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What Clinton gets so wrong about Israel-Palestine

The façade of a peace process is an obstacle to achieving a just peace, for which there can be no alternative.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton watches as Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian President Abbas shake hands, Washington, September 2, 2010. (Moshe Milner/GPO)

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton watches as Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian President Abbas shake hands, Washington, September 2, 2010. (Moshe Milner/GPO)

Hillary Clinton believes that the façade of an Israeli-Palestinian peace process is preferable to no peace process at all, we learned this week from the presidential candidate’s private emails, hacked by Russia and published by WikiLeaks.

It’s hard to imagine a more troubling statement about Israel/Palestine from a politician who will in all likelihood be the next president of the United States, even if it represents only part of her thinking on the region.

Let’s examine the logic behind what the former secretary of state meant when she wrote of managing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that, “[a] Potemkin process is better than nothing.”

The absence of a peace process is what we already have today. It is a reality in which hundreds, sometimes thousands of (mostly Palestinian, but also Israeli) lives are stolen every year. It is a reality in which millions of people live under a foreign military regime and are denied the most basic human and civil rights. It is a reality in which constantly expanding Israeli settlements make the possibility of a sovereign Palestinian state less and less likely with each new home illegally built on Palestinian land. It is intolerable.

Things have gotten worse in the absence of a peace process, which has been the case for the majority of the past decade. But with no process to provide a horizon for change or hope, global demands for change have also increased. That has manifested primarily though international pressure on Israel to end the occupation, ranging from a boycott movement to small steps in the direction of very limited sanctions, like the European Union’s settlement product labels. None of those steps, alone or together, are a game-changer, but they are a strong signal from the world to Israel that it will not tolerate the status quo of occupation.

Alternatively, the façade of a peace process, or a peace process for the sake of the process itself, serves to deflect much of that international pressure on Israel. We saw that happen in real time just a few years ago when the European Union delayed the implementation of settlement product labels because there was a peace process taking place. Similarly, during the same round of peace talks, the Palestinian government was very open about the fact that it was holding off joining international organizations and treaties as long as the process stayed alive. (The first thing the Palestinian government did when the last peace process hit a wall was to join 15 treaties.)

But the façade of a peace process deflects and defangs only the consequences for Israelis. Palestinians, on the other hand, continue living under occupation. Even worse, because an Israeli leadership engaged in peace talks needs to assuage right-wing fears that the façade might give way to an actual peace process, it is often accompanied by gestures to the Right like new settlement construction. And when the façade of a peace process eventually disintegrates, its failure, combined with an utter lack of any political horizon, can help fuel resurgent violence, as we saw in the summer of 2014.

So when American politicians like Hillary Clinton say that the façade of a peace process is better than no process, they mean it is better for the United States and Israel, not for Palestinians. A Potemkin peace process expressly means maintaining the status quo of occupation and oppression while neutralizing any consequences Israel might face for its actions.

Oslo, the [Bill] Clinton parameters, and the entire framework for peacemaking we’ve come to know over the past few decades have all long passed their respective expiration dates. Even if they were still relevant, Israel’s leadership has made clear it will not allow the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state. Instead of going through the same familiar motions, as Hillary Clinton’s email proposes, it is time to start considering alternative political frameworks that can guarantee equality and full rights for Palestinians and Israelis alike.

We should all start strategizing how to nudge Mrs. Clinton toward that realization starting January 20.

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    1. Tammi Burk

      For whatever its worth, everyone knows that the zonist state wants 100% control over Palestine, and they are not going to stop until this is achieved. The Palestinian people should continue to work with the UN, organizations and supporters worldwide to create a One-State solution, where everyone lives under the same democratic rights, regardless of his/her faith. All citizens(zionist settles)in this consolidated country should be disarmed as a start. The government body should include a mix of individuals representing various sectors of society, towns etc. Citizens should also All have equal access to water, food, education, trade, economic growth,freedom of speech and travel etc. Its the only way.

      The two state solution will only strengthen the pure apartheid, racist segregationist agenda, and continue the us against them mentality. We need to promote the we are one type of thinking among the citizens.

      The military should be dismantled,and replaced by an unbiased international peace keeping force. The country governed by a group of outside unbiased international advisers for the first five to ten years and slowly giving control back to the citizens after systems, constitution, policy, and military have been reestablished…again where every sector of society is included, no one dominates the other.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Eliza

      Well, at least Clinton is more economical with her words than that other Presidential candidate in 2012. As Mitt Romney said ‘…All right, we have a potentially volatile situation but we sort of live with it, and we kick the ball down the road and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it. We don’t go to war to try and solve it imminently.’ Clinton just calls its ‘Potemkin process’ which I think we should all now adopt this term as code for the whole sorry state of American engagement in enabling the occupation.

      Nothing much has changed in the last four years except perhaps that Obama now openly equates Israeli exceptionalism with American exceptionalism as he so eloquently explained in his Peres eulogy.

      We all pretty much know that the 2SS is dead in the water; I wouldn’t waste a minute of time on Clinton or put any hope in her coming to the rescue of Israel. She won’t. OK, there is no surety that BDS or EU pressure will work, but at least there is a chance.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Itshak Gordin Halevy

      Why don’t you mention that the Judea and the Samarie are a part of the historical, national and religious heritage of the Jewish people. Why don’t you mention that nobody heard about the “Palestinian people” before the 60′.

      Reply to Comment
      • @ Itshak, that’s because none of that is even remotely true. Learn some real history.

        Reply to Comment
        • AJew

          “none of that is even remotely true”

          Actually, what Itshak says is 100% true.

          Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            Want a bit of history which offers proof?

            Here it is: Between 1948 and 1967, Jordan controlled the West Bank. A Palestinian state could have easily been established then but nobody was interested in it then. Only when Israel ended up controlling the West Bank in 1967, suddenly the Arabs started clamoring for a Palestinian state because it allowed them to represent themselves as underdogs.

            QUESTION: if there was an interest in a Palestinian state when Jordan ruled the West Bank but the Jordanians didn’t allow it, then how come not a single “Jordanian occupier” was blown up by “Palestinian freedom fighters” in 19 years of “Jordanian occupation”?

            Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        Forgive me for trying to express a subtle thought, but….while Jews have always lived in Israelistine there were long stretches of time when their numbers were pretty thin. More to the point, the whole thing about Judea and Samaria being part of the “religious heritage” of the Jewish people is partly a consequence of a deliberate multi-decade long advertising campaign paid for by the Israeli government to plant these words in people minds – if you repeat “Judea, Samaria, religious heritage” enough times it will eventually even seem to make sense; with enough repetition “Judea, Samaria, religious heritage” becomes the answer to every question. As for the notion of the “Palestinian people” we can observe that in 1750 there was no such thing as the “United States of America” and 50 years later there was – reality has a way of changing.

        Reply to Comment
    4. Average American

      You imagine it will be any different whether Trump or Clinton wins? Adelson bought Trump, Saban bought Clinton. Adelson and Saban are both rabid Zionists. Zionism’s core objective is to establish Eretz Israel as the homeland of, and under the control of, all Jews, only Jews. Except, like Israel, Eretz Israel’s borders are not defined. How convenient. Just how much territory do the Jews want to control? They want most of Syria and Iraq (to the Euphrates), Lebanon, Israel of course, Jordan, a quarter of Saudi Arabia, and the Sinai (to the river of Egypt). Wow! And why should The Jews control all those countries? Because a book written over a period of 500 years by many authors with missing chapters and lots of room for editing says so. And why should all those countries LET The Jews control them? It’s not because those countries believe that book, they don’t use it, they have their own book. Because Adelson and Saban believe they can call our President and turn OUR military sons and daughters and equipment and treasury to whatever THEIR objective is (already happened in Iraq, happening now in Syria), or instruct us to launch one of our nuclear missiles to hit wherever is their target. Wow! Can they do those things? Well, when you have the US President in the hand of Adelson or Saban, and Congress in the hand of AIPAC, maybe so.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Mark

      Nothing has persuaded me that Palestinians actually want an independent state of their own. Palestine really only became a political entity as a result of the despised Sykes-Picot Agreement.

      Reply to Comment