Archive | August, 2019

Banning U.S. Congresspersons from Israel

18 Aug

Banning U.S. Congresspersons from Israel

The decision to ban, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, two sitting members of the U.S. House of Representatives, disgraces the leaders of both the United States and Israel, confirms the illegitimacy of both political parties by their tepid responses, and confirms once more the unhealthy relationship that has evolved between Trump and Netanyahu, these two most reactionary of political figures, and badly reflects on the political atmosphere in the countries they represent.  For an American president to encourage a foreign government to deny entry to elected members of Congress is not only unprecedented, harmful to the quality of democratic life in America, and represents a wrongful and extremely distasteful use of his position to engage in nasty partisan reelection politics aimed at the 2020 elections. This outrageous display of further impeachable behavior by Trump is further accentuated by the defamatory, as well as maliciously and demonstrably false assertions in this notorious tweet that Ilhan Omar and Rashid Tlaib, hate Israel and all Jews, and nothing can alter their views.

 

For Netanyahu, the leader of Israel, to reverse an earlier decision to allow these U.S. officials to enter the country in response to Trump’s tweet has just the reverse effect of what is claimed. By seeming to forego Israel sovereign rights in response to an inappropriate interference in Israeli public policy by the American Head of State, Netanyahu reveals to the world Israel’s weakness, not its strength, and in the process casts a dark shadow over Israel own claims of political legitimacy. As well, to give way in this unseemly manner to Trump may also prove to be a tactical blunder in the Israeli context even if it contributes one more sordid chapter to their quid pro quo relationshiip. Such a craven move by Netanyahu miight turn off just enough Israeli voters to tip the balance against the Likud Party in the forthcoming September 17thelections. Not only was Trump’s tweet an effective assault on Israeli sovereign rights, but it also undermines the long absurd propaganda claims of Israel to be a democratic state that values and protects freedom of expression.

 

After further political turmoil, Israel appeared to relent, but by affixiing humiliating conditions, and then only with respect to Rashida Tlaib. The Israeli Minister of Interior, Aryeh Deri, agreeing to a ‘humanitarian’ visit provided the Congresswoman agreed not to promote boycotts of Israel while in the country, her visit restricted to the sole purpose of visiting her 90-year-old grandmother in a small Palestinian village not far from Ramallah. After initially accepting these constraints over the intense objections of her supporters and even her family back in Palestine, Rep. Tlaib reversed her own acceptance of the Israeli conditions, issuing a statement denouncing the constraints she earlier accepted, and refusing to restrict her time in her own Palestinian homeland to a personal visit. Of course, an Israeli rebuke followed from Deri, claiming that her rejection of Israel’s humanitarian gesture exhibits the Israeli-bashing intent that motivated the factfinding visit. Deri hammered one more nail in Tlaib’s already exposed flesh: “Apparently her hate for Israel overcomes her love for grandmother.” More understandably, Tlaib also was rebuked by many Palestinians for initially accepting Israel’s conditions intense objections to her face from supporters, alleging that she fell into Israel’s trap, “and accepted to demean herself and grovel.”

 

Seeking to thread this needle separating an ill-timed family ties from her high-profile political image, Tlaib chose these words, “Silencing me and treating me like a criminal is not what she [her grandmother] wants for me—it would kill a piece of me.” Although Tlaib used poor judgment by first agreeing to Israel’s acceptance, her statement explaining her reversal a short time later, had a redemptive effect. Perhaps, more disturbing, was Tlaib’s failure to sustain a posture of public solidarity with Ilhan Omar, whose relevance was ignored in Tlaib’s three-step dance movement.

 

The distractions caused by this secondary development involving Tlaib should not be allowed to divert attention from the primary outrage resulting from the Trump tweet and Israeli gag order imposed on nonviolent advocates of the BDS Campaign, which in this instance meant banning entry to elected U.S. government officials, supposedly a super-ally.

