In Jerusalem at the start of his current visit to Israel, Obama went over-the-top with superlatives in a speech that employed high flown rhetoric and symbolism. He painted the US/Israel relationship in transcendent terms - "eternal" no less. In a later speech, adopting a more pragmatic approach, the president characterized Israeli settlements as "counterproductive" without directly calling for a halt to new settlements as he did in 2009. Much of the world condemns Israeli settlements as illegal - not merely an impediment to peace.
Obama's artful diplomacy - praising Israel it to the skies on the one hand while mildly chastising it in the name of the illusive "peace process" on the other - is nothing new. It's an old game. The view of the US as "honest broker" in the process is a popular fiction in some quarters but not borne out by the current political reality or the history of past negotiations.
In his new book Brokers of Deceit, historian Rashid Khalidi argues that the US has in fact thwarted a genuine peace process going back as far as the Camp David negotiations in the 1970's.
The pronounced Israel bias in US policy is difficult to overlook. US diplomats have been shilling for Israel for decades. Khalidi does an excellent job providing the historical background to demonstrate how Israel and the US have - in the words of the Amazon description - "actively colluded to prevent a Palestinian state and resolve the situation in Israel’s favor."
In commenting on Khalidi's new work, John J. Mearsheimer, co-author of The Israel Lobby, gets it exactly right:
What has happened to the Palestinian people since 1948 is one of the great crimes of modern history. Of course, Israel bears primary responsibility for this tragedy. However, as Rashid Khalidi shows in his smart new book, American presidents from Truman to Obama have sided with Israel at almost every turn and helped it inflict immense pain and humiliation on the Palestinians. At the same time, they have employed high-sounding but dishonest rhetoric to cover up Israel's brutal behavior. As Brokers of Deceit makes clear, the United States richly deserves to be called "Israel's lawyer.
The so-called "peace process" is a sham. In an interview that appeared in the Global Post, Khalidi gives his opinion of a process that has failed to produce:
In the decades since the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991, and in the years leading up to and after the Oslo Accords – which are the basis of the Palestinian Authority and the arrangements that exist – the situation has gone from bad to much, much worse.
The number of settlers in occupied territory has nearly tripled, and the restriction on Palestinian movements has become intolerably constrictive – Palestinians can’t move anywhere. Jerusalem has since been closed off to them. Palestinians can’t move from the West Bank to Gaza, they cannot enter Israel.
All of this has happened on the watch of several American presidents, and under the rubric of a peace process. What I argue is that we certainly have a process, but it has not only not produced peace, but it has made peace measurably harder to achieve.
When asked about the settlements and the feasibility of dismantling them to make way for a new arrangement, Khalidi's response included the following:
If you’re talking about a two-state solution, the Palestinians were granted a little under 45 percent of the territory in Palestine by the partition resolution of 1947. After the dust had settled in 1949, Israel controlled well over 70 percent of the territory. And if what remains is the 22-odd percent, which is the West Bank and Gaza – which Israel is now proposing to take large chunks of for these so-called settlement blocks, and the annexation of East Jerusalem and so on and so forth – well, that’s not a two-state solution.
For more on Rashid Khalidi's views check out the DemocracyNow interview beneath: