Arab News (Editorial)
December 10, 2010 - 1:00am

Washington’s decision that it will no longer attempt to persuade the Israelis to impose a new moratorium on settlement construction in order to restart peace negotiations is an abject and shocking admission of failure. Everyone knew that that the Americans had serious difficulties trying to persuade the Israelis to concede on this vital issue. But there was wide belief that an ingenious diplomatic formula could be devised to enable talks to go ahead. No one imagined that President Barack Obama would simply capitulate to the Israelis. That is what has happened. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to concede on the matter and, rather than try to use the financial and political force the US has to make him change his mind, Obama has thrown in the towel. Never in the history of US-Israeli relations has a US president been so feeble or so pliant.

The Middle East is now propelled into the unknown. Dialogue is impossible. There can be no talks while the Israelis continue to steal land that should be part of a Palestinian state. No settlement ban, no talks. That Obama thinks otherwise, that he believes the talks can be revived by abandoning the demand for a settlement moratorium, shows how divorced from reality he has become.

It is a dangerous unknown. At the very least, it is going to spread anger and disillusionment among Palestinians, and Arabs. That will play directly into the hands of all the various militants wedded to violence. Here is meat for them. How ironic that the US which opposes them so volubly also by its actions nourishes them as effectively as if it funded and armed them.

Short of the threat of renewed conflict, there is only one alternative left to persuade the Israelis to change their minds over settlements. The rest of the world must follow the lead of Brazil and Argentina and recognize Palestine as a sovereign state. It will have a powerful effect. It will show the Palestinians that they are not ignored, that the rest of the world stands alongside them. That will go some way to quell the anger that they feel at the moment and may help stem the support for militancy.

It will also tell the Israelis that the world demands they come to just terms with the Palestinians. That will be a powerful message for them. International recognition of Palestinian sovereignty is something that Netanyahu has worked ceaselessly to prevent, witnessed by his government’s furious response to the Brazilian and Argentinean recognition of Palestine.

The US response was also critical. It can no longer justify that position. The time has come for the Arab states, through the Arab League that meets in the next couple of days to respond to the American announcement, to formally tell the US that its Middle East policy is a failure. It should also tell it that since it is not prepared to help find a just and workable solution, it has forfeited any right to hinder attempts by others to do so. Washington will not like it, but it has abandoned all semblances of integrity and responsibility in the matter.


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