 

In my view Israel’s decision to ban these two members of Congress can at best be considered ‘an unfriendly act’ by Israel toward its unconditional ally. This alone should persuade a self-respecting U.S. Congress to react with much more than a few empty words of disapproval. At the very least, a message of censure should be formally endorsed by the House of Representatives, and delivered to the Israeli government, which strongly discourages further visits to Israel by members of Congress until Israel announces a policy of allowing entry any American official to visit Israel without restrictions. Perhaps, a more suitable alternative would be to urge banning members of the Knesset until Israel welcomes as visitors any and all members of the UN Congress without conditions. A further appropriate step would be to condition any approval of future military or economic assistance to Israel on lifting the ban on future visits by government officials, but also ideally by all American citizens regardless of political views; After all, American taxpayers have long paid their share of the annual aid package of at least $3.8 billion, the greatest per capita amount given to any country in the world.

I believe that by singling these two members of Congress, who happen to be the first two Muslim women ever elected to the House of Representatives, in the manner of Trump’s tweet is a clear instance of racism and hate speech, especially considered in light of his past hostile statements directed at prominent women of color who dare enter political life and oppose his presidency, including his past slanders of these two brave individuals. The language of Trump’s tweet also sought successfully to interfere with their effort to engage in a legitimate legislative undertaking in a discriminatory manner, and included this inflammatory and false allegation: “They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds.” The tweet ends with this shocking expression of hostility that demeans Trump and the Office of the Presidency rather than its intended targets, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. Trump’s final tweeted words– “They are a disgrace!” It is best understood as “You are disgraced.”

 

The media at least gave major attention to this unfolding political drama, although more in the spirit of narrating a human interest story than offering a damning commentary on the anti-democratic moves of these two ‘illiberal democrats.’ Tom Friedman, never foregoing a chance to deliver fence-setting know-it-all lectures to whomever would listen, managed staked out some liberal territory by condemning the tactical damage to their own countries and especially to the ‘special relationship’ between them as a result of making the Republicans the true friends of Israel, and the Democrats not so clear, hence fraying the edges of bipartisanship when it comes to support for Israel. Friedman also took the opportunity to make it clear that in his view Tlaib and Omar were not better due to their ill-considered support for BDS, which he argued dooms to two-state liberalism, and implies that by their criticism of Israel, the excluded officials are widening Jewish/Islamic cleavages rather than building bridges. [See Friedman, “If You Think Trump is Helping Israel, You’re a Fool,” Aug. 16, 2019]

Such misleading pontificating, which we should know is the standard offering of Friedman in his opinion pieces that reek of vanity and pro-establishment moralizing. It is part and parcel of the overall Zionist strategy of diverting attention from Israeli wrongdoing and criminality by discrediting the victim while airbrushing the oppressor. Here, those in genuine solidarity with sustained peace for the two peoples will not be distracted by such prevarications from the underlying encroachments on freedom of expression and the rights of an ethnically cleansed people to return to their homeland as a matter of right.

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Will Trump’s War-Mongering Lead to War with Iran

12 Aug
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[Prefatory Note: This post is an edited version of an interview on 11 August 2019 by an Iranian journalist, Nozhan Etezad, and published in Iran Newpaper. It addresses various aspects of the troubled recent relationship between Iran/U.S.]

Will Trump’s War-Mongering Lead to War with Iran

1-Why is there a contradiction in Trump’s policy towards Iran? On the
one hand, he says he wants to negotiate, and on the other, US
government is boycotting Zarif and the supreme leader of Iran. What do
think about this issue?

You are quite right to take note of this striking contradiction, but the world has cometo expect such inconsistencies in Trump’s diplomatic style between Trump’s forthcoming and forbidding sides. He is consistently unpredictable, and as such, is capable of moving without much warning in either belligerent or accommodating directions when it comes to decisions involving action. On balance, he seems to prefer negotiations to warfare. If so, it would seem sensible for top Iranian political leaders to make clear statements indicating their willingness to discuss any concerns with Trump, expressing their interest in a meeting and their commitment to the avoidance of further war endangering confrontations.

