By Iqbal Jassat – Pretoria
The current standoff between US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the issue of ‘settlements’ has raised the prospect of defining a new chapter in US/Israel relations.
Media reports suggest that since Obama’s administration took office a new sense of optimism prevails regarding a “peace deal” between the Zionist state and the Occupied Palestinians.
Yet, many skeptics have justifiably raised the question about whether America’s first black president is the harbinger of real relief for Palestinian quest for freedom or merely an excuse for a new false dawn.
Their skepticism arises from the fact that Obama has either failed to recognize the inherent deception in the “Oslo Accords” of the 1990s or is willing to pursue a phantom process. By remaining stuck to the concept of a “peace process” without any hint of a major departure from Israel’s recurrent ruses seems to indicate that the Zionist enterprise remains free to write it’s own script.
After all, in 1995, one of the so-called “architects of peace”, Shimon Peres, reassured the Israeli public: “The deal kept the following in Israeli hands: 73 per cent of the lands of the [occupied] territories, 97 per cent of the security, and 80 per cent of the water.”
Commenting on this, John Pilger said that many Palestinians understood this and suspected the collusion of Yasser Arafat and his elite, who would receive unaccountable petrodollars from the Gulf States and at least $100 million from the US for a “security” apparatus that had all the trappings of a pampered palace guard that also acted on Israel’s behalf.
What’s changed between then and now? Faces. And hardly much else, except Israel’s bloodied nose in the Gaza where in violation of all norms, values and the provisions of International Laws, its military machine caused massive devastation but failed to dislodge Hamas. Mahmoud Abbas occupies Arafat’s chair, and despite lacking legitimacy, remains tied to the current rightwing Netanyahu government’s “security” apparatus and on America’s payroll.
Obama’s showdown with Israel centres on his demand for a complete freeze of settlement activity. The defiance displayed by Netanyahu with its attendant arrogance appears to signal to America and the rest of the world that Israel remains adamant in continuing its oppressive control of Palestine.
Dispatching his emissary George Mitchell to the region, which is tantamount to playing an unending game of political “yo-yo” between Abbas and Netanyahu, Obama has yet to flex his muscles. Short of placing the Israelis on terms, Obama will face similar conundrums encountered by his predecessors, albeit that his inclination to secure “peace” may contain elements of determination rarely seen in American politics.
A crucial defect in Obama’s diplomacy is reflected in his foolish practice of continuing the Bush administration policy of isolating Hamas as a “terrorist” movement. Limiting Mitchell’s travels to Jerusalem and Ramallah without extending it to Gaza; retaining the terror listing and consequent criminalization of Hamas; and propping up Abbas reveal that Obama’s “peace” efforts will not advance beyond Israeli dictates.
John Steinbach warned of this syndrome during the Clinton era, when he described Ariel Sharon’s policy known as the “Matrix of Control” and how Clinton’s pursuance of the “peace process” provided perfect cover to implement it.
The “Matrix of Control” policy formulated by Sharon in 1977, called for the establishment of strategic hilltop settlements throughout the West Bank, to be connected by ‘bypassing roads’ and reserved for the exclusive use of settlers and the Israeli army.
According to Steinbach, the “Matrix of Control was the tail that wagged the entire Clinton ‘peace process’. It brought Israel seven years of feverish settlement activity [the number of settlers more than doubled during the years of the ‘peace process’] and enabled the construction of a web of Israeli army forts and twenty-nine highways, on which Palestinians were banned, funded by the Clinton administration.”
It will remain a huge tragedy if the Obama administration remains blinded to its own complicity in Palestinian suffering while chasing shadows in pursuit of a “peace process” whose architects are the perpetrators of colossal crimes.
– Iqbal Jassat is chairperson of the Media Review Network (MRN), an advocacy group based in Pretoria, South Africa. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit: www.mediareviewnet.com.