by Peter A. Belmont / 2013-09-19
© 2013 Peter Belmont
A tide is turning in America: it is becoming possible, if not quite fashionable, to criticize—if not the Israeli occupation—the now 23-year-old “peace process”. Even the New York Times has provided elegant space to such criticism,
But, generally, the critics have stopped short of saying what I believe they know in their hearts to be the crux of the failure of Israelis and Palestinians to make the “just and lasting peace” sought by UNSC-242 (1967).
They have not yet openly begun to call for severe pressure on Israel, pressure to persuade Israel to remove at least the settlers and the wall from occupied Palestinian territory, pressure possibly to dismantle (demolish, remove) the settlement buildings built since 1967, and an even more remote possibility, pressure on Israel to end the occupation of Gaza, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights of Syria.
So, while I was glad to read Mitchell Plitnick’s Oslo at 20 a Failed Process, and Ian Lustick’s Two State Illusion, I regard them as baby-steps toward the big mainstream-media blitz for which I yearn, the making commonplace of articles calling for actual (and severe) pressure on Israel in favor of the enforcement of international law and peace.
Thus, my chief question, after reading these pieces, is why no one who sees the “peace process” as either a farce, an illusion, a con-game, or, anyway, as dead and terminally unavailing, doesn’t conclude—as I do—that the status quo will continue until extreme pressure is exerted on Israel—presumably by at least an important part of the international community with which Israel trades—until Israel pulls back from some important part of the status quo, for instance, pulls back (to behind the “green line”) from the occupation as a whole, or removes all the settlers, or the like.
The mainstream media’s silence as to “pressure” is not quite complete, it should be said, but the call for pressure, if such it is, is definitely muted. (On the other hand, non-mainstreamers have long discussed “pressure”. See Walt and Walt again and Siegman, Scowcroft, Brzezinsky, Hagel, et al.
In his “Oslo at 20” article, Plitnick tells us, for instance: ‘Geoffrey Aronson of the Foundation for Middle East Peace stated bluntly that “Left to themselves, the parties are incapable of coming to an agreement. They need a guiding hand. Today, in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in particular there is a system of occupation and settlement that has endured for almost half a century.” ‘ “Aronson’s “left to themselves” implicitly raises the question of outside pressure. Aronson adds, in the same vein: “Until U.S. distaste for the settlement project and other odious Israeli practices is incorporated concretely into policy, things won’t change. This is true for other actors, like the EU, who have already shown what a tiny policy move — in this case, a policy of refusing to fund projects done in partnership with Israeli settlements, which means very little on the ground but has provoked a virtual tantrum from Israelis in and out of government — can do.”
Most of my readers have heard of “BDS”, which is the Palestinian civil-society movement for “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” against Israeli targets as a tool to ameliorate or end the occupation, move toward an Israel which does not discriminate against its Palestinian or other citizens, and move toward an effective right of return to their homeland of the Palestinian refugees of 1948 and 1967—their homeland being, generally, the pre-1967 territory of Israel (part of Mandatory Palestine at the commencement of 1948).
Extreme pressure on Israel by nations is the “S”, “Sanctions”, element of “BDS”—the civil-society peaceful direct action campaign against the occupation, etc. The other parts are “B” for “Boycott” and “D” for “Divestment”. To date, BDS has consisted primarily of citizen actions—divestment movements and boycotts of Israel products, and we await nation-state actions, Sanctions.
My own preference—many times expressed (e.g., here and here) in this blog—is for pressure to force Israel to comply with international law (see, for instance,What-UNSC-465-and-ICJ-7-2004-actually-say) to the extent at least of removing all settlers and removing/demolishing the wall and all settlement buildings. If such pressure were brought to bear upon Israel, Israel would understand that “the jig was up” (for Israel’s colonial settlement project) and might conclude that real in-earnest peace making was at long last (or, better, for the first time) in its own interest.
Pressure on Israel Alone Can Bring Peace
In my view, the so-called “peace process” is, at best, like what in school we once called “busy work”, something useless to make people do when they might instead have been employed doing something useful. At worst, and in fact, it has also served as an argument for dissuading the EU and others from taking any action (“pressure”) to, for instance, end the settlements—the USA’s and Israel’s argument being that nothing should be done which would interfere with the ever on-going (but, as all knew, ever useless) “peace process”. The “peace process” thus not only failed to get anything useful going between the parties but kept the rest of the world at bay. It served as an analogy for the sign my then 5-year-old son once put on the door of his room: “Do not tutch”.
Could the “peace process” have produced a “just and lasting peace”? In principle it might, but in fact, the parties were never close to a mutually agreeable solution, even in 1967, even in 1990, and Israel’s determined regime of illegal settlement building (and settlement populating) has, over the many years of “peace processing”, moved the parties farther and farther from the possibility of a just and lasting peace arrived at purely between themselves—that is, without outside pressure on Israel.
In my view, a view I’d imagine was quietly shared by 100% of people who actually want a peace treaty that is fair to (or acceptable to) Palestinians, there can be no peace unless and until severe pressure is exerted upon Israel to move Israel away from its settlement project and toward an acceptable peace treaty.
Where would international pressure on Israel come from? Who can say? It has not happened yet and is as purely conjectural today as are “solutions” most commonly suggested as a possible resolution of the conflict, the ever-distant Two States, and the even-more-unlikely (in my opinion) One Single Non-Discriminatory Democratic State.
The only very, very slight pressure on Israel that I am aware of is the EU’s current tentative steps to suspend contact with organizations connected to the settlements in the Occupied Territories—a very oddly tentative and illogical step since, of course, European contact with the government of Israel is not proposed to be banned even though the government of Israel is itself author and prime mover of the occupation and the illegal settlements. See: Former European leaders call on EU to enforce ban on Israeli settlements.
What would international pressure on Israel seek to accomplish? This too is pure conjecture since no such pressure has eventuated.
I’d like the pressure to aim at forcing Israel to remove the settlers and remove/demolish the settlement buildings and the wall. My reason for choosing that “goal” is that it SEEKS TO ENFORCE EVIDENT INTERNATIONAL LAW, whereas making “peace” is not required by law, and making Israel become a “democratic” state and especially a “non-discriminatory” state is not required by law, and not very well defined as a goal, either.
But those are my own “druthers”. Choose your own.
But—after you’ve chosen what you consider a desireable outcome OTHER than the current status quo apartheid regime, the current undemocratic fully-discriminatory multi-ethnic, multi-confessional Single State—ask yourself how it could possibly come to pass without the exertion of extreme pressure on Israel (or, of course, on the much beleagured Palestinians).
My prediction is that no sensible person will see a likely path within a shortish time period (e.g., “his or her lifetime”) to a goal differing from status quo without the exertion of extreme pressure, presumably upon Israel.
That said, I wonder that people are not saying so out loud.
 Israel condemns this proposed EU banning action, saying that it runs contrary to the Oslo accords or Quartet agreements which, Israel insists, allows settlement activity. But of course, most nations are also signatories of the Fourth Geneva Convention which banns settlement and in which each nation agrees to “ensure” Israeli compliance with the convention “in all circumstances”—which would seem to include the circumstance of the Oslo and Quartet agreements.
 And never forget the “Not in God’s Lifetime” jokes once popular. They expressed an important truth.