Middle East Peace Negotiations: Schemers, Fools, and the Credulous
Some US officials are driven by fundamentalist interpretations of certain Biblical prophecies. These interpretations have led them to design policies that produce instability and chaos in the region, be it in Algeria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, Egypt, Sudan, Somalia, and so on, notes Abbas J. Ali.
Those who demand extending an Israeli freeze on Jewish settlement construction in the Palestinian land as a starting point for engaging in peace talks are missing strategic issues that confront Palestinians and the entire people in the Arab World. Certainly, Jewish settlements in the area are profoundly changing the landscape of the occupied Palestinian land captured by Israel in the 1967 War. Practically however, this is a secondary issue relative to the threat to Arab national security and cultural existence. The threat is embedded in the so called "peace negotiation" process. The process is not only bankrupt and deceptive, but those who have been participating in it willingly or unknowingly are culprits in perpetuating suffering and instigating instability and fragmentation in the region.
Since the establishment of Israel in 1948, and especially after the 1967 War, Washington has been active in investing resources and its reputation in the "peace negotiation" process. While the "peace process" record, since 1967, has produced no tangible positive outcome for Palestinians, the region has experienced dramatic events that have led to destruction and calamity. The recent Washington proposal to keep the "peace negotiation" on track, however, by any account is one of the most menacing schemes ever invented which, according to Jewish Strategist and American diplomat, Daniel C. Kurtzer, is "an extraordinary package for essentially nothing."
David Makovsky, a Senior Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy which specializes in promoting Israeli interests, wrote (September 29, 2010 ) that the package includes five primary elements in which Washington: will not ask for a moratorium extension beyond sixty days; will veto any UN Security Council initiative -- Arab or otherwise -- relating to Arab-Israeli peace during the agreed one-year negotiating period; pledges to accept the legitimacy of existing Israeli security needs and not seek to redefine them; offers to help maintain Israeli troops in that region for an extended period of time; pledges to engage Israel and Arab states in discussions of a "regional security architecture" with special focus on Iran; and promises to enhance Israel's defense capabilities in the event that the parties reach security arrangements.
The package proposal, in fact, is a neoconservative coup d'état in Washington. What they failed to enact during the Bush administration, the neoconservatives have managed to introduce as policy direction under a democratic administration, thereby implicating Washington in a dangerous venture to change the Middle East map and its future, irrespective of the will and desire of the people.
While the first two elements in the proposal have been entertained by previous administrations, the last three elements institutionalize the occupation of the West Bank and circumvent the UN Security Council Resolutions and, more importantly, under the umbrella of "regional security architecture," the Arab World will be re-colonized and its resources utilized to sabotage neighboring countries whose governments refuse to subordinate the future of their people to foreign powers.
Though Washington has always been instrumental in advocating Israeli strategic goals in dominating the region, this time the Obama administration makes it clear in its "peace package" that the map of the region must be designed according to Israeli wishes, and Arab autocratic rulers have no choice but to cheer and promote its Middle East policy irrespective of the consequences. Furthermore, Washington clearly expressed to Arab rulers that the two-month settlement extension freeze would be a one-time deal so any attempt in the future to walk out of the "peace negotiation" would not be acceptable.
The New York Times reported on October 7, 2010, one day before Arab Foreign ministers were to meet in Libya, that Washington had exercised its influence on Arab rulers to not abandon "peace negotiations" despite Israel's refusal to curtail settlements expansion and construction. The report further stated that the Obama administration is in agreement with Arab rulers to issue whatever is needed for their public consummation as long as they do not outright reject negotiation with Israel, stating, "the administration now expects the meeting in Libya to produce a stream of vitriol against Israel and an insistence that the two sides cannot talk while settlement building is under way, American and Israeli officials said, but no formal declaration that negotiations should be abandoned."
Naturally, the Arab rulers lived up to Washington's expectations. At the conclusion of their meeting, they issued a statement declaring that the ministers would reconvene again in a month to give Washington a time to find a workable compromise. The State Department welcomed this expected development stating, "We appreciate the Arab League's statement of support for our efforts to create conditions that will allow direct talks to move forward."
The Washington Post (October 6, 2010), along with other outlets close to Israel, reported that the Obama administration' s proposal was drafted by Dennis Ross, the Middle East National Security Advisor, who has a close relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Mr. Ross worked previously in the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and is one of the most fervent advocates of Israeli interest in Washington. A former Arab foreign minister, who led his country's negotiation for Middle East peace, indicated that it was easier to deal with Netanyahu rather than Ross as the latter invariably was a hardliner.
Though Mr. Ross has worked in both Republican and Democratic administrations responsible for the Middle East file, he never strays far from his roots as a hardliner and an Israeli defender. This often prevents him from devising Middle East policies fair to the people in the region or provide impartial judgment. In fact, he is not known to be apologetic on this matter and has made clear that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and should not be divided again. Likewise, Ross seems to be unconcerned about other senior administration officers who are responsible for foreign policy. The Post quoted a source in the Obama administration stating that Ross, "in effect, subvert[s] Mitchell and Clinton."
Like his contemporaries (e.g., Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, Douglas Feith, Jon Bolton, James Woolsey, Elliot Abrams, David Wurmser, Condi Rice, etc), Ross is driven in his Middle East views by fundamentalist interpretations of certain Biblical prophecies. These interpretations have led him, along with others, to design policies that produce instability and chaos in the region, be it in Algeria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, Egypt, Sudan, Somalia, and so on.
Fearing confronting religious fundamentalists and the Israeli lobby, successive US presidents from Bush senior to Obama have appeared to go along with Ross's judgment and advice. Critics argue that Ross's advice on Middle East often translates into policy direction despite being detrimental to American interests. In varying degrees, these presidents have vigorously promoted these policies to Arab autocrats. The latter, because of their reliance on security protection provided by Washington for their regimes, have been more than willing to compromise the future of their people and more likely jeopardize Arab national security and cultural existence.
Invariably, Arab autocracies answer to Washington rather than to their people. They understand they are resented by their people and have no choice but to heed Washington's dictates. Furthermore, Arab rulers have realized, to the delight of neoconservatives, that instability schemes conceived by neoconservatives and cloaked as "long war," war on terror, or democratization and protection of ethnic minorities, are useful mechanisms to consolidate their hold on power while subjugating their masses.
Devising a credible and functional peace process demands that Washington abandon its medieval and religious fundamentalist outlook in its formulation of Middle East policy. That is, the peace process should be driven by enlightenment and democratic principles, mainstream American interests, and the necessity to safeguard the dignity of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim communities in the region. The alternative is violence and perpetual instability.
Abbas J. Ali is professor and director School of International Management, Eberly College of Business, Indiana University of Pennsylvania.