Israel writes script for the crisis and solution

By Ameen Izzadeen
President Barack Obama, wake up. The bloodletting in the holy city of Jerusalem sends you a stream of urgent messages that you should step in and act decisively to fulfil your promise of peace to the land of peacemakers.
As the crisis escalates with the Israeli police shooting any Palestinian, who they think is acting suspiciously in response to knife attacks on Jewish settlers, President Obama must try one last time to make peace between Israel and Palestine before his term ends in 15 months.
But it won’t be easy, given Israel’s hardline stance and the growing chill in the personal relationship between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, especially in the wake of the Iran nuclear deal reached in July this year.
President Obama made a genuine effort for peace during the early days of his first term. He probably underestimated the power of the Zionist Lobby, which opposes a Palestinian state. His first foreign call from his White House office after he took oaths in January 2009 was to Palestinian Authority President Mahmood Abbas. Indicating he meant what he said, he visited the Middle East within months of becoming the President. He appropriately titled the famous speech he made at the Cairo University in 2009 ‘A New Beginning’. The hope-stirring speech showcased his determination to find a peace deal acceptable to both the Israelis and the Palestinians. He was not unaware of the failures his predecessors suffered in their efforts to make peace. Yet amidst standing ovation from an ecstatic crowd, he described the Palestinians’ plight as “intolerable”, though in the same breath he said the US bond with Israel was unbreakable and called on the Palestinians to abandon resistance to Israeli occupation through violence. In a bold declaration, seen as a departure from the policies of his predecessors, Obama told Israel that settlement building in occupied Palestinian territories should stop.
“… There can be no progress towards peace without a halt to such construction”. … Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s,” Obama assured the region’s peace-starved people.
His peace intentions won him the Nobel Peace Prize, just months after he took office. But a term and a half later, he cuts a sorry figure on the Palestinian issue. Israel has gone on with business as usual, building settlements in occupied territories, while paying little or no heed to Obama’s repeated don’t-do-it pleas. After his reelection in 2012, Obama launched a new peace initiative with an April 2014 deadline. Numerous visits to the region and shuttle diplomacy by Secretary of State John Kerry drew a blank, because of tough conditions placed by Netanyahu.
With Zionist hardliners shooting down his peace initiative, what Obama, in response, could do was to snub Netanyahu by not meeting him during the United Nations General Assembly sessions. Last month, Obama pulled out Secretary Kerry and UN envoy Samantha Power from the UN hall when the Israeli leader addressed the world body.
Netanyahu knows that in the US, the system is more powerful than the president, and as long as the Zionist lobby led by the mighty America-Israel Public Relations Committee has the system – which includes Congress — under its control, Israel has little to worry about and Netanyahu does not give a damn about decisions made by the White House.
In what was seen as a snub to Obama and his peace initiative, Netanyahu was reelected in March this year on the strength of a promise he made in the closing days of his campaign that there could be no Palestinian state while regional violence and chaos persisted.
Netanyahu’s reelection shut the door on Obama’s peace efforts. Yet, unable to turn a blind eye to the escalating violence, the Obama administration on Wednesday, in what appears to be a half-hearted announcement, said Secretary Kerry would travel to the region “in the near future”. But whether Kerry will succeed is a big question. Already, State Department remarks on the current violence which could trigger a third Intifada – uprising – have infuriated Israeli hardliners. State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters this week there were “credible reports” Israel was using excessive force against Palestinian protesters.
As violence soars in Jerusalem and other parts of the occupied territories and in Israel, an opinion poll published last week found that 73% of Israelis wanted a harsher response to the attacks by Palestinian youths. Needless to say, Israeli troops resort to collective punishment, bulldozing several houses in a suspect’s village.
The recent violence follows months of tension between the Palestinians and hardline Israelis, who, with state patronage, have been asserting the Jewishness of the Temple Mount al-Aqsa mosque, which the Muslims regard as the third holiest mosque in Islam. The Palestinians say hardline Jews enter the al-Aqsa mosque premises and provoke them by holding Jewish prayers. The Jews say they want to rebuild the Temple and restore it to its original glory.
The Palestinians fear that they will soon lose control of al-Aqsa mosque in the same manner they lost control of the Hebron mosque where Abraham, revered by both the Jews and the Muslims as the great patriarch of monotheism, is believed to have been buried. The Israeli occupying force decides on the days on which Muslims can pray at the Hebron mosque.
For centuries, the Muslims prayed at the Temple Mount while the Jews said prayers at the Temple wall over the cliff. This unwritten agreement survived even after Israel captured Jerusalem in the 1967 war.
With the Palestinians being left to their own fate while Arab leaders are now more interested in fomenting troubles in places like Libya and Syria, the writing is on the wall that soon Israel will have full control of the Temple Mount. If the Muslims lose the right to worship in al-Aqsa, the situation could lead to further radicalisation of the Muslim world and more violence, and the world will have to deal with a much bigger terrorist problem.
Some world leaders are urging Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to bring the situation under control. But he is old, ineffective and does not enjoy much public support.
With the Obama administration having little clout over Israel and the United Nations being just a bystander, Israel is in a position to write the script of the crisis and also the solution to it. The ideal solution for the current crisis is to bring the Temple Mount site under United Nations control until a final solution emerges. But that is only wishful thinking, given Israel’s grand scheme to annex the whole of Palestine and more Arab lands.
(This article first appeared in the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka on Oct 16, 2015)

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About ameenizzadeen

journalist and global justice activist
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