A real peace process?
US support for Israel is public knowledge. The enormous military and economic aid figures are well known, as are the dozens of vetoed UN security council resolutions and “No” votes in the general assembly. The regular votes on Capitol Hill in solidarity with Israel and condemning “Palestinian terrorism” are not secret.
Somehow, however, journalists and analysts continue to maintain the fiction that the US-driven “peace process” is a sincere attempt at securing a just solution to the conflict in Palestine/Israel. The most that is ever acknowledged is that in the “Arab world” the US has a problem in perception as an “honest broker”; the weightiest criticism, incredibly, is that Washington is not doing enough.
It’s not just the US though. During the second intifada, and especially as it tailed off, the “international community” (for which, read the US, EU and pro-Western Arab dictatorships) pioneered a number of “peace drives” in Palestine/Israel, all of which have been taken at face value as sincere, if sometimes misguided, efforts at conflict resolution.
But it is only when an alternative interpretation of the international community’s peace process is mobilised, one that ditches the fantasy they are acting in good faith, that their actions make sense. While the “roadmap” to peace had been announced by the so-called Quartet as early as spring 2003, it is interesting to observe how, in 2004-05, the “peace process” was apparently given a shot in the arm.
Arafat’s death in November 2004 was greeted by US, UK and Israeli leaders as an unprecedented turning point with the potential for ushering in a “new era”. Coupled with the then imminent Israeli redeployment from Gaza, media analysts unquestioningly echoed Condoleezza Rice’s optimism that it truly was a “time to seize” the historic “opportunity” for making peace.
Thus, despite Israel’s military occupation and countless war crimes of the Intifada, despite the continued settlement expansion, land confiscation and hopeless power asymmetry – despite even the declared Israeli intention of the Gaza “disengagement” being to freeze the “peace process” and free up further colonisation in the West Bank – the international community felt it was an “opportunity” for peace.
In 2006, the response of the Quartet to the very Palestinian “internal reform” and elections that they themselves had called for provided an even clearer declaration of intent. Hamas’s track record of honesty and resistance won them a parliamentary majority, but the Palestinians returned from the ballots to be rewarded with blackmail and boycott.
From then on, the international community not only hindered the cause of peace but even helped foster civil war among Palestinians. In the power logic of the Quartet, elections are met with sanctions and Abbas’s overthrow of the Hamas government is lauded as coup prevention. Fatah elements were armed and trained in order to fight Hamas, while Palestinians were deliberately brought to their knees by sanctions.
Surveying the policies of the international community in the last few years, the role of Washington, London and Brussels can only make sense if they are seen as accomplices to Israel’s colonisation. This engagement, far from being genuine peace-seeking, can be characterised in three main ways.
Firstly, the conflict is depoliticised and development-ised, reduced to a matter of “state-building” and “economic investment”. Tony Blair, the Quartet”s envoy, has heartily embraced this approach.
Secondly, the Palestinians are forced to “earn” the right to self-determination, jumping through a series of hoops often designed by Israel. These vary, from the demand that the occupied embrace pacifism, to the Palestinians being told to “recognise” the state that has carried out their dispossession
Thirdly, the “peace process” has sought to marginalise and ultimately negate the right of return of the Palestinian refugees. The international community”s discourse urges both sides (except we know which one they”re talking to) to lay aside past grievances and “move on”.
It is time that the international community’s peace process in Palestine/Israel is seen for what it is, stripped of the propaganda. It is only when we ditch the idea that the US and the other main players are acting in good faith that their policies, from roadmaps to Annapolis via post-election boycotts, make sense. It is time to think outside this limiting delusion about what really constitutes a process towards peace.
Published in the Guardian’s Comment is free.