The news I have been brooding over all day (when not arguing unsuccessfully with the company who sold us a defective bed) is that President Biden wants to push towards Palestinian statehood. More radically, British Foreign Secretary David Cameron has said that international recognition of Palestinian statehood would not necessarily be at the end of the process, but a step along the way.
Now, I acknowledge that a two-state solution is probably the only viable way to peace in the long-run. And I acknowledge that President Biden apparently wants a demilitarized Palestinian state. But, really – do I trust these particular gentlemen to go about this? The intricate construction of a state that is viable, but not violent? A Palestine that exists alongside Israel and not instead of it? And then to sell that vision to a Palestinian population that has been brought up on a century of the vilest Jew-hating propaganda, inspired by both the Nazis and the Soviet Union? (A “two for the price of one” deal on every Jew’s worst nightmares.)
The answer is “NO!!!” As vice-president, Joe Biden was part of the administration that dreamt up JCPOA, a plan to rebalance the Middle East to allow for US withdrawal (read: ignominious retreat) by boosting America’s regional arch-enemy, Iran, and weakening America’s long-term regional allies, Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, by giving Iran money (through eased sanctions) and international recognition if the Ayatollahs paused – not stopped permanently, but merely paused – their nuclear ambitions for five years. Five measly years.
Granted President Biden was merely Vice-President Biden then, but even now he has not given up hope of a reinvigorated JCPOA that could set the Middle East on a new (and terrifying) course. However, the Afghanistan Withdrawal was all his own work. If any actual work went into it, which I doubt. In case JCPOA had left us with any doubts about how the USA treats its allies these days, the Afghan Withdrawal left US allies at the mercy of the Taliban, along with a ton of US materiel, when the Taliban’s advance took the US by surprise. Taken by surprise by an Islamist terrorist army – not exactly a reassuring precedent for a “peaceful, demilitarized” Palestine.
Moving to Lord Cameron (as he is now), this is the genius behind the Brexit Referendum, who tried to resolve his own party’s internal squabbles around the European Union and loss of votes to UKIP by creating the biggest constitutional crisis in the United Kingdom since the abdication of Edward VIII, one whose full ramifications may not yet have been realized; the breakup of the Union as Scotland tries to leave the UK to rejoin the EU is still a distinct possibility. A man who left Downing Street in shame, only to turn up at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office seven years later, apparently because Rishi Sunak had exhausted all other even remotely plausible candidates. Or possibly Sunak just wanted to remind rebellious Tory backbenchers that things could be worse without him in charge.
Can we trust these men? Men who have been sending mixed signals for months now, saying that they fully support Israel “Provided it obeys international law.” Imagine you are appointed for Chief Financial Officer for a major company, only to see that the press release says that the CEO is fully confident in your abilities, “Provide he does not embezzle the pension fund.” In other words, he doesn’t trust you. This is the mixed message Israel’s “allies” have been sending the world.
Is this remotely justified? Israel has been accused of breaking international law during previous conflicts, as the Palestinians use such accusations as a weapon of war (“lawfare”), but when the dust settles, it’s invariably not guilty, not that anyone cares by that stage. See Muhammad al-Durrah, Jenin, various previous Gaza wars.
It’s disgusting that Israel is treated like this by its “allies.” Let’s not forget that the US is still holding people without trial in Guantanamo Bay and it’s not that long since it was sending them on “extraordinary rendition” flights to friendly, but brutal, countries (often Israel’s neighbors, actually) for a spot of “enhanced interrogation” (torture). And let’s not even mention Abu Ghraib. What I’m saying is that people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. And they certainly shouldn’t take baths, lest they be caught with their trousers down.
Let’s assume that, by some terrifying chance, this idea takes off and that, somehow, the Palestinians agree to it. True, in nearly a hundred years, they have not once agreed to a peace deal that involved a Jewish state remaining on the Middle Eastern map permanently. But, let’s imagine, this time the people who were handing out sweets to children on 7 October manage to disguise their feelings, knowing that this could be it. The big one. If they can just keep a straight face for a couple of years and bide their time while they quietly re-dig the tunnels in Gaza and excavate some new ones in the West Bank, if they quietly smuggle in arms from Iran, if they can avoid saying anything about “Zionist cancers” or “Jewish vermin” in public for a few years, this could be their chance to build the secret (or not so secret) base of all secret bases to launch their final war on the Zionist infidel.
What kind of reassurance can Biden and Cameron possibly give to support Israel if it all goes wrong? Given their mixed messaging in the last few months, it’s not hard to see why the Israeli government, not to mention the Israeli public, might be a teensy bit skeptical of what would happen next. Yes, the US has supplied Israel and the current war effort would be impossible without it. But it sells Israel those arms and forbids it to manufacture its own ammunition and spare parts to force it to buy those too. The USA likes to present itself as the only playground friend to the bullied kid and in a sense, it is, but it’s more accurate to say that the US is the popular kid who wants to help the bullied kid, or to be seen to be helping the bullied kid, but only if he can also avoid offending the bullies (Iran, Qatar) too much in the process. See also: Ukraine.
The Iranian and Qatari factor is important. What sort of a message does it send about rewarding state-sponsored terrorism when an atrocity like 7 October is swiftly followed by international support for the terrorist’s aims? True, Hamas don’t want a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank, they want the destruction of Israel, every last square inch. If the Israelis decided that, in the interests of peace, they would hand over the whole of Israel except Tel Aviv (which was sand dunes before the Zionists built it), Hamas would wait five minutes, then declare that Tel Aviv was the historic heartland of the Palestinian people, the fourth holiest city in Islam, the site of Muhammad’s Sacred Midnight Snack, when he returned from his Night Journey to Heaven and went for a quick falafel to banish the munchies. Even so, if the Palestinians get quite a lot of what they want as a result of doing what they did – do Biden and Cameron really think that Iran, Russia, China and others aren’t going to take that message on board? That they aren’t going to realize that the West is so self-loathing and tired of war that it’s not even going to try to win any more?
Why do so many Western leaders think they can impose peace by executive fiat? Half the current crop of Western leaders can’t define what a woman is, yet somehow they think that they can solve one of the most intractable conflicts in the world in ten minutes, and have time for a coffee too.
Of course, it being an election year in the USA only makes it worse.
I can only see one way out of this. The Israeli government has to say that, of course it will recognize a Palestinian state – immediately after Israel is accepted as a member of NATO. Article Five of NATO’s North Atlantic Treaty states that an attack on one signatory is an attack on all the signatories. The 11 September 2001 attacks showed that Article Five could be invoked to get aid in a conflict stemming from a state-sponsored terrorist attack. “Yes, of course we’ll recognize Palestine” the Israeli Prime Minister will say, “Provided you send troops to fight alongside us when the rockets start to fly.” Then see how fast the US, Britain and the EU decide that maybe those cast-iron security guarantees weren’t quite so strong. It’s always easier to solve other people’s problems when you don’t have to bear the consequences.