Friday, March 12, 2010

The Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks

 If there is one thing that Americans detest, it is a foreign country meddling in our internal affairs.

On the flip side, that is exactly what U.S. officials are doing in efforts to broker a peace treaty and create a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The most contentious issue currently is the Israeli government announcing plans to increase Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and on the West Bank at the very moment Vice President Joe Biden arrived in the country to jump start the peace negotiations. In undiplomatic language, Biden scolded Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

My perspective of the Middle East region originally known as Palestine is from a historical prism. From the beginning of recorded time, the Jews and Palestinian Arabs have been at logger heads for what evolved into a turf battle. The Jewish authors in the first chapters of the Bible described their nemesis as a "donkey." Later, the Jews were called "infidels."

As a child in 1948 I admired the Israelis for defeating the surrounding Arab armies who attacked the day after Israel was declared a state by the United Nations and recognized by President Harry Truman against the counsel of his advisers that included Gen. George Marshall.

By the 1960s as a young newspaper reporter, the office jokes ran rampant about the inept Egyptian army that invaded and fled for their lives in what was known as the Six Day War. You know, "How many Egyptian soldiers does it take to ..."

As the years rolled by, more wars with the same results or, at the least, a draw. I admired the sheer chutzpah of the daring raid on Entenbee and the tracking down and assassination of the Palestinians believed to have killed the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics even though in one case they killed the wrong guy.

Israel was always the underdog and as a white non-Jew American I rooted for them. Despite winning on the field of battle leaving essentially only Syria without a peace treaty and the Palestinians, the nation has become a bully.

Its politics is confrontational in which for them our town hall meetings of last August seem normal. The government is always a blend of multiple party factions uniting only when their national security is at stake.

In many respects, the best analogy I can muster is that the role of the Palestinians working, traveling or living in Israel is comparable to the tide of Mexicans working and residing in the Southwest United States without the rock, bomb and rocket throwing.

Historically, the Palestinians are the flotsam of humanity in the Middle East. No one wants them. Their only recourse is carving out a nation for themselves.

The current role of the U.S. government brokering a two-state solution is best described by Amjad Atallah, director of the Middle East Task Force at the New America Foundation and a legal adviser to the Palestinian negotiating team from 2000-03. Writing an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times:

James L. Jones, Obama's national security adviser, has made it clear that the Israeli-Arab conflict is a top priority for U.S. national security interests in the Middle East. And it should be. Nothing would help us more in every theater of operations than a U.S.-engineered resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In contrast to that assessment, however, other U.S. officials -- including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton -- have said that although the United States wants an agreement, "we can't want this more than the parties." But, in fact, the U.S. may want an agreement more than this particular Israeli government.

Israel's Likud leadership may have agreed to resume talks, but their actions seem designed to ensure failure. In addition to approving new settlements, Israeli officials have signaled that they want to reopen issues that have already been resolved in previous talks -- such as where borders should be drawn -- rather than taking up where things last broke off, as called for by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Tzipi Livni, leader of Israel's Kadima party.

This is oddly similar to the Republican demand that Congress go back to the beginning on healthcare in the wake of Scott Brown's election to the Senate. Revisiting issues that have already been settled is not part of an honest attempt to reach an agreement, but rather an effort to run out the clock on this president.

Again, from a historical perspective, I don't fathom a peace agreement ever between the Israelis and Palestinians until both sides really want it. U.S. interference on either party's side only worsens the deep-seated roots between the two antagonists.

I will take seriously these peace talks when Saudi Arabia enters center stage and takes a leading high-profile role in hammering out a solution as the U.S. has tried and failed. Even at that, I doubt they could keep the militants such as Hamas in line.

I have no qualms that the U.S. supports Israel on almost every front. The relationship could get grievous if Israel unilaterally attacks Iran to take out their nuclear missile arsenal. That would really call Iranian president
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's bluff who is the only winner in this latest setback of talks between Israel and Palestinians. 

No comments: