Mubarak, Israel is left with almost no friends in the Middle East; last year, Israel saw its alliance with Turkey collapse” (“Without Egypt, Israel will be left with no friends in Mideast,” 29 January 2011).
Indeed, Benn observes, “Israel is left with two strategic allies in the region: Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.” But what Benn does not say is that these two “allies” will not be immune either.
. . . . The Palestine Papers underscore the extent to which the split between the US-backed Palestinian Authority in Ramallah headed by Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah faction, on the one hand, and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, on the other — was a policy decision of regional powers: the United States, Egypt and Israel. This policy included Egypt’s strict enforcement of the siege of Gaza.”
John Barry, of Newsweek’s Washington bureau, wrote a “behind the scenes” report for the web site, Daily Beast, on developments in Egypt.
“At a meeting on Friday afternoon, Obama and his top officials, including Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, and National Security Adviser Tom Donilon among them, concluded that the time had come for Obama to talk directly to Mubarak. And Mubarak’s address to the Egyptian people had given Obama the opening he wanted. The White House organized the call.
It was an intervention that dramatically—and publicly—escalated the American involvement in the Egyptian crisis. In an address from the White House, Obama outlined what he had told Mubarak, putting the administration unequivocally behind the demonstrators’ demands.
‘The people of Egypt have rights that are universal.’
Obama said in his speech. “And the United States will stand up for them everywhere.” The president also warned both sides against violence but his message was clear: “When President Mubarak addressed the Egyptian people tonight, he pledged a better democracy and greater economic opportunity. I just spoke to him after his speech, and I told him he has a responsibility to give meaning to those words, to take concrete steps and actions that deliver on that promise.”
And, said Obama, “we are committed to working with the Egyptian government and the Egyptian people—all quarters—to achieve” those goals.
It was a breath-taking pledge, with Obama coming close to making the U.S. the guarantor that Mubarak will act. In Egypt, his reference to “all quarters” will be taken to suggest that the U.S. will even reach out to the Muslim Brotherhood, an unprecedented step.
In the last week, the administration has come a long way.”
We are very much in the middle of what Ali Abunimah describes as “a political earthquake in the Arab world.” How President Obama deals with this “earthquake” is clearly the most challenging foreign policy danger, or perhaps, the most important foreign policy opportunity, of his presidency.
He made an excellent beginning in his dealings with the Egyptian crisis, especially with what many will interpret as his willingness to talk to all parties in Egypt, including the Muslim Brotherhood. Does that suggest Secretary of State Clinton will now be instructed to bring Hamas into discussions with a badly wounded Fatah?
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The picture at top of Egyptian young people in Cairo was taken by Matthew Cassel. It is from Electronic Intifada. The picture above of Ali Abunimah is also from Electronic Intifada.