Some say it was bad timing or that one half of the Israeli government didn’t know what the other half was doing. In effect, however, the American government had its bluff called by a regime that has no intention of agreeing a deal with the Palestinians. Not now. Not ever.
Waiting until US vice-president Joe Biden was actually in Israel on a mission to restart stalled peace talks before announcing provocatively that 1,600 new homes would be built in East Jerusalem, was a calculated insult to the country’s main benefactor. America gives Israel more than $3 billion a year as well as the latest, cutting-edge military hardware.
Did Biden or President Obama respond by suspending aid? No way. With mid-term elections coming up and Obama’s popularity in free fall, the White House put the Israel lobby first and instead accepted humiliation at the hands of the Netanyahu government.
Palestinian leaders who had hoped that Obama’s election would bring change were equally humiliated. What now? Will the Palestinian Authority under the discredited Mahmoud Abbas unilaterally declare a independent state now that the prospects of negotiations with the Israelis are dim to non-existent?
Will the PA support the new Intifada or popular uprising that is beginning throughout the West Bank as ordinary people march on a weekly basis against the Jewish settlements and the wall that Israel has built to enforce its policy of apartheid? The protests are in fact so far receiving more help from Israeli activists than Palestinian officials.
For example, almost 130 supporters of Anarchists Against the Wall have been arrested inside the West Bank on joint protests with Palestinians. AATW say: “We believe that it is possible to do more than demonstrate inside Israel or participate in humanitarian relief actions. Israeli apartheid and occupation isn't going to end by itself - it will end when it becomes ungovernable and unmanageable. It is time to physically oppose the bulldozers, the army and the occupation.”
Other Israeli groups, notably Woman Against the Occupation and for Human Rights
and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions also oppose Israeli policies. But they are lone voices in a country where official Zionist propaganda paints Palestinians as natural enemies of Jews and treats those living in Israeli as second-class citizens in a distinct form of apartheid.
A two-state settlement is more and more a practical impossibility, even if the Israelis were ever prepared to negotiate. Nearly 300,000 settlers live in the West Bank, in addition to 180,000 Israelis residing in Jewish neighbourhoods built in east Jerusalem. The West Bank is criss-crossed by Israeli roads and checkpoints. The settlers would rather die than leave.
Gaza, home to another 1.5 million Palestinians, is under siege, its population living in horrific conditions as a result of sanctions imposed by the European Union and enforced by the Israeli and Egyptian authorities. Of course, it has no geographic connection to the West Bank. A single state for Jews and Palestinians is therefore a more progressive and even practical solution. It would have to be established on a secular basis to succeed and the collapse of “peace talks” gives added impetus to the policy.
Meanwhile, there is something practical we can all do. The global boycott, disinvestment and sanctions movement has called a second day of action on March 30 in the campaign against Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. The success of the first BDS action sent the Israeli government into a spin. That’s a good enough reason to back this year’s.