I have sent Kathleen Christison’s excellent analysis with the attachment, but have also pasted below for lists and individuals that do not accept attachments–

This is far less satisfactory than reading the whole in Counterpunch.  I was not successful in finding a link, nor the entire article on the internet, but I would suspect that eventually it will get there.  Meanwhile, even if you have no more than what I’ve managed to get below (which is almost all of it), it is worth reading. 

My only comment is that I am more skeptical of Obama’s intentions than is Kathleen Christison.  I wonder what the Middle East would look like either without Israel or with a ‘peace’ agreement.  Would that situation not turn the eyes of Arab populations on their leaders and the fact that among them are puppets of the American administrations?  Would that not likely bring changes as occurred in Iran when the Shah was kicked out?  Who then would control the oil reserves?



Magical Thinking and the Suspension of Disbelief

The “Peace Process” Hits New Lowin Grim Absurdity

By Kathleen Christison 

latest attempt to restart the socalled peace process between Palestinians and Israel

has been something to behold – another breathtaking example of Washington’s

penchant for policymaking by wishful thinking. As with cargo cults, commentators

and administration officials are peddling a positively magical version of optimism:

 if you build it, they will come. Former Clinton-era policymaker Martin Indyk,

in a Pollyannaish op-ed in the the talks  began at the start of September, actually

called for a suspension of disbelief to allow U.S. diplomacy the time to put Palestinians

and Israelis to the test. The tests he would have them meet, both apparently quite simple

in his mind: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas should concede the right of return, the

Palestinians’ most fundamental demand going to the root cause of the conflict, and Israeli

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should agree to withdraw from 95 per cent of the

West Bank and allow a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem. Dream on, Martin. Continue

to comfort yourself with the blithe assumption, against all evidence, that either Palestinians

or Israelis will so easily give up their most basic red lines.

Indyk might actually not be far wrong in believing that Abbas is prepared to concede

the Palestinians’ right of return or is ready at least to water down the demand– enough

to render it meaningless– as far as any actual redress is concerned for Palestinians who

were dispossessed in 1948 to make way for a Jewish state. But any assumption that a peace

agreement based on such a concession would be acceptable to most Palestinians is a fantasy.

Most of Abbas’ constituents and the millions of refugees languishing in camps around the

Arab world would regard any casual concession of this most fundamental demand as a

grave and ultimately deal-breaking injustice. Abbas is already very unpopular among

Palestinians and is roundly and quite openly criticized for holding power illegally,

for cooperating too closely with Israel, and for an overeagerness to accommodate

U.S. demands. He would not be able to convince Palestinians that they had not

been betrayed were he to accept a peace agreement that ceded the right of return.

Indyk is also living in fantasy if he believes the Jewish state, and particularly its

most stridently right-wing government, is ready to relinquish its dream of Greater

Israel and, indeed, wants any kind of peaceful, land-sharing arrangement with

its non-Jewish subjects and neighbors.

The a few days later. “If Mr. Abbas is engaging in serious direct talks,” said the

“Mr. Netanyahu should have no excuse to resume [settlement] building.” As simple

as that. As if Netanyahu has ever needed an excuse to continue settlement construction.

It shouldn’t have to be pointed out that Abbas and his predecessor have been engaging

in serious talks, direct and indirect, for years, since the Oslo process began 17 years ago,

and this has notonly failed to induce Israel to stop settlement expansion but, in fact,

served as the cover for a massive increase in construction, leading to a doubling of

settlers andsettlements in the 1990s, precisely during the years of most intense negotiations.

The unreality surrounding theNew York Times a few days beforeTimes issued its

own magical editorialTimes,. . . his optimistic tack, he went on to describe the

bustle of life in Palestinian cities and the rise in economic growth, citing an IMF

report that growth in the first quarter of 2010 was 11 per cent higher than the

same period last year. There is, indeed, considerable bustle and lots of goods in

markets in Ramallah and some other Palestinian cities; new buildings, including

shopping malls and hotels, are being built, and movie theaters are opening.

But this is showcase economics, the kind of surface prosperity that looks good to

the outside world but does nothing to help the average Palestinian and, as Ramallah

businessman Sam Bahour has pointed out in numerous articles, does not equate to

the kind of economic development that could lead toward statehood.

Increased growth, even markedly increased growth, after years of zero growth, does

not make a thriving economy; apparent prosperity in the cities does not spell economic

 development or the economic basis for state-building. All key aspects of a real economy,

Bahour points out, “are squarely in the hands of Israel.”

Israel alone controls access to water, access to electricity, movement throughout the

West Bank, all borders, all airspace, and the electromagnetic spectrum. A World Bank

report from early this year, cited by Bahour, noted that the apparatus of occupation is

so extensive that it controls every aspect of Palestinian life, including job opportunities

and even the ability to get to work. Despite the much-ballyhooed shutdown of some

checkpoints, Israel still imposes a permit system that restricts movement, thus

limiting access to employment and com-The suspension of disbelief required to imagine

Netanyahu and his ultrarightwing government ever relinquishing any of the West Bank,

let alone 95 per cent of it, is considerable. Already the so-called settlement blocs that all

Israeli governments have insisted on keeping under Israeli control, and whose retention

most recent U.S. administrations have endorsed, make up a much greater land area than

the five per cent to be retained under Indyk’s 95 per cent solution.

Those areas of the West Bank that lie on the Israeli side of the Separation Wall constitute

10 per cent of the territory’s total land area, and this does not include other lands whose

relinquishment is hard to imagine: the large numbers of settlements outside the settlement

blocs, an extensive road network connecting the settlements to one another and to Israel

proper, and the Jordan Valley, which borders Jordan along the entire eastern portion

of the West Bank. Israel has always regarded this area, constituting fully onequarter

of the West Bank, as of critical security importance, and currently designates almost

all of it as a closed military zone.

Elsewhere in the adventure into wonderland prominently placed on the front page,

 Ethan Bronner hailed supposed signs that the “crude outlines of a Palestinian state

are emerging in the West Bank.” The notion has been spreading rapidly among wishful

thinkers the last few years, including the “Mideast Quartet” special envoy Tony Blair,

that the Palestinian economy is thriving, security (meaning for Israelis) is much improved,

and life in the West Bank is great. This is all, we are told, because of a combination of

Israeli “good will” – the numbers of checkpoints have been reduced and, instead of an in your

face presence of Israeli soldiers throughout the territory, Israeli troops now conduct “only”

four or five raids every night into Palestinian villages – as well as a vast infusion

of money from the U.S.A. and the international community, plus instruction from

a U.S. general who is teaching the Palestinians to be Israel’s security agents.

Bronner himself did acknowledge offhandedly that, “of course,” the West Bank

remains occupied by Israel and “true ordinary life” is impossible for Palestinians,

as if these fundamental realities are of minimal importance. But, returning to

merce. Huge terminals resembling international border crossing points (at which

the border guards are the same on both sides) impede movement, and even those

able to get hard-to-obtain permits to pass through are closely monitored through

such devices as biometric handprints.

These permits and barriers, the World Bank report concluded, have “turned the

West Bank into a fragmented set of social and economic islands or enclaves cut off

from one another.”

The occupation and its effects on Palestinians, on the Palestinian economy

and, perhaps most significantly, on the Palestinians’ ability to exercise any kind

of leverage in negotiations with their Israeli occupiers and their occupiers’

U.S. patron have been all but forgotten by those who claim to expect anything

out of current talks. Even the Palestinian leadership downplays the significance

and impact of the occupation, effectively playing along with the U.S.-Israeli pretense

that it is on the wane and is of minimal importance. A Los Angeles rabbi,

writing recently in the Times, in anotherLos Angeles Times

after a meeting with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, crowed that

3 sepT. 16-30, 2010

leadership remains firm about insisting on fundamental Palestinian rights

and the negotiations fail as a result, the failure will be blamed on Palestinian refusal

to accommodate Israel’s demands. Or, if the leadership caves in and reaches

agreement on the only kind of Palestinian state that Israel might be likely to allow –

a truncated, disconnected state lacking any viability or sovereignty – the inevitable

grassroots Palestinian opposition to an agreement such as this, built on total

surrender, will be regarded by Israel and the U.S. as evidence that Palestinians are,

after all, intransigent and desirous only of “villainizing” and destroying Israel.

No matter how much good will is invested in the effort, ignoring so many

of the grim realities of this conflict – as negotiations enthusiasts from Barack

Obama and George Mitchell to the new lobby group J Street do – will result at

best in a sham peace that is unjust and unstable. J Street, it should be remembered

– which has put itself forward as a moderate alternative to the main pro-

Israel lobby organization AIPAC – is in business only to promote Israel’s interests.

Its slogan – “pro-Israel, pro-peace” – specifically ignores the Palestinians.

Although J Street pays lip service to the need for Palestinian independence, its

principal objective is to preserve Israel’s existence as a Jewish state. As a result,

it rejects in advance of negotiations the Palestinian right of return and a complete

Israeli withdrawal from settlement blocs covering roughly 10 per cent of the West

Bank; it rejects any notion of withholding aid from Israel; and it has condemned

human rights reports detailing Israeli war crimes and human rights violations,

such as the Goldstone report. Therefore, it is hard to see a difference between this

approach and that of the Obama administration.

The deck in these negotiations is clear- Fayyad used the word “occupation” only

4 sept. 16-30, 2010

right to keep some substantial portion of the remaining 22 per cent, where the

Palestinian state would supposedly lie; give Israel the right to blockade and isolate

Gaza, whose population constitutes about one-quarter of those Palestinians

residing in historic Palestine; and, ultimately, give Israel rights over Palestine’s

borders, roads, airspace, and sovereignty. Israel is asked to give nothing except to

return what it does not legally possess.

It is only necessary to look carefully at the obvious, at what should be the

very evident realities of the situation, to see how farcical it is to expect that there

is any possibility the Palestinians will emerge from negotiations with any kind

of just peace solution, any kind of justice.

But the peacemakers in Washington have no concern for these realities. The

danger, in fact, is that Abbas and the Palestinian Authority will be pressured

into showing no concern for what they are conceding, that they will be pressured

into giving up the right of return, giving up on the demand for an Israeli settlement

freeze, surrendering Palestinian dignity and sovereignty to the shell of the

kind of “state” outlined by Ethan Bronner and envisioned by the J Street dreamers

– as Abbas and the PA have already been pressured into giving up many principled


* * *

The question must be asked why Obama is taking the risk of starting this

negotiation when there is so much working against it. The easiest answer is that

he wants to be seen to be doing something, particularly after his promises of

the last year and a half, in advance of the election in November. The timing is good

from his perspective because, while there is no possibility of success before the

election, there is also no possibility of a It is also very possible that Obama and

his aides do not understand the full extent of Israel’s control throughout the

West Bank and East Jerusalem. The occupation is relentless.

its level of control over the Palestinians – not relinquish it entirely, as international

law demands. At the same time, not Palestinians’ dispossession in 1948 and

recognizing Israel as a Jewish state accords legitimacy to Israel’s expulsion of

the Palestinians and ends any Palestinian claims for return or compensation.

Those who speak optimistically about this round of negotiations, those who

now have an investment of reputation in the two-state solution and the nice fantasy

of Israel and Palestine “living side by side in peace” – including, first and foremost,

the Obama administration itself, as well as groups like J Street and longtime

peace processors like Martin Indyk – speak as though Israelis and Palestinians

will sit down together as equals. But just as the pretense that the Palestinian economy

is thriving is showcase economics, a negotiation that ignores the power imbalance

between the parties – and, as a result, essentially ignores the main issues

and the root of the conflict – is showcase peacemaking. There is no equity in talks

that demand that an occupied people sit down to negotiate their fate with their

powerful occupier, particularly when the supposed mediator partners with the latter.

When one party has all the military power, controls all the territory, and controls

all the people, true negotiation is impossible.

The reality, in which Israel continues to absorb more and more land while the

Palestinians are powerless to stop this, even as the two sides supposedly discuss

how to divide the land, further highlights the power disparity. Palestinians frequently

draw an analogy with a situation in which two people are trying to divide

a pizza while one of them is devouring it.

The attempt to put forward the impression that this is a negotiation between

equals, that the conflict is a balanced one between equally powerful

parties, and that each side has more or less equal grievances is part of the enormous

fiction surrounding the renewed talks. The gross inequity in this sanctimonious

effort to “bring Israelis and Palestinians together” is that Palestinians

are the ones who have to give up everything throughout the process: to give

recognition of Israel’s right to be a Jewish state; give recognition of Israel’s right to

keep the 78 per cent of Palestine that is the Israeli state; give acceptance of Israel’s

failure that could damage him.

This still leaves the question of why he is trying at all when the situation appears

so hopeless. Cynics would say that the peace talks are deliberately framed

to provide cover for Israel’s continued advance across Palestinian territories, to

divert the world’s attention while Israel swallows more land. This is, without

any doubt, Israel’s reason for agreeing to enter talks now and, whether the United

States is consciously engaged in such a scheme, this is the effect of its actions.

Any talk at this point of the two-state solution serves as a diversion, becoming a

futile discussion of the impossible while Israel advances.

It is also very possible, strange as it may seem, that Obama and his aides do

not truly understand the situation on the ground in Palestine – do not understand

the full extent of Israel’s control throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem

and the consequent impossibility of ever bringing the two-state dream to fruition.

The combined impact of all Israel’srepressive measures cannot be fully understood

without broad firsthand observation.

The occupation is relentless: land confiscation, settlement construction,

road building, wall building, home demolitions, home confiscation, checkpoints

and movement impediments, settler depredations, constant military

raids on villages, large scale arrests and detention, suppression of even the most

peaceful resistance, and on and on, endlessly.

Neither Obama nor his aides nor the foreign policy experts in government

have seen this situation for themselves and, clearly, rely heavily on Israel to tell

them what is going on. This is something like relying on the apartheid government

of South Africa to report on its own repression and on the situation that blacks

were enduring back then.

There are human rights organizations, primarily the Israeli groups B’Tselem and

Peace Now, and the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

(OCHA) that keep track of Israel’s advance through East Jerusalem and across

the West Bank, but it is an open question – and is probably doubtful – whether

U.S. policymakers ever see these reports.

Government personnel stationed in Jerusalem are forbidden to travel through

the West Bank. Obama himself, when he visits Abbas in Ramallah, will be whisked

along cleared roads in his motorcade, or negotiating in any way over the

helicoptered in without seeing anything.

George Mitchell conducts his diplomacy from the luxurious American Colony

Hotel in East Jerusalem, or in the offices of Netanyahu and Abbas. General Keith

Dayton, who is overseeing the training of Palestinian security forces, operates on

the ground in the West Bank but is dealing only with a small aspect of the situation

and necessarily cannot see the impact on the Palestinian population living

at the other end of his trainees’ weapons.

Quartet special envoy Tony Blair, who frequently hails the economic “prosperity”

of the West Bank and from whom Obama, presumably, receives occasional

reports on the situation, studies Palestinian areas, when he sees them

at all, from the comfort of one of half a dozen sleek armored cars parked permanently

at the American Colony Hotel.

In mid-2007, shortly after he took on the task of special envoy, Blair was

briefed by OCHA on a major study of the occupation that it had just completed

graphically depicting the extent of Israeli control and oppression. The study

included a series of maps that chart the progression of Israeli control, as exerted

through settlements and outposts, lands severed from the West Bank and incorporated

into Israel by the Separation Wall, Israeli military areas, Israelidesignated

nature reserves, and roads limited to Israeli use. Rumor around

Jerusalem has it that Blair left the briefing ashen-faced and in shock.

The OCHA maps show a progression of Israeli domination that reveals a clear

Israeli intention to negate any sustainable presence in the land by the Palestinians

as a nation, but, in view of his subsequent rosy depictions of the West Bank situation,

one would guess that Blair recovered from his shock quickly, and most

likely, never passed on the impressions he received that day to U.S. policymakers.

Another area in which magical thinking enters the equation: if policymakers

were to talk about the ugly realities, talk about occupation, it would become too

real and too hard to deal with.

The result of this refusal to look and refusal to see is that few Americans in a

position to do something about or have any influence on this situation – whether

these are policymakers or congressmen or the media – essentially have no idea

what is going on, and do not want to have any idea. No one, it is safe to assume, has

the “big picture” or truly understands the difficulties, if not the impossibility, of

resolving the issue with the old tactics.

They do not understand the extent of Israel’s absorption of the territory, do not

understand – or care – what Palestinians are enduring under Israeli control, do

not truly fathom Zionism’s objectives and Israel’s determination to retain control,

and do not understand the utter impossibility of forging a real state for

Palestinians as long as Israel is allowed to dictate the terms.

* * *

One of the greatest fictions surrounding this process is the notion that the

U.S.A. is an honest broker. The Times to the process, contending that he

is “more balanced in his approach than his predecessor” and that Mitchell has

expended much effort “bringing the parties together.” But “together” does not

represent “balance,” and, in fact, it is precisely the United States’ imbalance, symbolized

by its massive support for Israel, that is impeding any possibility of reaching

a just, equitable, and lasting peace. The noted Israeli historian Avi Shlaim

made this point in discussing the power imbalance in a recent

A peace agreement is unlikely, he wrote, “because the Israelis are too strong,

the Palestinians are too weak, and the American mediators are utterly ineffectual.

The sheer asymmetry of power between the two parties militates against a

voluntary agreement,” meaning one that is not forced on the Palestinians. “To get

Israelis and Palestinians around a conference table and tell them to hammer

out an agreement,” he continued, “is like putting a lion and a lamb in a cage and

asking them to sort out their own differences… . In order to bridge the huge gap

separating the two sides, America must first redress the balance of power by putting

most of its weight on the side of the weaker party.”

If only. Kathleen Christison New Yorkhas hailed Obama for his “commitment”

Guardian article.CPis the author of Perceptions of Palestine and the Wound

of Dispossession late husband Bill Christison, of in Pieces: Graphic Perspectives on the

Israeli Occupation She can be reached at kb.christison@

, and co-author, with herPalestine(Pluto Press, 2009).

once during a 30-minute meeting and “refuses to perpetuate Palestinian victimhood

to villainize Israel.” Fayyad’s silence about the occupation and the Palestinian

Authority’s eagerness in general to demonstrate its “moderation” and willingness

to make concessions to Israel totally undermine the legitimacy of any Palestinian

resistance and sustain the appalling notion, as expressed by the rabbi, that resistance

to foreign occupation is nothing more than a “villainization” of the occupier

expressed by an occupied people who are merely wallowing in self-pity.

All this dream-making appears to be concentrated in the United States, among

those – including policymakers, “moderate” Zionists in the Israel lobby, and the

media – who have a vested interest in promoting optimism and pressing for a

two-state solution against all evidence that Israel is continuing to swallow the

land intended for the Palestinian state.

Commentators outside the U.S. appear a bit more skeptical. Many astute analysts

were already calling the new peace talks a “farce” before they began. It seems

only the Obama administration and its cheerleaders, like the Israel lobby group

J Street, fail to recognize just how severely out of kilter the power equation is in

these negotiations and just how badly the deck is stacked against the Palestinian

side of the equation.

* * *

So, what, despite some skepticism, is really wrong with a little harmless optimism

about negotiations? What’s wrong with being upbeat, not talking about the

occupation and concentrating on the good things, the hopeful signs? The answer,

of course, is that optimism in this instance is not harmless. Optimism such

as Martin Indyk’s, for instance, or the Los Angeles rabbi’s, or even Salam Fayyad’s,

diverts attention from the glaring realities of the occupation and creates expectations

of negotiating success that are dangerously overdrawn. Concentrating

on the “good things” means ignoring those glaring realities and the hugely

important factors that will undermine achievement of a just and enduring peace


Treating the occupation as though it does not exist sets the Palestinians up as

the spoilers, no matter what will be the outcome of peace talks. If the Palestinian

ly stacked against the Palestinians and against any possibility of resolving or

even addressing the root of the conflict and Palestinian grievances going back to

1948. Imagine a peace process and, if the peace processors get their wish, a peace

settlement that ignores major aspects of Palestinian interests – that ignores an

entire portion of Palestinian territory in Gaza, along with its 1.5 million imprisoned

inhabitants; that ignores Hamas and the reality that it was democratically

elected by a people dissatisfied with the leadership of those Palestinian leaders

now sitting at the negotiating table; that ignores Israel’s continued inexorable absorption

of land, a phenomenon of which settlement construction is only one

manifestation; that ignores the reality that prevention of any Palestinian state

is part of the founding principles and the political basis of Netanyahu’s Likud

Party, which itself sits to the left of other right-wing parties in Netanyahu’s coalition;

that ignores the immense significance of the strong U.S. partnership with

Israel, particularly the Kafkaesque reality that the U.S.A. – the supposed mediator

– gives one party to the negotiations the firepower with which to suppress the


Imagine a peace process in which the Palestinians are expected to concede to

Israel, essentially in advance of serious negotiations, three encompassing negotiating

points – recognition of Israel’s right to exist as a specifically Jewish state,

relinquishment of any right of return for the refugees displaced in 1948 in order to

make Israel a Jewish state, and a pledge to forego all future claims and, thus, end

the conflict – all without receiving any compensating concessions from Israel.

* * *

In the end, Palestinians are being asked – and, unfortunately, the Palestinian

Authority leadership is not resisting this approach – to negotiate over what

should be non-negotiable and to ignore fundamental grievances. Negotiating

over the occupation, as opposed merely to discussing arrangements for Israel’s

withdrawal, means giving the occupation legitimacy and conceding from the

beginning that some of its aspects will remain; it means treating the occupation

not as the illegal system that it is under international law but as a mere territorial

dispute, in which Israel has a legally defensible position and needs only to adjust

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