Middle East Monitor / July 25, 2022
To describe US President Joe Biden’s recent visit to Israel and Palestine as a “failure” in terms of activating the dormant “peace process” is to use a misnomer. For this statement to be accurate, Washington would have had to indicate that it had even a nominal desire to push for negotiations between the Israeli government and the Palestinian leadership.
Political and diplomatic platitudes aside, the current US administration has done the exact opposite, as indicated by Biden’s words and actions. Alleging that the US commitment to a two-state solution “has not changed”, Biden dismissed his administration’s interest in trying to achieve such a goal by declaring that the “ground is not ripe” for negotiations.
Given that the Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly announced its readiness to return to negotiations, one can only assume that the process is being stalled due to Israel’s intransigence. Indeed, none of Israel’s top leaders or major parties champion negotiations — the so-called peace process — as a strategic objective.
However, Israel is not the only one to blame. The Americans have also made it clear that they have moved on from that political sham altogether, one which they invented and then sustained for decades. In fact, the final nail in the “negotiated solution” coffin was hammered in by the Donald Trump administration, which has simply backed every Israeli claim and shunned all legitimate Palestinian demands.
The Biden administration has been blamed habitually by Palestinians, Arabs and progressive voices within the Democratic Party for failing to reverse Trump’s prejudiced moves in favour of Israel: moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, for example; shutting down the US Consulate in East Jerusalem; and accepting the unfounded Israeli claims regarding its jurisdiction over illegal Jewish settlements built on occupied Palestinian land. The list goes on.
Even if one assumes that the Biden administration is capable of reversing some or all of Trump’s unlawful actions, what good would that be in the greater scheme of things? Washington was, and remains, Israel’s greatest benefactor, funding its military occupation of Palestine with an annual gift of $4 billion, in addition to many other schemes, including a massive and growing budget allocated just for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system.
As horrific as Trump’s years were in terms of undermining a just resolution to the Israeli occupation of Palestine, Biden’s policies are but a continuation of an existing pro-Israel American legacy that surpasses that of Trump by decades.
For Israel, the “peace process” has served its purpose, which explains the infamous declaration by the CEO of the Jewish settlement council, Yesha, in the occupied West Bank in 2018: “I don’t want to brag that we’ve won… Others would say it appears that we’re winning.”
However, Israel’s supposed “victory” following three decades of a fraudulent “peace process” cannot be credited to Trump alone. Biden and other top US officials have also been quite useful. While it is understood widely that US politicians support Israel out of self-interest — they need, for example, to appease the influential pro-Israel lobby in Washington — Biden’s support for Israel has an ideological foundation. The US president was less than bashful when he repeated his famous statement at Israel’s Ben Gurion airport on 13 July: “You need not be a Jew to be Zionist.”
Consequently, it may appear puzzling to hear Palestinian officials call on the US — and Biden specifically — to put pressure on Tel Aviv to end its 55-year occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Mohannad al-Aklouk, the Palestinian representative at the Arab League, is just one who has repeated the same clichéd and unrealistic language of expecting the US to “exert practical pressure on Israel”, “set the stage for a fair political process based on international law”, and “meet its role as a fair sponsor of the peace process”. Strangely, Al-Aklouk truly believes that Washington, with its dismal track record of pro-Israel bias, can be the saviour of the Palestinians.
Another Palestinian official told The New Arab that PA President Abbas was “disappointed with the results of Biden’s visit” as, apparently, the Palestinian leader “expected that the US president would make progress in the peace process.” The same source added that Abbas’s authority is holding meetings with representatives from “powerful countries” to replace the US as sponsors of the negotiations.
Abbas’s political stance is confusing. The “peace process” is, after all, an American invention. It was a unique, self-serving style of diplomacy that was formulated to ensure Israel’s priorities remain centre stage of US foreign policy in the Middle East. In the Palestinian case, the “peace process” served only to entrench Israel’s colonization of Palestine, while degrading, or completely sidelining, legitimate Palestinian demands. This “process” was also constructed with the aim of marginalizing international law as a political and legal frame of reference for the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Instead of questioning the entire “peace process” apparatus and apologizing for the strategic blunder of pursuing American mirages at the expense of Palestinian rights, the Palestinian Authority is still clutching desperately to the same old fantasy, even when the US and Israel have long abandoned the political farce that they created.
Even if China, Russia or India, for example, would agree to be the new sponsors of the “peace process”, there is no reason for Tel Aviv to engage in future negotiations when it is able to achieve its colonial objectives with full support from the US. Moreover, none of these countries have, for now, much leverage over Israel, and so are unable to sustain any kind of meaningful pressure on Tel Aviv to respect international law.
Yet, the PA is still holding on, simply because the “peace process” has proved to be greatly beneficial in terms of funds, power and prestige enjoyed by a small but powerful class of Palestinians that was formulated largely after the Oslo Accords in 1993.
It is time for Palestinians to stop investing their political capital in the Biden or any other administration. What they need is not a new “powerful” sponsor of the “peace process”, but a grassroots-based struggle for freedom and liberation starting at home, one that galvanizes the energies of the Palestinian people themselves. Alas, this new paradigm cannot be achieved when the priorities of the Palestinian leadership remain fixated on the financial handouts and political validation of Washington and its Western allies.
Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle; his latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak out