Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Blair’s Descent into ‘Poodledom’

Tony Blair had spoken quite a bit about the need for something to be done about the “other” crisis in the Middle East, the festering crisis between Israel and the Palestinians. For some time, and especially during the run up to the attack on Iraq, it seemed that Blair was demanding real action on the subject. Blair had seized on this issue to ward off criticism to the effect that British foreign policy had forfeited any semblance of independence. Of course, the disastrous Iraq adventure demonstrated Blair was unable to resist even the most unreasonable and irresponsible actions taken by the United States on the tortuous road to disaster. However, Blair did still have the Israeli-Palestinian issue up his sleeve for proving that there was such a thing as a British policy in the Middle East. Every few months, Blair came out with a statement on the pressing need to do something to end the tension between Israel and the Palestinians, implying that he was pushing his U.S. partner to stop ignoring this issue. Somehow, Blair managed to convey the message that he was going to put an end to George Bush’s infatuation with Sharon and his policies. He talked about sponsoring a serious British diplomatic initiative on the Middle East, which might also contribute to the improvement of relations with Europe. Thus, it became known that Blair was sponsoring a major diplomatic initiative centered on a sweeping discussion of the Middle East issues among heads of states.

Sharon Cannot be Disturbed

It is an open secret that Sharon’s Gaza disengagement plan is a transparent scheme to avoid serious negotiations on a peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Sharon admitted the same publicly last May and his lawyer emissary, Dov Weissglass, has recently clearly articulated the same justification.

If Yasser Arafat’s death has created a window of opportunity, it is a window of opportunity for one of the most shameful actors on the international stage, Tony Blair, to prove that he does not have a shred of integrity. He proved this beyond any shadow of a doubt when during his visit this week to Jerusalem he granted full support and unconditional support to Sharon. Blair was grinning from ear to ear when Sharon told him that Israel is uninterested in his ‘meeting’. Blair hurried to tell him that he was right because the ‘meeting’ was really only an educational opportunity for the Palestinians.

Sharon has hung up a sign: “do not disturb - disengaging.” Accordingly, Bush and Blair have agreed to clam up until after Sharon pulls off the Gaza pullout. Thus, any genuine commitment by Israel to resume negotiations with the Palestinians, even in the future, was removed from the agenda. Sharon’s strategy in promoting his unilateral Gaza disengagement plan was to give his friends an excuse, even a poor one, for avoiding and postponing meaningful negotiations with the Palestinians. Bush bought into the maneuver and paid for it with Palestinian land (U.S. agreement to disregard the 1967 borders in a final settlement) and Palestinian refugee rights (U.S. holds that there will be no return to Israel).

The Palestinians, say Bush, Blair and Sharon, just do not understand that they are simply not ready for negotiations. Bush Blair and Sharon are going to give them enormous assistance in preparing themselves. First of all, the Palestinians will have to eliminate terror and institute democratic reforms. Since it was not enough that Sharon and Bush told them this, Tony Blair is going to meet with them in London to tell them this. Which all goes to prove that if you start as George Bush’s poodle, you will end up by also being Ariel Sharon’s poodle.

Just to set the record straight: It was the occupation that fed and fostered Palestinian armed resistance. It is a misfortune that in the main, this resistance was not mounted by Marxist-Leninists or liberal-humanists who understood that it was politically counter-productive and morally wrong to kill or maim innocent Israeli civilians. But this misfortune does not change the basic facts. There is no way to reduce or remove Palestinian armed resistance without proving to the Palestinian masses that there is a credible international initiative for a just peace backed by potential international sanctions against Israel. There will be no progress in pacification without real progress towards peace. There will be no real reform or authentic democracy without freedom and self-determination.

Pity Poor Peres

Sometimes it is not easy to achieve the lap dog role. Sharon’s Gaza disengagement plan deception was designed inter alia to defuse and disarm any semblance of internal opposition from the majority of Israelis, who began to understand that it was becoming impossible to reach peace while holding on to territories and settlements. Sharon knows his ‘customers’ and it turned out that the Labor Party was his for next to nothing. A few jobs and honors and Labor joined his cabinet on the basis of the disengagement plan, without any other demands whatsoever regarding the overall program of the government. The only hitch so far is that there are legal and parliamentary problems in creating a honorary title for Peres as the ‘second deputy prime minister.’ The Likud had refused to surrender any of the important cabinet positions. Peres had the unenviable task of explaining the vital historical importance of his being appointed the second deputy prime minister. Labor and Peres crawled into Sharon’s cabinet, begging to be permitted to support Sharon’s plans, his time table, his interpretation of the implications of the disengagement plan..

Angry Settlers Prepare Putsch

The some 7,000 settlers in the Gaza strip do not want to be the pawns sacrificed in the Sharon gambit. However, Sharon is sophisticated enough to understand the need to buck and weave in order to defuse the accumulation of pressure against the occupation. This is the purpose of the d the disengagement scheme and Sharon’s final status proposal providing for the creation of three or four cantons which George W. Bush will recognize, conditionally as it were, as the Palestinian state.

The settlers are archetypal Zionists, who have recycled Zionist myths into a strange concoction of Jewish religious fundamentalism. God put them where they are and any attempt to move them is simply sacrilegious and defined as an act of brutal transfer (despite a generous resettlement premium of between $500-750,000 per family). Their militant wing pictured the late Yishak Rabin as a Gestapo officer for much less than the plan to resettle the Gaza strip settlers. The settler world-outlook defies any challenge to their absolute and unconditional right to settle the entire country from the sea to the Jordan. The frustration of their messianic impulses has the effect of turning them into dangerous madmen. If this sounds exaggerated, please bear with us.

The settlers association has endorsed the call of one of its leading figures, Pinchas Wallerstein, to break the law and go to prison in order to prevent the evacuation. Prominent leaders of the settler movement have spoken of a justified use of violence against the approaching forced evacuation. Hundreds of rabbis have signed declarations to the effect that the government decisions for evacuation are ‘null and void’. Activists among the settlers claim to have signed thousands of soldiers on a declaration that they would refuse to follow orders to participate in the evacuation of the strip. Settlers explain the virtues of rising up against unjust laws and cite the example of Martin Luther King (!!). The settlers inspired by a vision that led to the expropriation of millions of Palestinians from their homes and their homeland claim that the government would not even dare to consider the expulsion of Arabs. The high point of the frenzy was reached this week when settlers began wearing an orange (instead of yellow) star of David. The message is rather direct: we are being thrown out of our homes, just as the Nazis threw Jews out of their homes during the Holocaust. This level of incitement is occurring out in the open. You do not have to be a political scientist to imagine the mentality and the operational planning at the settler base, where almost everyone is armed to the teeth. Indeed, Israel will have to go through some form of civil war to decide whether the settlers continue to exert absolute veto power over Israeli politics. This civil war might take the form of a battle of nerves for a few hours, or even involve a clash for a number of days, or even for months. Though they are a small minority in Israel and relatively isolated from the Israeli public, the settlers exert a deep psychological and spiritual influence on significant sections of the Israeli establishment. They claim to be the vanguard and the faithful harbingers of the Zionist dream for a pure and purified Jewish state. This is, to our great sorrow, still a hope that springs eternal in many chauvinist hearts. The settlers hope that they will be able to force Sharon to back down, since after all is said and done, he is, in the last resort, one of them.