Two important unknowns should be read as qualifications to my response: how much effective pressure are outside actors putting on Trump to maintain an aggressive approach to Iran; how strong is the opposition in Tehran to any Iranian compromises or to displays of an unconditional willingness to engage in direct talks with the U.S. Government given Trump’s hostile behavior up until now. Would too great a show of eagerness for accommodation and normalization suggest Iranian weakness, including a readiness to offer concessions?

2-Some say Rouhani is not on the sanctions list of US Because Trump
want to meet him. what is your opinion? Is it possible to negotiate
with him in the current situatio? Even when Ayatollah Khamenei has
stated that neither war nor Iran will be negotiated?

There are two concerns here. First, would Trump be more receptive to Rouhanithan Zarif as a negotiating partner? Possibly, because Rouhani is the president of Iran, thus possessing an equal status in government as Trump. It might be worthwhile for Iranian leaders to explore this possible diplomatic opening, and the fact that it seems inconsistent with other aspects of U.S. behavior should not be taken too seriously as an obstacle if the initiative otherwise seems worth exploring.

The second concern is on the Iranian side. Would Ayatollah Khamenei or others in Iran block such a meeting or oppose following up should it achieve a positive outcome? I have no special opinion about this, but a lack of sufficient support on the Iranian side could have the effect of making the current situation between the two countries even more dangerous by making diplomacy appear to be a dead-end, and this could give warmongers in the U.S. Government additional influence on policy toward Iran. 

3-How do you evaluate Iranian diplomacy as a means of countering Trump’s pressure?
Has Iran’s diplomacy been successful?

I think that Iranian diplomacy has so far exhibited composure and resolve, communicating to Washington a determination by Tehran not to be intimidated even by the ‘maximum pressures’ reportedly mounted by Trump. These signs of Iranian strength and political will may be over time improving the prospects for a diplomatic accommodation as it should now be clear that coercive moves by Trump short of war will not lead Iran to back down or surrender politically in response to sanctions or other hostile acts, and recourse to war, as dangerous as it would be, so far seems only to be. relevant as a default option, that is, occurring by miscalculation or accident.

4-Do you think it is possible in the current situation to create
Track II Diplomacy for behind-the-scenes negotiations between Iran and
the US? Is there any will in America for that? Do you think Iran is
interested?

 

These questions are all difficult to answer as Track II diplomacy to be effective must be undertaken and carried forward discreetly at its early stages without public disclosure or political comment. In my view, considering the difficulties of achieving a breakthrough by way of traditional diplomacy, it is worth giving consideration to a Track II approach. Whether either government has the will or capability to pursue such a course at this point is not evident. Finally, without proper authorization by political leaders, Track II initiatives have a risk of backfiring by being disowned through contentions that the initiative was improperly authorized or dealt with in bad faith.

5-Why was Zarif sanctioned in your opinion? Is Trump angry about his
diplomatic ability and his relations with the media and American
politicians? Will subtle sanctions make him unable to travel to New
York? Will the American media no longer interview him?

My response to these questions is necessarily highly speculative. Zarif has been quoted at one point saying that agreements with the U.S. are not worth the ink used to write them, and that might have been regarded by the White House as an unacceptable insult, although I regard it as a reasonable reaction to the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, familiarly known as the 2015 Iranian Nuclear Agreement) and other unprovoked unfriendly and damaging policies pursued by the United States. Other motivations may arise from Zarif being seen as the architect of the repudiated agreement that Trump has rejected in such a defiant manner, making him disposed to be a difficult negotiator.

If Zarif comes to NYC on an official visit to represent Iran at the UN I would expect that he would be allowed to enter the US, but restricted in his movements beyond the city. While present on a UN mission, I do not think the media would be hesitant or precluded from talking with him.
.

6-Some believe that Iran is now launching a maximum countermeasures
campaign against the United States and exerting pressure on the EU. These counter-measures have so far taken the form of increased uranium enrichment and the seizure of several foreign oil tankers in the Persian. Gulf. Why has Iran taken such action? Is it in the interest of Iranian diplomacy? Can Iran use the leverage of these measures in a possible future negotiation with the US?

