The Guardian’s view of the Middle East: virtual reality

This article was cross-posted at CifWatch.

Palestinian state

The dangers of a Palestinian state

Today’s Guardian had an editorial, Palestine: a virtual state which was so removed from reality that I could not resist turning their title on its head for my own blog title.  Let the fisking begin.

There are two options facing what is still referred to – with increasing irony after 18 years of failure – as the Middle East peace process: a bad one, and something worse. The bad option is for the Palestinian Authority to go this week to the United Nations and apply to be admitted as a member state.

Such a status would not remove a single settlement or roadblock. If a state with observer status is created instead by a vote in the general assembly, giving it the right to take Israel to the international court of justice over settlements, and the ICJ rules that all settlements are illegal, this could remove the one remaining tool for resolving the issue – land swaps. To swap land for illegal settlements would be to legitimise them. What future negotiator could do this?

The twisted and circular logic in this paragraph is quite mind-bending. The settlements are obviously illegitimate in the Guardian’s eyes, but if the ICJ rules that they are illegal, and then they are used for land swaps in order to make peace, that is also no good in the Guardian’s learned opinion because swapping illegal settlements makes them legal. Did you get that? It’s OK. I didn’t either.  In fact I’ve read this 2 or 3 times and I’m still scratching my head.

It appears that the Guardian wants the Palestinians to make peace with Israel – but only on condition that the settlements are never accorded any legitimacy whatsoever. And if that can’t be achieved, it would appear that the Guardian would prefer that peace never be reached.  There is no other way to explain how they discount the idea of land swaps if those swaps consist of settlement land.  The Guardian doesn’t enlighten us as to what land would Israel be expected to swap if not the settlements. Oh! Silly me! Of course, the Guardian would like to see Israel return the settlements PLUS give up more land of its own.  The smaller Israel is the better as far as they are concerned.

Statehood could well tempt some in Israel to push for retaliatory measures which, unlike the declaratory state, would be concrete enough: a major construction push in the settlement blocs or the annexation of the Jordan valley. Binyamin Netanyahu’s partners have long pushed to tear up the Oslo accords.

But the Palestinians, by their very act of going to the UN to demand or declare a state, are violating the terms of the Oslo accords, so what reason is there for Israel to abide by accords which have been annulled by the other party?

…. All this mayhem for what – a virtual state?

It is, however, an even worse option not to go to the UN. This was made clear on Friday by Nabil Shaath, a senior Palestinian official. He revealed the “compromise” they had been pressed to sign, drawn up by Tony Blair, the representative of the Quartet. It called on the Palestinians to accept Israeli settlement growth, call Israel a Jewish state, and tear up the agreement with Hamas. The first would make any real negotiation on land swaps impossible. The second would pre-empt discussion on the right of return for Palestinian refugees and cast Israeli Arabs into the wilderness. The third would relaunch the conflict with Hamas. And that is before any discussion started with Mr Netanyahu. Mr Shaath put it correctly: Mr Blair, he said, sounded more like an Israeli diplomat than a neutral one.

If these major conditions are rejected at the outset by the Palestinians, how could anyone think that there will ever be the slightest chance of making peace with them?  These conditions may very well be completely unacceptable to the Palestinians, but they forget that there is another side to this story – Israel. And to Israel and the Jewish people, these conditions are the minimal demands that must be agreed to before even starting to consider any agreement.

Israeli settlement growth – would make any real negotiation on land swaps impossible – This is nonsense. We have seen many times in the past that Israel has handed over land which was settled to one extent or the other, removed its settlements, settlers and troops – and yet the other side of the equation was never fulfilled. The Sinai, Gaza and northern Samaria were all evacuated of settlers and handed over to Egypt and/or the Palestinians, yet these withdrawals (besides the Sinai) were all met with more violence and war.

call Israel a Jewish state -  would pre-empt discussion on the right of return for Palestinian refugees and cast Israeli Arabs into the wilderness – How does one lead to the other? Calling Israel a Jewish state is the absolute minimum that is required in order to begin reaching peace in the Middle East. If Israel is not recognized as the national homeland of the Jewish People, the Arabs will never stop considering the Jews as usurpers in the Middle East and will continue forever trying to throw the Jews “into the sea”.  But all this does not cast Israeli Arabs into the wilderness – again, this is a nonsense and they know it. Israeli Arabs are the only Arabs in the entire Middle East to enjoy full democratic rights in their country. There are Arabs members of the Knesset, the Government, the judicial system all the way up to the Supreme Court, academia, medicine, the list goes on. I’m sure their fellow Arabs would love to be “thrown into the wilderness” like that.  Conversely, I’m sure Middle Eastern Jews living in Arab countries enjoy nothing like any of these benefits.

tear up the agreement with Hamas -  would relaunch the conflict with Hamas – and this is bad because….?  Why should Fatah want to be partners with the violent murderous Hamas, that same Hamas who threw Fatah members out of windows and off of rooftops when they seized power in Gaza a couple of years ago?  If Fatah is unified with Hamas, and Hamas has certainly not modified its murderous views and its declared aim of destroying Israel, why would Israel be the slightest bit tempted to make peace with them?

This crisis is doing any future negotiators a favour in showing how skewed the process has become. The bar of success is continually being raised rather than lowered. The demand that Israel be recognised explicitly as a Jewish state was not made in previous rounds of negotiations.

That was the mistake of the Israeli negotiators. Thank goodness that they have come to their senses. It is the minimum that Israel should demand and expect.  Of course to the Guardian this is a Bad Thing™, but then again, what’s good for the Jews is bad for the Guardian.

…Israel will only lower the bar of success if the cost of its occupation goes up. That price is already being raised by what is happening in Egypt, Jordan and Turkey,

This sentence makes no sense whatsoever (but I repeat myself). What is happening in Egypt, Jordan and Turkey, not to mention the rest of the Arab world, has nothing to do with Israel and everything to do with corrupt dictators, lack of freedom and backwardness in the economy and social structure of those countries. Contrary to what the Guardian thinks (or hopes for), the “price” of Israel’s “occupation has not gone up with the Arab “spring”. Israel now has to be extremely cautious in the steps it takes with the Palestinians, because what has happened in Egypt and Tunisia could just as easily overtake the Palestinians.

…There is little Washington can do to penalise Mr Abbas without weakening every structure it has been trying to build in the West Bank. It wants to keep the prime minister, Salam Fayyad, in place. Do you encourage him to stay by cutting off his funds? If that lever does not work, what lever does? Barack Obama has said in two speeches that America would veto a UN bid, and Mr Abbas is defying him. Contrast that to what happened over the Goldstone report, when Mr Abbas was forced to drop his support for a report that was critical of the Gaza war. A fresh wind is blowing through the Middle East – one with which the US has still to come to terms.

On the contrary, it seems that the US is coming to terms with the new Middle East very quickly – hence its adamant refusal to countenance the declaration of a Palestinian State in the Security Council.

If anyone needs to come to terms with the Arab uprisings, it is the Guardian, which is still stuck in its old “Israel-bad, Palestinians-good”  worldview.

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3 Responses to The Guardian’s view of the Middle East: virtual reality

  1. Sojourner says:

    Thanks Anne, I appreciate your commentary.

  2. Pingback: Lord Andrew Phillips’ problem with Israel | Anne's Opinions

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