Forget about the peace process
By Linda S. Heard
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Feb 25, 2009, 00:15

Is it time to say RIP to the peace process? Or should I ask �What peace process?� In fact, the topic is becoming a sick joke.

I think it�s fair to say that during George W. Bush�s eight-year tenure it was shelved. Sure, he paid lip service in favor of a two-state solution to jolly his Western allies along but I�m convinced he had no intention of pursuing a peace settlement. But as soon as those of us who care about a viable Palestinian homeland celebrated the arrival of his ostensibly fair-minded successor, our hopes were dashed.

The Israeli political scene has shape-shifted beyond recognition. Israelis have chosen an extreme right-wing government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, a ruthless, nationalistic individual who has no interest in working toward a state called Palestine and whose ticket includes the eradication of Hamas. It�s no wonder his relationship with President Obama is already being described as cool.

His new coalition partner Avigdor Lieberman is a Russian-born former nightclub bouncer, whose idea of peace is a �populated-area exchange plan� whereby some Arab-Israeli towns bordering Palestinian areas would be divested of Israeli citizenship. Variously dubbed a racist or a fascist, Lieberman is also calling for Arab-Israelis to take citizenship tests and oaths of loyalty to the Jewish state or they will be stripped of their nationality, which doesn�t happen anywhere else in the world.

Even the Butcher of Beirut, Ariel Sharon, found this guy unpalatable and, in 2004, was driven to dismiss him from his hard-line Cabinet. Lieberman�s controversial rhetoric has included a call to �bomb all their [Palestinian] places of business in Ramallah� and to drown Palestinian prisoners �in the Dead Sea, if possible, since that�s the lowest point in the world.�

The Israeli public knows Lieberman and his reputation well, yet they still gave his Yisrael Beiteinu party 15 seats, thereby appointing him kingmaker. A parody of Lieberman on Israel TV depicts him black-shirted, strutting and barking orders, accompanied by vicious dogs, with a groveling Tzipi Livni and Netanyahu begging for his favors. In the end, it seems, Netanyahu has been thrown the coveted bone.

In truth, the Olmert-led government has proved to be little better. Ehud Olmert and his team have cynically used the peace process as a fig leaf to bluff the more moderate among their supporters, as well as a carrot to quiet Palestinian discontent. Even as they talked a good talk, they continued constructing the apartheid wall and enlarging Jewish settlements on Palestinian land. Moreover, their �defense� policies have led to the deaths of 1,200 Lebanese civilians and 1,400 Palestinian residents of Gaza � almost a half of them children. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni showed her true colors during her last months in office by suggesting the transfer of Arab-Israelis to an eventual Palestinian state, which must have elicited a cheer from Lieberman and his friends.

Livni, I suspect, has been a wolf in sheep�s clothing all along. According to an article by Alain de Benoist on the Stanford University website, Livni ran a safe house in Paris during her service with the Mossad �that was used by hit squads at a time when the Israeli agency ran a series of assassinations in European capitals.� Even if marriage and age have mellowed her, a person with her resume would never achieve high office in most other �democratic� countries.

At least now, the so-called moderate Arab states will no longer harbor any illusion that they have a serious partner for peace and, hopefully, they will no longer cling to a fading mirage. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa has already reached this conclusion. �Perhaps a right-wing government led by Benjamin Netanyahu will say �no� to our face, as opposed to the sophisticated way of refusal of the current government, which calls itself left of center, employs,� he told Syrian television.

Nevertheless, a Netanyahu government will place Egypt in an embarrassing position because cooperation with politicians who are so openly anti-Palestinian will be difficult to justify at home and may fuel extremism. Cooperation with Kadima has meant walking on eggshells at times.

Egypt is already irritated by the fact that Israel has reneged on the terms of a cease-fire agreement that Cairo delicately brokered with Hamas after a lot of coaxing. Then, as soon as President Hosni Mubarak announced a done deal, Olmert announced there would be no truce until the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was released.

This last-minute stumbling block has not only infuriated Egyptian negotiators, Israel�s own Defense Ministry mediator, Amos Gilad, was enraged, too. According to Israel�s Hebrew-language newspaper Ma�ariv, Amos Gilad vehemently defended his Egyptian counterparts.

�So far, I fail to understand what the prime minister wants,� he is quoted as saying. �Does he want us to humiliate Egypt? We have already done that because they were expecting something different from us, and we are still messing up with the security of the region while the Egyptians are exerting efforts to reach agreement . . . Do they think Mubarak works for us? Olmert�s considered response was to fire him.

In the meantime, two Arab League delegations representing agricultural, industrial, education and information organizations are in Gaza to investigate alleged war crimes and when the League will consider whether or not to put the matter before an international court � easier said than done.

In light of this new paradigm, Arab countries are faced with uncomfortable policy decisions. The burning question is: Will they allow Israel to ride roughshod over the Palestinians while shutting the door on peace? We�ll find out.

Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at

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