Both the incremental withdrawal of Iran from the obligations of the JCPOA and the tanker seizures in the Gulf seem designed to demonstrate both Iranian readiness to stand upfor their national interests and legal rights, and its pursuit of a policy of retaliatory response to provocative actions taken against its country by Trump. By so acting Iran has is sending a message to the effect that if the U.S. or others act strongly to imperil Iran’s wellbeing, then Iran will react with equivalent measures of hostility and displays of defiance.

 

Iran’s approach has risks but it also is the most promising alternative to a no-win strategy of passivity. In effect, I think Iran is making it clear that the coercion of the sort deployed will not work to weaken their political will or alter their policies, and that either there must be genuine moves by the U.S. toward normalization and respect for Iran’s sovereign rights or there could be a war that would have bad effects for many political actors. I am assuming that Iran is hoping that its adversaries realize that war would be devastating for all involved, and that in the end compromise and accommodation is the best approach for both sides. We cannot be sure about this, especially considering the various irresponsible influences at work, both seen and unseen. Given the alternatives, I believe Iran has adopted correct policies to uphold its sovereign rights in this vigorous manner given Trump’s provocations.

7-Do you find it possible to negotiate with Iran during the Trump era?
If there is a negotiation, what kind of cards does Iran have for
playing?

 

We cannot be sure about anything with regard to international negotiations in the Trump Era, but it is probably helpful to remember that Trump would politically gain immensely from walking back the crisis and achieving normalization with Iran, and lose dramatically if the crisis spins out of control, and a costly and chaotic war ensues. Remembering that presidential elections in the US are scheduled for November 2020, American domestic politics exert a huge and greater than usual impact on foreign policy. In this sense, Iran holds the cards that could give or withhold a huge political victory for Trump by whether or not it reaches an agreement.

 

It may be instructive to consider the approach adopted by Trump toward North Korea in somewhat parallel circumstances. His Korean diplomacy can be interpreted as a sign of the willingness of Trump to pursue a war-avoidance diplomacy with a long-term adversary of the United States even in the face of criticism from some advisors. The. Iranian situation is, of course, different, especially as it is closely linked to the U.S. relationship with Israel, and touches on other complexities of Middle East politics. On balance, Iran should be cautious about being too hopeful about normalization in the near future, but at the same time should remain sensitive to the emergence of potential opportunities for a diplomatic breakthrough.

8-Do you think that if Trump is reelected there will be a change in Iran’s approach to negotiations? What should the Iranian diplomacy team do if confronted by a reelected Trump?

 

It is almost impossible to predict what Trump would do with respect to foreign policy if reelected. On the optimistic side, he might want to simplify the challenges facing the. U.S. by resolving foreign policy concerns to the extent possible so as to focus on such domestic priorities as health and immigration. His presidency might also shift from popularity with voters concerns to legacy concerns, and whether in the end Trump wants to be remembered as a geopolitical warrior or as an innovative peacemaker. We can only hope that the latter possibility prevails if political misfortune befalls, and Trump is reelected. I would also suggest that at this point it is not more than 50% likely that Trump will be reelected. It depends on whether has Democratic opponent has unified support among Democrats and whether the American economy remains strong (employment, stock market).

With respect to Iran’s response to Trump’s reelection, it seems like to depend on intervening developments, and whether Trump seems combative in depicting American foreign policy toward Iran and the Middle East. I would recommend that the Iran diplomatic team assess the situation as it unfolds without endorsing expectations either of accommodation or intensifying confrontation. The most likely future is continuity, a small variation in either direction as compared to the present unsatisfactory situation.

9-Why did Trump abandon a military strike against Iran? Was it because of the
fear of Iran’s military response deterred or because of Iran’s diplomatic consultations?

 

The true motives for such a sudden policy reversal are rarely truthfully disclosed by governments, I suspect a combination of factors converged in this instance of which the most important was the sense that the conflict would dangerously escalate once military force was used, raising the risks of a foreign policy disaster to unacceptable levels. Besides, Trump had campaigned in the past against war making in the Middle East, and during his presidency while he has often irresponsibly bluffed and threatened, so far he has not acted militarily.

10-How successful has Iranian media diplomacy been in influencing
regional and global public opinion to counter Trump’s policies?
Does Trump Really Want Negotiation or War?

Iranian media diplomacy has been successful in conveying to the world the resolve of Iran to resist by all available means pressures from the U.S. and its regional adversaries. This has likely made regional actors advocate caution on the part of U.S. allies at least via confidential communications. There are few voices in the region that view a war with Iran as a viable option, and what Iran has shown by its strong recent responses to the repudiation of JCPOA and sanctions is that without war no political victory can be achieved merely by relying on threats and various forms of coercion. Also relevant as discouraging military action are the experiences of war in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen

11-How successful has Iran’s diplomacy been in persuading Europeans to
profit economically under a nuclear deal?

I am not an expert on this, but see little evidence that Iran has been able to work out significant beneficial arrangements with European countries, especially with respect to arranging oil sales. My impression is that while Europe is critical of the Trump path it is not prepared to risk worsening its economic and diplomatic relations with the US by rescuing Iran from the sanctions policy.

12-Some believe the US cannot make peace in Afghanistan without Iran’s
participation. Is it possible for Iran and the US to discuss an Afghanistan arrangement
during the Trump era? Some reports suggest that Russia will hold a
summit on Afghanistan soon. Do you think a meeting is possible
between Iranian and US officials on the sidelines in the course of such an event?

 

I think anything is possible along these lines with respect to finding a path to peace in Afghanistan, which seems a high priority of Trump, as well as of other political actors. It all depends on how priorities are weighed against one another by Washington and others. There is no requirement of overall consistency when it comes to policymaking. Iran might also resist constructive participation in Afghan negotiations favored by the West so long as Iran is targeted by sanctions and by threats/warnings.

 

Informal meetings on the sidelines are also quite possible as both sides may want to signal their willingness to find a mutually acceptable path to normalization and away from a slide toward war that would have catastrophic consequences for all involved.

14-Some people are saying that if US Senator Rand Paul’s meets with Zarif it could lead to improvements in Iran-US relations. What is your opinion? Others say appointing
a representative, such as Zalmay Khalilzad, would be a better idea to
negotiate with Iran because he had previously talked to Iranian
officials about Afghanistan. What is your opinion? If Trump wants to
deal with Iran might he indicate this by giving Paul a green light to go ahead?

I doubt that Rand Paul would be given any serious diplomatic role. He is looked upon in Washington as an eccentric and inexperienced outsider that is not trusted by the political mainstream, including by most members of his own political party. With Trump, nothing can be ruled out, and it is possible Paul would be used as an expendable triial balloon. In contrast, Khalilzad is an experienced and mainstream envoy whose appointment would signal an intention to give diplomacy a serious chance. But it might also require a commitment to diplomacy that Trump is not presently ready to make. If so, Paul could become a preferred option as there would not be strong expectations of success created by his appointment.

15-What will be the position of Trump as stand between Bolton and Pompeo and
the pursuit of his anti-war approach towards Iran?
How much diplomatically is it possible for Iran to convince the new
British government to come to an agreement with it? What is your
prediction? Will Boris Johnson be closely associated with Trump after Iran’s
election or will he pursue a more independent policy?

As far as the relationship of Boris Johnson’s leadership of Britain to Iran is concerned, I imagine that the most likely course is one openly supportive of Trump. Johnson will be preoccupied with minimizing the post-Brexit challenges facing Britain, and will be highly motivated to seek positive and enhanced trade and finance relations with the United States to offset an economic freefall some expect to follow quickly in the event of a no-deal departure from the EU. Under these conditions Johnson is almost certain not to allow any friction in relation to Iran to interfere with this overriding priority. At the same time, Johnson is ambitious, impulsive, and unpredictable, and might take the chance of adopting a more independent approach to Iran and the Middle East generally. 

16-Finally, Could Trump risk making a military strike against Iran before
the 2020 election? What if he wins again? Do you think it will be
possible for the US or its allies to attack Iran after the election?

 

Anything is possible, but as my earlier responses suggest, it is most likely but far from certain that Trump will seek to avoid war with Iran and not follow the advice of such anti-Iranian hawkish advisors as Bolton and Pompeo. I think the inhibitions on recourse to military action against Iran will be somewhat stronger before the 2020 election than after a Trump political victory in the form or reelection. At such a point, I would still expect that Trump would seek to avoid war with Iran, and also that even Israel in the end would also not want an. actual war, which could cause Israel to experience massive devastation, and therefore, behind the scenes Israel can be expected to push either for a continuation of the present diplomacy of exerting pressure as at present or even might favor deescalating the conflict for fear that it could at some point unintentionally produce a mutually destructive war. 

 

 

Context Matters Except for the Palestinians

2 Aug

Context Matters Except for the Palestinians

 

Just imagine the Israeli reaction to a peace plan put forth by a future U.S. president elected to pursue the agenda of ‘the squad,’*[*]appointing Noam Chomsky, the head of CAIR, and Medea Benjamin on assuming office to lead its moves toward peace in the Middle East. Imagine further that prior to disclosing President Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s revolutionary peace initiative, Washington’s new leadership took the following unilateral steps: tabling a Security Council Resolution calling for the dismantling of the Israeli separation wall in accord with the 2004 Advisory Opinion of the World Court, insisting on Israeli adherence to Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Conventions while calling for the prompt re-settlement of all Israeli settlers behind the 1967 Green Line, and informing Congress of its intention to discontinue further annual economic and military assistance to Israel. In addition to these ‘provocations,’ the U.S. energetically pursued a regional diplomacy with Arab neighbors designed to exert the greatest possible pressure on Israel to go along with whatever Washington proposes or suffer severe adverse consequences.

 

I know this would strike even most pro-Palestinians as an absurd way to seek sustainable and just peace arrangements, but this is precisely the road taken by the White House in its multiple acrobatic moves designed to build leverage for the Trump/Kushner ‘deal of the century.’ Even Obama’s feeble attempts to balance the scales ever so slightly brought fury to the lips of most Israelis, including its leaders. We can hardly imagine the Israeli response to a peace initiative launched by the squad along the above lines, which for all of its seeming radical character would actually be reasonable from the perspective of international law and morality even as it was causing collective apoplexy in Tel Aviv. The absurdity of this inverted ‘peace’ scenario should help us understand how extreme has been the pro-Israeli brand of extremism of the Trump White House. The fact that this has to be demonstrated rather than taken for granted underscores how victimized the Palestinian national struggle has become in the eyes of many of us in the West.

 

Equally worth observing is the discourse on the Trump diplomacy adopted by Zionist apologists, and even some anti-Trump liberals and Israeli peace activists such as Gershon Baskin. Their bad faith message to the Palestinians is along three parallel lines: “Don’t repeat past mistakes by simply rejecting Trump’s peace proposals,” “Under the circumstances, what Trump offers is the best Palestine can hope for given altered conditions on the ground and in the region,” and “Don’t reject in advance, participate, listen attentively, responding favorably to any positive elements, and project an image of constructive engagement.” Revealingly, this advice to the Palestinians is set forth without any consideration of the extreme anti-Palestinian contextcreated by a series of deliberate moves by Trump from the moment he was elected. Can you even imagine giving Israeli leadership this kind of advice if the political realities were ever to be reversed?

 

It hardly requires a vivid imagination to conjure up the expletives that would undoubtedly lend color to the most probable Israeli responses to being told what to do in comparable circumstances. The Palestinians, in contrast, are being chastised for not being receptive and refusing to come to the table with an open mind. True, the Palestinian Authority has not shown much finesse in handling the situation, relying on the sufficiency of its skeptical mumbling and an ambivalent public ‘NO.’ Better would have been an explanation along these lines, “Given the hostility toward Palestinian concerns that have been a trademark of the Trump presidency since its beginning, how can anyone in their right mind expect us to be so foolish as to pretend that there exists any basis for exploring the Trump/Kushner proposals as if they might offer a fair resolution of our long struggle for the most basic rights of the Palestinian people?” Sitting down in such a tilted diplomatic atmosphere would be the height of folly for the Palestinians, making them seem without dignity or understanding, mere puppets assembled so that their enemies could manipulate the strings.

