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Posted: Thu Nov 11, 2010 1:13 pm

The Betrayal of Gaza

The US is vocal about its commitment to
peace in Israel and the Palestinian territories —
but its actions suggest otherwise.

By Noam Chomsky

November 10, 2010 "New Statesman" --

That the Israel-Palestine conflict grinds
on without resolution might appear to
be rather strange.

For many of the world's conflicts,
it is difficult even to conjure up
a feasible settlement.

In this case, not only is it possible,
but there is near-universal agreement
on its basic contours:

a two-state settlement along the
internationally recognized
(pre-June 1967) borders -
with "minor and mutual modifications",
to adopt official US terminology before
Washington departed from the
international community in the mid-1970s.

The basic principles have been
accepted by virtually the entire world,
including the Arab states
(which call for the full normalisation of relations),
the Organisation of the Islamic Conference
(including Iran) and relevant non-state actors
(including Hamas).

A settlement along these lines was
first proposed at the UN Security
Council in January 1976 and backed
by the major Arab states.

Israel refused to attend.

The United States vetoed the resolution,
and did so again in 1980.

The record at the General Assembly since is similar.

But there was one important and
revealing break in US-Israeli rejectionism.

After the failed Camp David agreements in 2000,
President Clinton recognized that the terms he
and Israel had proposed were unacceptable
to any Palestinians.

That December, he proposed his "parameters":

imprecise but more forthcoming.

He then stated that both sides
had accepted the parameters,
while expressing reservations.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met in Taba, Egypt,
in January 2001 to resolve the differences
and were making progress.

At their final press conference,
they reported that, with more time,
they could probably have reached
full agreement.

Israel called off the negotiations prematurely,
however, and official progress was then terminated,
though informal discussions at a high level continued,
leading to the Geneva Accord,
rejected by Israel and ignored by the US.

Much has happened since but a settlement
along those lines is still not out of reach,
if Washington is once again willing to accept it.

Unfortunately, there is little sign of that.

The US and Israel have been acting in tandem
to extend and deepen the occupation.

Take the situation in Gaza.

After its formal withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005,
Israel never relinquished its total control over the territory,
often described as "the world's largest prison".

In January 2006,
Palestine had an election that was recognized
as free and fair by international observers.

however, voted "the wrong way",
electing Hamas.

the US and Israel intensified their assault
against Gazans as punishment for this misdeed.

The facts and the reasoning were not concealed;
rather, they were published alongside
reverential commentary on Washington's
dedication to democracy.

The US-backed Israeli assault against
the Gazans has only intensified since,
in the form of savage violence and
economic strangulation.

After Israel's 2008-2009 assault,
Gaza has become a virtually unlivable place.

It cannot be stressed too often that Israel
had no credible pretext for its attack on Gaza,
with full US support and illegally using US weapons.

Popular opinion asserts the contrary,
claiming that Israel was acting in self-defense.

That is utterly unsustainable,
in light of Israel's flat rejection of
peaceful means that were readily
available, as Israel and its US partner
in crime knew very well.

Truth by omission

In his Cairo address to the Muslim world on 4 June 2009,
Barack Obama echoed George W Bush's "vision" of two states,
without saying what he meant by the phrase "Palestinian state".

His intentions were clarified not only by his crucial omissions,
but also by his one explicit criticism of Israel:

"The United States does not accept the
legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.

This construction violates previous agreements
and undermines efforts to achieve peace.

It is time for these settlements to stop."

That is, Israel should live
up to Phase I of the 2003 "road map",
rejected by Israel with tacit US support.

The operative words are "legitimacy" and "continued".

By omission, Obama indicates that he accepts Bush's vision:

the vast existing settlement
and infrastructure projects are "legitimate".

Always even-handed,
Obama also had an admonition
for the Arab states:

they "must recognize that the Arab Peace
Initiative was an important beginning but
not the end of their responsibilities".

Plainly, however, it cannot be a meaningful
"beginning" if Obama continues to reject its
core principle:

the implementation of the international consensus.

To do so, however, is evidently not
Washington's "responsibility" in his vision.

On democracy, Obama said that
"we would not presume to pick
the outcome of a peaceful election" -
as in January 2006,

when Washington picked the outcome
with a vengeance, turning at once to the
evere punishment of the Palestinians
because it did not like the results of
a peaceful election.

This happened with Obama's apparent approval,
judging by his words before and actions since taking office.

There should be little difficulty in
understanding why those whose eyes
are not closed tight shut by rigid doctrine
dismiss Obama's yearning for democracy
as a joke in bad taste.

Extracted from "Gaza in Crisis:

Reflections on Israel's War Against the Palestinians"
by Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappé (Hamish Hamilton, £14.99.

To buy the book at a special offer price of £11.99,
call 08700 707 717, quoting "NS/Gaza" and the ISBN 978-0-241-14506-7
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