Jeff Halper’s blog following Greenblatt’s meetings with Netanyahu and Abbas – 20th March 2017
Trump has said he wants to make “the “ultimate deal”: brokering a peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Towards that end, last week he dispatched his Middle East peace envoy Jason Greenblatt to meet with Netanyahu and Abbas. Is there anything to this yet-again “peace initiative”? Any new ideas or direction?
Yesterday a self-described “Israeli intelligence website,” Debkafile, claims to have obtained a paper listing 9 demands the Americans made of the Palestinians, delivered to Abu Mazen in his meeting with Greenblatt on March 14. What do they tell us? Let’s look them over.
Demand # 1. The Palestinians must return to the negotiating table without pre-conditions. In order to negotiate what, exactly? Item #9 affirms that “The Trump administration supports a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” but that’s so broad as to be meaningless. The only preconditions set by the Palestinians have been an end to settlement construction — reasonable, since extending settlements eliminates a two-state solution — and that the negotiations not be open-ended and endless, but focus on the final status issues (sovereignty, borders, Jerusalem, refugees, water, etc.). Settlement construction will NOT end: Item #3 states that Abbas must forget about a moratorium on Jewish settlements on the West Bank. Israel might be asked to refrain from establishing new communities outside of the “settlement blocks,” but Israel is only interested in building within those blocs anyway, since they extend across the West Bank and ensures Israeli control.
No commitment was given as to the focus and length of the negotiations and, indeed, the Trump administration accepted one of Israel’s key preconditions, an end to terrorism/resistance and Security First (for Israel). #4 is that the Trump administration will not be satisfied with verbal statements by Palestinian leaders condemning acts of terror, but insists on aggressive practical steps (including naming streets and squares after “dead terrorists” (as Israel does); #5 requires the Palestinians force suspects to reveal who gave them their orders, name their accomplices and reveal the source of their weapons and explosives. #6, the demand to discontinue the custom of remittances to the families of “terrorists” who were killed or imprisoned, was obviously dictated by Israel, as were the rest of these demands. It, again, conflates terrorism with resistance, and is just mean-spirited. How is this even remotely connected to negotiations or a peace process? These points indicate the US is completely taking Israel’s side.
Two problems with this: (1) it conflates terrorism with resistance, basically demanding the Palestinians end all armed resistance. If they do, Israel will have no incentive to negotiate (and in international law oppressed peoples have the right to resort to armed resistance, though not to the harming of civilians); indeed, Israel seeks “quiet” in order that the Palestinian issues will disappear; and (2) what about Israeli state terror? If anyone is threatened with violence, arrest, imprisonment, house demolitions, repression, it is the Palestinians.
And what about the Israeli preconditions, which are not mentioned? The ones we noted above, but also that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a JEWISH state, a new demand of Netanyahu accepted by both the Obama and Trump administrations (but laughed off by Bush’s). The Palestinians recognized the state of Israel 30 years ago, in 1988. Recognizing it as a “Jewish” state would compromise the civil rights of non-Jewish citizens of Israel, some 28% of the population, including Palestinian citizens. What kind of state Israel wants to be is not a matter that should be mixed up in negotiations.
#2 demands that the Palestinians accept a role in negotiations of leading Arab governments, specifically, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf States. On the surface, this seems fine, even good for the Palestinians. They all accept the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 which calls for an end to Occupation and a two-state solution. But in the context of Israel’s current support for these Sunni countries in their fight against the Shias (Iran in particular), and their susceptibility to US pressures, this seems to be a way of ganging up on the Palestinians, who would be pressured to make concessions for the “greater good.”
#8 states that the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah must stop transferring funds to the Gaza Strip. This represents a flagrant violation of the Oslo Agreements (still the guidelines of negotiations), which view Gaza as an integral part of the West Bank.
Conclusions: Israel is dictating American policy so far. The Americans believe, following Israel, that the Palestinians can be forced to accept a Bantustan locked in by massive settlement blocs, the fragmentation of Palestinian territory, the loss of East Jerusalem, no sovereign borders, no viable economy and no control over water or other valuable resources. It’s a non-starter.