Arab News (Editorial)
December 30, 2009 - 1:00am§ion=0&article=130400&d=30&m=12&y=2009

So Israel is to build a further 692 new houses in East Jerusalem, over and above the developments that Premier Benjamin Netanyahu insisted were simply “in-filling” and not brand new constructions as such. Given that a complete halt to all new settlement activity is the key condition for the resumption of Palestinian peace talks, the Israelis know perfectly well that even the plans for this new construction constitute a mighty barrier thrown across the path of any negotiated settlement.

At a stroke the right-wing Likud government is sabotaging peace talks that it does not in reality want while at the same time boosting its physical position in East Jerusalem which, to Israel’s own satisfaction but nobody else’s, it annexed after the June 1967 war. There are already 180,000 Jewish inhabitants living illegally in East Jerusalem on top of some 300,000 illegal settlers who have planted themselves on Arab lands in the West Bank. This figure is likely to increase by 10,000 when 3,000 more houses are completed in a construction program which Netanyahu claims to have slowed down, under pressure from Washington but which is nevertheless going ahead despite international protests.

Such contempt for world opinion is nothing new. Israeli arrogance remains breathtaking. There is, however method, in it. Until President Barack Obama, the Israelis had always been able to count upon US support. Since the Republican presidency of Ronald Reagan, the powerful US Zionist lobby which had traditionally been Democratic supporters moved right, where they were joined by fundamentalist Bible belt Christians, whose facile world view included the belief that scriptural prophesies were being fulfilled by a revanchist and aggressive Israeli state. Though his lack of protest at the murderous Israeli bombardment of the Gaza ghetto which began a year ago this week, was shameful, Obama quickly made it clear he was looking for an even-handed Palestinian settlement. Despite his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s going off message last month during her Mideast tour and trotting out the same US blanket support for Israel, his administration still appears committed to brokering a deal based on compromises from both sides.

By resolutely refusing to compromise, Netanyahu is challenging the White House to do its worst. Obama’s principal weapons are US financial, military and intelligence aid and the constant cover that US diplomacy flies over Israel, not least to protect its illegal nuclear weapons program. If the president had the political courage to move on any of these, he would stir up a hornet’s nest of domestic protest. The resulting stings could impact every part of his administration’s agenda and, given Mossad’s known utter ruthlessness, even Obama’s own safety.

If his desire for a just peace is genuine, then the president should know that peace is the last thing that any Israeli government has ever really wanted. Israel was born in conflict and, for over 60 years has flourished in conflict, feeding on its bogus reputation as a plucky little state surrounded by remorseless Arab neighbors, when in truth it has been the oppressor. Israel simply fears it cannot survive peace.


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