The Obama administration’s failure to bribe Israel’s right-wing government into accepting a three-month settlement “freeze” should have ended talk about the “peace process,” but Obama’s Middle East team is still crawling towards a two-state solution with little light at the end of the tunnel. State Department cables released by WikiLeaks will dim the lights further. The cables show that Israeli officials’ stated vision of a Palestinian state is one that is feeble and toothless–a vision that could snuff out any remaining hope of a viable Palestinian state.
During an April 2007 meeting with Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-NY), an ardent supporter of Israel, then-opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu said that “a return to the 1967 borders and dividing Jerusalem was not a solution since further withdrawals would only whet the appetite of radical Islam.” Netanyahu also referred to the Palestinian right of return as an “acid test,” saying that “the Palestinians must drop the right of return and accept Israel’s right to exist,” and that “not one refugee could ever return.”
Another cable, which describes a meeting Netanyahu held with a U.S. Congressional delegation two weeks after the 2009 Israeli elections, shows Netanyahu repeating his vision of a Palestinian bantustan. According to the cable, Netanyahu’s vision of a Palestinian state is one where Palestinian sovereignty is “refined,” meaning “without an army or control over air space and borders.”
Once he assumed the office of prime minister, Netanyahu’s conception of a Palestinian state stayed the same. A cable describing an April 2009 meeting with another Congressional delegation notes that Netanyahu said that “a Palestinian state must be demilitarized, without control over its air space and electro-magnetic field, and without the power to enter into treaties or control its borders.”
The image of a sovereign-less, still-occupied state for the Palestinians isn’t just confined to the leader of the right-wing Likud party; the leader of Kadima, which is routinely described as a “centrist” party, also shares that image. In a January 2007 document meant to prepare Condoleeza Rice for an upcoming trip to Israel, the author references a Ha’aretz interview where Livni said her vision of “an interim agreement with the Palestinians” was one in which the illegal “separation barrier would serve as the border.”
The negotiations brokered by the Obama administration have not changed Israeli leaders’ insistence on creating a sliced-up Palestinian entity that lacks any real power. Newsweek, relying on “a Palestinian official involved in the talks and an Israeli source familiar with the details,” lately reported on the September 2010 round of negotiations:
Netanyahu told the Palestinians they had to accept Israel’s “security concept” before he would discuss other issues, including borders. The concept involved keeping Israeli troops stationed along territory on the Palestinian side of the barrier Israel has built in the West Bank to protect what Israel calls its “narrow waistline.” That strip would be several kilometers wide at some points, says the Palestinian negotiator, and run along much of the seam line. Also, to protect itself against the possible rise of a hostile Islamic state in Jordan, say both sources, Netanyahu insisted Israeli troops would remain posted in the Jordan Valley for years. Though Netanyahu didn’t present maps, Abbas and his negotiators calculated that Palestinians would be left with just 60 percent of the West Bank.
This conception of a Palestine that lacks some of the core attributes a nation-state possesses–the ability to defend themselves with a military, and control over their air space and borders–is wholly inconsistent with international law and the United States’ past statements.
But there George Mitchell is, still talking to both Israeli and Palestinian officials and trying to jump start the moribund “peace process” once again. And for what?
As the WikiLeaks cables reveal, not much of anything.