Hassan Haidar
Dar Al-Hayat (Opinion)
December 10, 2010 - 1:00am

Shifts in US foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, prove that it is the making of amateurs, who do not hesitate to back down every time they are confronted with a problem, and who do not refrain from 180 degrees turnarounds every time difficulties appear before the ideas they have put forward to resolve any issue or crisis. Such frivolity was revealed by the WikiLeaks documents, which showed that most US diplomats all over the world were like eavesdropping workers who report what they hear here and there superficially and without any analysis, mixing up rumors and facts.

Yet worse than all of this is the fact that the US continues to behave as if were the world’s sole superpower, the requests of which cannot be turned down and the opinion of which cannot be opposed, making use perhaps of the weakness of those engaging in dialogue with it, with the exception of Israel, and of the lack of international alternatives, given that the Europeans are busy with their own internal crises, as well as the economic and financial one dropped on them by the US, and suffice themselves with taking verbal stances and expressing regret, and given Russia and China’s role being limited to a few skirmishes, essentially aimed at improving conditions of partnership with the US, not at competing against it.

Not departing from such frivolity in stances was Washington’s announcement yesterday that it was abandoning its efforts to convince Israel to temporarily freeze settlement-building in the occupied West Bank, in preparation for resuming direct negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, and that it seeks instead to focus on the “core issues” of the conflict (!) in a meeting that will be held next week in Washington between negotiators from both sides, considering the matter to be “not a change in strategy, [but] a change in tactics”.

Yet it is clear that the announcement, which represents the climax of the series of stances in which the US has backed down in the face of Israeli obstinacy, includes strategic mistakes, not just tactical ones as it claims: indeed, how can one consider settlement-building to fall outside the scope of “core issues”, while it has since the establishment of Israel represented the very substance of the occupation, the repercussions of which any negotiations are supposed to resolve? And how can one ask the Palestinians to negotiate over borders and security while settlements continue to expand, breaching those supposed borders and requiring Israeli security supervision over all Palestinian territories, as Israel demands?

And if the United States is unable to obtain even such a simple, formal and temporary “concession” from the Netanyahu government, how can it ask the Palestinians to trust in its ability to achieve a solution, even one that provides only the minimum of rights and of meeting rightful demands? And how can it after this speak of asking Arab countries to support its efforts, while the ink on statements stressing the condition of stopping settlement-building has not yet dried?

Furthermore, does accepting Israeli pretexts in an utterly symbolic issue, like temporarily freezing settlement-building, not mean that the US sponsor is willing to adopt Israel’s stance completely in core issues such as the borders of the Palestinian state, its security and even its foreign policy, not to mention Jerusalem and the rights of refugees? Does it not mean that if the Palestinians agree to head to Washington to resume negotiations, they will be facing not one, but two negotiators, and that pressures will be exerted on them alone?

It has perhaps become necessary for the Palestinian Authority to in turn inform Washington that it has offered as much as it could in terms of concessions for the sake of achieving peace, that it no longer has the ability to convince its people that the negotiations deserve all this self-denial, that it could no longer shield itself with the Arab Peace Initiative if it were to abandon the basics, and that the Israelis and the Americans must bear responsibility for the consequences of the watering down and procrastination? And there is no harm in President Abbas refusing to send his delegation to Washington next week. Indeed, he has nothing left to lose.


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