If the Grey Lady is calling for Washington to reconsider its role as enabler of the occupation, then it is indeed a new approach — perhaps even a revolutionary one.
A couple of days ago, a New York Times editorial called on the Obama administration to divert its attention away from the Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic process, which is failing to bring results, and onto other global issues. While congratulating Secretary Kerry and President Obama for the energy and time they have put into the process, the Times concludes that “after nine months, it is apparent that the two sides are still unwilling to move on the core issues of the borders of a Palestinian state, the future of Jerusalem, the fate of Palestinian refugees and guarantees for Israel’s security.”
There is a sort of disconnect in the article between the events it describes, which assigns much of the blame for the failure on the Israeli side, and the careful conclusion, which talks about the “two parties” and “both leaders” who are not ready to take the bold moves necessary for peace. This is part of the permanent framing of the Israeli/Palestinian story in the states, as if we are talking about two equal sides who are fighting or negotiating on an equal playing field. In reality there is one side that is deprived of rights and another that is the absolute sovereign over the entire territory, and more importantly, one side that experiences the conflict on a daily basis and one side that, almost every day of the year, is indifferent to it and well protected from its effects. If you fail to acknowledge that, you’ll never get the negotiations right.
But the interesting part is the Times‘s policy recommendation. There have been several reports recently describing differences of opinions between the White House and State Department on the way to approach the negotiations. The president, it is said, prefers to present the parties with the details of a two-state agreement – a step further than Bush’s endorsement of a Palestinians state and two steps from the Clinton Parameters – while Kerry actually wants to get the parties to commit. If these reports are correct, Obama, who wanted to limit his dealings with Netanyahu to a minimum, has been proven right. Even Kerry must now admit that getting concessions out of Bibi is a futile task. Now the Times is calling to go back to the White House’s original plan: put something on the table and kick the can to the next president, the next prime minister and the next leader of the PA, assuming it doesn’t collapse first.
But much like the “equal blame” framing, this idea is blind to the major role the U.S. plays in maintaining the occupation. The real question is not whether Kerry pulls out from the talks or how many more trips to the region special envoy Martin Indyk makes. The question is whether the U.S. will continue to veto United Nation Security Council resolutions on the settlements, as it has; continue to block the Palestinian path to international institutions; continue to finance and arm the forces – Palestinian and Israeli – that provide Israelis with its sense of security, thus allowing it not to feel any urgency in resolving the issue of the occupation.
The fact of the matter is that without the most direct American involvement and support, the occupation wouldn’t last another year. If the Times is calling for the U.S. to reconsider its role as enabler of the military control and colonization of the West Bank, this is indeed a new approach, perhaps even a revolutionary one. If the Times is calling on the administration to halt the diplomatic process but keep all of its other forms of support for the occupation in place, then the Grey Lady is simply supporting what Bibi has been asking for all along.