One of the more famous lines about the U.S. role in the “peace process” between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is Aaron David Miller, a former Middle East negotiator for the U.S., saying that “for far too long, many American officials involved in Arab-Israeli peacemaking, myself included, have acted as Israel’s attorney, catering and coordinating with the Israelis at the expense of successful peace negotiations.”
President Barack Obama may have vowed to the world in June 2009 in Cairo that “America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own,” but the Obama administration has betrayed that promise and has instead continued to act as Israel’s lawyer. The U.S. role in the current peace negotiations, and specifically the news of President Obama’s letter of guarantees to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, proves that the U.S. is not an honest broker. (The “America as Israel’s lawyer” meme falls apart when we consider that the U.S. and Israel don’t follow the relevant laws during “peace talks”).
In an effort to save “direct peace talks” between Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, from collapsing over the expiration of the “settlement freeze,” Obama reportedly has offered “military hardware, support for a long-term Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley, help with enforcing a ban on the smuggling of weapons through a Palestinian state, a promise to veto Security Council resolutions critical of Israel during the talks and a pledge to forge a regional security agreement for the Middle East.” Israel would merely have to agree to extend the so-called “settlement freeze” for two-months to obtain that generous package.
But ending settlement construction should not be seen as a concession the Israelis give to the Palestinians; rather, it should be a base requirement for Israel, as all settlements are illegal under international law.
What is Obama offering the Palestinians to cajole them to get back to table? “An offer by the United States to formally endorse a Palestinian state based on the borders of Israel before the 1967 Middle East war, something for which the Palestinians have long pushed.” The lopsided nature of the two offers is clear. The U.S. is acting as Israel’s lawyer once again, disregarding legitimate Palestinian demands based on international law while guaranteeing Israel a whole slew of things it wants.
Writing in Al Jazeera, Lamis Andoni comments:
The equation is hugely unbalanced. In exchange for a partial two-month settlement freeze, Israel is offered US endorsement of all of its “security needs” – as defined, of course, by Israel.
Included within this are assurances aimed at stopping the infiltration of weapons into Palestinian territories and the positioning of Israeli troops in the Jordan Valley – all of which is consistent with the Israeli vision of a demilitarised Palestinian state. The letter effectively offers to consolidate the integration of Israeli security interests into US national strategy and pledges to engage Arab parties and Israel in discussions on a “regional security architecture”; a convoluted euphemism for an arrangement to address Israel’s need to confront Iran.
Furthermore, the letter promises that after the initial 60-day extension of the freeze, the US would not ask Israel for another – leaving the status of the settlements to be decided only as part of final status negotiations.
The terms are such that they would only serve Israel’s strategic goals and further strengthen the Israeli hand at already asymmetrical negotiations.
Under such conditions, the construction of colonies would continue unabated as soon as the extended freeze expired, leaving Palestinians unable even to raise the issue of Israel’s ongoing land grab. The letter offers Israel what it wants, while effectively setting the stage for the legitimisation of settlement building and the fulfillment of Israeli plans to annex the major settlements as part of a final deal.
Once again, the U.S. is acting “as Israel’s attorney, catering and coordinating with the Israelis at the expense of successful peace negotiations.”