 

Palestinians could and should have done better in setting forth their own vision of peace.  The extreme one-sidedness of the Trump approach handed Palestinians a golden opportunity to declare as convincingly as possible the urgent and immediate need for a new peace intermediary that was a facilitator, and not a partisan as past American presidents, or worse, an imposer as this one seems to be. The United States had long overplayed its hand as ‘honest broker,’ but now it had gone so far as to make any further Palestinian acceptance of the American role a source of humiliation, if not a sign of political senility.

 

It is worth noticing always, how the background of pro-Israeli objectionable behavior is treated by international commentary. When the context of justification is overlooked or repressed it usually signals an intention to persuade the audience by excluding complicating considerations, in this instance, the multiple signs that the United States has destroyed all reasonable expectations on the part of the Palestinians of fairness or objectivity in a proposed peace process. The Oslo framework as set forth in 1993 was deficient from these points of view but the deal of the century/peace from prosperity framework is so much worse, and yet it stands unrepudiated. When the context is put forward, it represents a genuine attempt to discover whether there are reasonable grounds for moving forward, and in this case there are none.

 

In the end, there is an underlying misinterpretation that has further distorted most commentary. What is being sought by Trump’s ‘peace diplomacy’ is not a political compromise that takes accounts of the basic rights of the two peoples, but a victory of one side over the other. It is an approach lightly theorized by Daniel Pipes and his confederates at the Middle East Forum, seeking to justify and advocate an increase of coercive U.S. and Israeli moves that will induce the Palestinians to acknowledge political defeat and submit to conditions at the behest of the Israeli victor. Thus, the success of the Trump/Netanyahu approach is not a matter of finding common ground between the two sides to form an agreement, but turning the screws of oppression so tight that the Palestinians will surrender. The approach has relied upon unilateral punitive actions supplemented by regional and global geopolitical leverage, but little direct violence beyond the endorsement of Israeli excessive force in dealing with the Great March of Return over the course of the last 68 Fridays.

 

Against this background, there exists an opportunity for responsible Palestinian leaders to do more than sit sullenly on their hands. In addition to explaining why Trump’s moves makes the traditional U.S. role unacceptable for purposes of negotiation, the Palestinians of all factions should do their utmost to set aside their disagreements, and achieve a unity of purpose, at least for the duration of their national struggle. Even more important might be, seizing the diplomatic initiative by making public a document that develops a comprehensive peace proposal that stakes out in general terms the contours of a political compromise on Jerusalem, settlements, statehood, borders, refugees, water, offshore resources, economic cooperation, security, and whatever else seems relevant. Even if only in the form of a declaration of principles, with explanatory commentary, it would manifest an intention to do more than refuse the paltry offerings that Kushner, Inc. is peddling throughout the region.  Such a positive initiative articulated by the Palestinian side is long overdue, would be of help to the Palestinians in the continuous ‘public relations war’ that may in the end be as relevant to the political struggle as the diplomatic tug of war or even resistance struggles. At this stage, nothing would give greater weight to Palestinian demands than its backing of an approach to peace that would seem so much reasonable and responsible than what is now being promoted by the Trump White House.

 

The basic point lingers. Context matters, and when it is eliminated, assessments of behavioral reasonableness are bound to be distorted and extremely misleading, especially if what is at stake is highly contested. This is particularly true for the Trump/Kushner unabashedly cruel approach to peace that can only be properly understood as placing a thin veil of deception over a concerted push to achieve an Israeli ‘victory’ while pretending to seek peace on the basis of political compromise. This emperor has no clothes! Those who care about justice must not let this happen!  

 

 

[*]‘The Squad’ is the name given to a group of four progressive Congress persons elected in 2016, and challenging the bipartisan precepts of American foreign policy. Their names are Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, and best known, Alexandria Ortiz-Cortiz.