US Special Envoy for the Middle East George Mitchell is back in Israel for the second time in three weeks, for another round of talks aimed it bringing about a resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which has been frozen since Likud Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu came to office in March.
One has to wonder why he bothers – there is no prospect of achieving anything:
- The United States has already comprehensively surrendered to Benyamin Netanyahu on the fundamental issue of the settlement freeze (see Game, set and match to Mr Netanyahu). The best Mr Netanyahu is prepared to offer is a nine month moratorium on the commencement of new construction, provided he can complete all construction that is already under way. And by the way, it is open slather in occupied East Jerusalem because in Mr Netanyahu’s view Jerusalem is indivisible and belongs in its entirety to Israel, so what the Palestinians (or the wider international community) might think of that doesn’t count.
- The reduction of the US to hand-wringing on this threshold issue has left its chosen Palestinian spokesman Mahmoud Abbas (the Palestinians chose Hamas in the 2006 election but the apostles of democracy for everyone refuse to deal with them) to a dead man walking. It is abundantly clear that he can deliver nothing to the Palestinian people, except more decades of talks about talks.
- Just to make sure there is no life left in the political corpse of Mahmoud Abbas, at last week’s meeting in Geneva of the UN Human Rights Council, the Israelis and the Americans forced the Palestinians to agree to a six month delay on any consideration of the Goldstone Report into Israel’s military actions in Gaza.
So we have a continuation of the self-defeating pattern of the last sixty years: the Palestinians are pressed to make a concession, the Israelis yield nothing, the Palestinians are humiliated, and the Israelis inch their way to their ultimate goal of Eretz Israel.
Poor George is under pressure to make progress on agreement to get the peace talks started again, ahead of a progress report that Secretary of State Clinton is to make to President Obama in mid-October. Best of luck.
The cause of Middle East peace is going nowhere until the United States is prepared both to impose its will on Israel and to deal face to face with Hamas, the only game in town. But then, if you read the codes carefully, no-one is really talking about Middle East peace, they are talking about the Middle East peace process, that fig-leaf with which we all seek to cover our policy nakedness on bringing about a permanent settlement.