Every time one thinks that the rabbit hole of U.S.-Israel relations has reached its nadir, something comes along to dig it even deeper. This past week’s election in Israel is the latest ‘something.’ In the weeks leading up to the elections, Prime Minister Netanyahu evidently feared that his mandate for a fourth term was in trouble, and he resorted to extraordinary expedients. First, he flew to the United States to give an impassioned speech to a cheering U.S Congress in the attempt to torpedo in advance the Obama Administration’s current attempts to reach a nuclear agreement with Iran, and to raise the specter of a new war. Still not satisfied, and fearing the desertion of his right-wing supporters, Bibi began to make desperate fear-mongering statements about the Palestinian threat: on the day before the election, he said openly what he had hinted at before, that there would never be a Palestinian state so long as he remained in office. Then he raised the fear level even higher, insisting that Israeli Arabs (who are citizens of Israel) were coming out to “vote in droves,” and indeed being bused to the polls by left-wing organizations intent on destroying the Israeli state.
Each of these statements elicited a storm of criticism, both from President Obama’s White House, and from many European leaders, several of whom indicated that if Israel under Netanyahu was foreclosing the possibility of a Palestinian state—the core of U.S. policy for resolving the “conflict” between Israel and the Palestinians for decades—then the United States (and Europe) might have to rethink their policy of defending Israel, especially with vetoes in the United Nations. Nonetheless, Bibi plunged gaily onward, and when the election results were counted on Wednesday, he emerged triumphant once again. His fear-mongering and war posturing had apparently worked just as planned. The Israeli people, or enough of them to give him the victory, responded to the ‘security crisis’ he had evoked, and backed to the hilt both his racist remarks about Palestinian voters and his open repudiation of any idea of Palestinian statehood.
But of course, that wasn’t the end of it. For Bibi Netanyahu is nothing if not a pandering, pusillanimous, prevaricating politician. Reading the alarm in both Israeli and foreign councils about what his remarks predicted, he knew he had to “walk back” what he had said so openly. And the walking back began almost as soon as he made his victory statements. He wasn’t going back on his commitment to Palestinian statehood, he insisted. He had merely said that conditions for that statehood, at present, were “not achievable.” As he said to ABC News, “I was talking about what is achievable and what is not achievable. We have to have real negotiations with people who are committed to peace.” Ah yes. Bibi wasn’t saying anything new (which he was, and only a craven press would let him get away with such open, outrageous lying): he was just re-emphasizing what he, and Israeli politicians, have always said: we need a partner for peace. We need someone we can rely on to uphold a peace agreement. And that someone would, naturally, be some brave quisling willing to ‘recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.’
Ali Abunimah in his most recent book, The Battle for Justice in Palestine, has some crucial things to say about this last idea: Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. This is because, Abunimah points out, this alleged “right” is really an insistence that Palestinians must not only give up their right to self-determination (a right that they, as the indigenous inhabitants of Palestine, have greater claim to than the Israelis who are not indigenous, but rather immigrants from Europe, and indeed, colonizers of the land once belonging exclusively to Palestinians), but also their right to continue as a people at all. Here is how Abunimah somewhat ironically puts it:
“Palestinian parents are trampling all over Israel’s right to maintain a Jewish majority by having children,” and their babies, by virtue of not being born to Jewish parents, are violating Israel’s right merely by living and breathing. Israelis themselves see the births of non-Jewish babies—whether to Palestinian citizens of the state or in the occupied territories—as an assault on their rights and on the very existence of Israel. The routine use by politicians and media of the term “demographic threat” to describe these babies attests to this phenomenon (p. 23).
So if the Palestinians, to have any chance of a ‘peace process’ leading to a state, are to give up their right to continue (reproduce) as a people, then who would inhabit such a state? If they are to agree to Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, which, according to writer Joseph Massad, translates into Israel’s right “to colonize Palestinian land, occupy it, and discriminate against the non-Jewish Palestinian people,” then what kind of state, what kind of self-determination can that possibly lead to? The answer, of course, is: none at all. And that is precisely what Israel’s real policy has been for years, and what Bibi Netanyahu, in his desperation before last week’s election, actually let slip from the shadows.
This position—official Israel’s longstanding and usually covertly-expressed opposition to ever granting the Palestinians a state of their own—has been analyzed and understood for years by most informed commentators on the so-called ‘peace process’ that U.S. negotiators have long promoted. I wrote about this recently in a blog called ‘Fake Process, Fake Peace’ (July 29, 2013), reviewing Prof. Rashid Khalidi’s brilliant analysis of the “peace brokering” done by several American administrations in his book, Brokers of Deceit. Some of what that blog included was the fact that, even in the most-heralded ‘success’ in the American effort, that of the 1978 Camp David Accords, the chief aim of Israeli leaders has always been to prevent the formation of a Palestinian state. In fact, even acknowledging that there is a Palestinian people was written out of the Camp David agreements; for in a January 22, 1978 side letter to Menachem Begin five days after the Accords were signed, President Carter agreed that,
wherever the expressions “Palestinians” or “Palestinian people” occurred in the text, they “are being and will be construed and understood by you as ‘Palestinian Arabs.’” This was a term of art among those Israelis who denied that the Palestinians were a people. (6)
The seriousness of this denial was reinforced in a 1982 CIA memo (when Reagan was president) cited by Khalidi, which again refers to Prime Minister Menachem Begin:
“Begin asserts that the C[amp] D[avid] A[ccords] rule out the emergence of a Palestinian state. In Begin’s view, the agreements ‘guarantee that under no condition’ can a Palestinian state be created. In practice Begin effectively rules out any exercise of Palestinian self-determination except one that continues Israel’s preeminent position in the West Bank.” (19)
Most importantly, Khalidi made clear that this was the position of not only Prime Minister Menachem Begin, but “the enduring position of every Israeli government since.” So while there has been an almost endless procession of American “negotiators” diligently striving to forge a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine resulting in a secure state for each, this has all been a ruse—a way to drag out so-called peace talks endlessly, endlessly giving Palestinians and the world the illusion that a Palestinian state was right around the corner (as soon as knotty little problems like “facts on the ground” could be ironed out, or a “real partner for peace” somehow found).
Now it can be seen how Bibi Netanyahu fits perfectly into this long and sordid sleight-of-hand. His real policy—which his fear of defeat forced him to let slip on the eve of the election—has always been the received standard policy of all Israeli politicians and the Israeli people in general. There can never be a Palestinian state, period. To the Zionist project, an independent Palestinian state sitting right next to Israel would constitute an ‘existential threat.’ The fact of Palestinians themselves, whether or not they inhabit a state, is considered an ‘existential’ threat—because ‘these people,’ these Arabs in ‘droves,’ keep having these babies which ‘violate Israel’s right to exist merely by living and breathing.’ Somehow, and this is what successive Israeli governments keep trying to buy time for with their lip-service to the ‘peace process,’ Palestinians must be forced to understand that their ‘right to exist’ does not rise to the same exalted level as the Jewish state’s ‘right to exist.’ Indeed, it does not rise to any level at all. It is, so long as the United States of America keeps supporting the rigged game called the ‘peace process,’ literally ‘nonexistent.’
If all this were not clear before the past week’s Bibi Show, it certainly should be blindingly, revoltingly clear now.