By Jamal Kanj
But for the chap from Khan Younis refugee camp in Gaza who emerged earlier this week as the winner of the “Arab Idol,” the news from Palestine is grim.
The newly appointed Palestinian Prime Minister resigned and Israel still insists it should be able to negotiate over dividing the pie while it continues to eat it.
By the end of April, US Secretary of State John Kerry succeeded in tailoring another peace plan to entice Israel. Arab ministers supposedly agreed to amend a decade-old peace plan to satisfy Israeli demand for legalizing major illegal Jewish colonies in the West Bank.
In May 2009, Israel responded to the US mediated overture by issuing permits to build 296 illegal new homes in the Jewish-only colony of Beit El near Ramallah. This week the Secretary of State was scheduled to arrive on his fifth visit since February in an attempt to restart the Palestinian and Israeli negotiation.
The visit seems to be on hold to give time to Palestine’s President to consider a new US economic peace plan and for Israel to give Abbas a face-saving cover to return to the negotiation table.
Israel is already sending mixed messages.
According to news reports that have appeared in Israeli daily Ma’ariv, Netanyahu is considering a token gesture of releasing a small number of Palestinian prisoners and to issue temporary freeze “outside the settlement blocks” in the West Bank.
The deceptive “freeze” may force Abbas to succumb to American pressure while Netanyahu can claim – and rightly so – it is irrelevant as building inside the Jewish-only “settlement blocks” will continue.
Affirming its real intention and to pre-empt Kerry’s renewed efforts – in what is becoming traditional embarrassment for visiting US officials – the Israeli government issued earlier this month plans to build more than 1,000 new Jewish-only homes in two West Bank colonies.
Instead of addressing Israel’s inflexibility, the US is tantalizing an economic package worth $4 billion of private American and European investment.
In fact the new American “economic peace” is a repackaged Netanyahu plan from the 1990s, which was intended to dodge tackling the most pressing issues in the peace talk.
In theory, the proposal would expand the Palestinian economy by 50 per cent over three years while granting Israel more time to finish eating the “pie”.
But in reality, past investments were undermined by Israeli closures and military checkpoints or even destroyed as the cases for Gaza’s air and sea ports, leaving Palestinians with false promises and the only measurable expansion was in the size of Jewish colonies.
To bolster Israel’s arrogance, the US House of Representatives passed two weeks ago the National Defence Authorization Act in which it delegated – for the first time in US history – the power to wage war to a foreign entity when it committed the US to avail “diplomatic, military, and economic support” to Israel should it decide to strike Iran.
Along with that vote and at a time when both sides of the isle wrangled over how much more to cut from the defense budget, the US Congress was united in tripling Obama’s request to finance Israeli missile defense from $96 million to $284m.
It is indisputable that this unqualified US subservient support is directly responsible for Israel’s intransigence and the failure of the peace process. This was exemplified last week when Polish descendent and Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett – an ex US multi-millionaire who renounced his US citizenship – declared on June 17 the death of the Palestinian state idea and that he wasn’t an occupier and the West Bank was his “home”.
Rejecting the Palestinian state, Danny Danon, the Israel’s Deputy Defence Minister, was quoted in the Times of Israel: “The international community can say whatever they want, and we can do whatever we want”. Israeli leaders can’t be more explicit in their rejection of a viable Palestinian state, making the talk about settlement “freeze” meaningless and peace unattainable.
– Jamal Kanj (www.jamalkanj.com) writes weekly newspaper column and publishes on several websites on Arab world issues. He is the author of “Children of Catastrophe,” Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. (A version of this article was first published by the Gulf Daily News newspaper.)