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US hands Palestine a loaded deck

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Cross-posted from Asia Times


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (left) greets the new US peace envoy Martin Indyk at the State Department
(Image by (EPA))
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To understand how self-defeating the US latest "peace process" drive has been, one only needs to consider some of the characters involved in this political theater. Martin Indyk in particular stands out as a testament to how inherently futile the exercise is. 

Indyk, a former US ambassador to Israel, was selected by Secretary of State John Kerry for the role of special envoy for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Under normal circumstances, Kerry's selection might have appeared rational. Former ambassadors often possess the necessary expertise to navigate challenging political landscapes in countries where they previously served. But these are not normal circumstances, and there are reasons why Indyk can hardly be seen a diplomat in this case. 

As the US-sponsored peace process began to falter, Kerry dispatched his envoy to Jerusalem. On Friday, April 18, Indyk took on the task of speaking to both sides separately. International media depicted the event as a last-ditch effort to revive the talks and to help bridge the gap between the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

The envoy visit took place a day after intense and difficult talks were reported to have taken place between Israeli and PA negotiators. "No breakthrough was made," an official Palestinian source told AFP of the Thursday meeting. 

This was no surprise, as no progress was expected. Both sides are not talking about resolving the conflict per se, but the deliberations were mostly concerned with deferring Kerry's deadline for a "framework agreement", slated for April 29. 

The Americans only want to maintain the charade of a "peace process" as it gives them an important political platform in the Middle East. US administrations class themselves as honest brokers in these talks, but its quite clear that the Americans have hardly been honest in their dealings with either party. 

In fact, the US is not a third party at all, but was and remains in the Israeli camp. It used its political and financial leverage as a platform that allowed it to advance Israeli interests first, and their own interests second. Indyk is an example. 

Indyk, the prospective harbinger of peace, worked for the pro-Israeli lobby group AIPAC in 1982. AIPAC -- the American Israel Public Affairs Committee -- is a rightwing outlet that has invested unlimited funds and energy to impede any just and peaceful resolution to the conflict. It has such a strong grip over US Congress to the extent that some have suggested that Capitol Hill has become, in a sense, an occupied territory of Israel and its allies. 

Indyk's most important contribution to Israel, however, was the founding of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) in 1985, another Israeli lobby outlet that has done tremendous damage to the credibility of US foreign policy in the Middle East by using "intellectuals" and "experts" as mediums. 

Writing in Mondoweiss last year, Max Blumenthal recalled some interesting statements made by Indyk at J Street's first annual convention in Washington DC in 2009. J Street is another Israeli lobby group that has cleverly distinguished itself as pro-peace, thus deceiving many into believing that AIPAC's dominance in Washington is being seriously challenged. However, its cleverly worded statements and the colorful past of its honored guests and speakers indicate otherwise. Indyk, the rightwing Israel lobbyist, was indeed among friends. 

"I remembered stumbling into a huge auditorium to hear Indyk describe how he made 'aliyah to Washington' during the 1980s to ensure that US policy remained slanted in Israel's favor, and go on to blame Yasser Arafat for the failure of Camp David," Blumenthal recalled. 

The Hebrew word aliyah translates as "elevation," but is used mostly to describe the immigration of Jews into Israel. 

He quoted Indyk. "I came to that conclusion 35 years ago when I was a student in Jerusalem and the Yom Kippur war broke out," said Indyk. "I worked as a volunteer there in those terrible days when Israel's survival seemed to hang in the balance and I witnessed the misery of war and the critical role that the United States in the form of Henry Kissinger played through activist diplomacy in forging a peace out of that horrendous war." 

These were not passing comments made by Indyk, but a reflection of the man's undying commitment, not to peace, but to Israel, or more accurately, to "peace" as envisioned by Israel -- and this is the core of the ongoing crisis. 

Netanyahu never ceases to talk about peace, as does his Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Even Minister of Economy Naftali Bennett, leader of the extremist party, The Jewish Home, is an ardent advocate of peace. But it is not peace that is predicated on justice or that envisaged by international and humanitarian laws. It is specifically tailored peace that would allow Israel to maintain an unmistakably racist agenda and a colonial policy of land grabbing.

Unsurprisingly, this is the same kind of "peace" that the Americans envision. Kerry's new peace agenda is not entirely a rehash of old agendas. Yes, it is that too, but it almost completely embraces the once far-fetched ideas of Lieberman and rightwing groups, that of annexations -- the Jordan Valley -- and "land swaps" in exchange of main settlement blocs. When Lieberman floated these ideas a few years ago, he sounded like a deranged politician. Thanks to Kerry, it is now part of mainstream thinking. 

So Indyk, who dedicated a lifetime to securing an Israeli style "peace," is now magically branded as the one attempting to revive talks and exert pressure on both sides like any good "honest broker" would do in these situations. 

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Ramzy Baroud is the Managing Editor of Middle East Eye. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold (more...)
 

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