Sunday, May 11, 2008

“But what if nobody takes notice?”

A Good Piece

By Alastair Crooke, Conflicts Forum, May 11, 2008

"“But what if nobody takes notice?” is the question posed by Robert Malley and Hussein Agha in an article in the recent New York Review of Books concerning the putative ‘shelf agreement’ being discussed between President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert. A ‘shelf agreement’ is an exercise in outlining some principles for the settlement of the Palestinian issue, rather than to attempt a full solution. It is a document, the culmination of the Annapolis process, intended not for implementation; but rather immediately to be set aside — on the ‘shelf’ — whilst all parties, Bush, Abbas and Olmert declare the document to represent a huge triumph — whilst shamelessly waving this Chamberlinesque ‘peace in out time’ paper before their electorates in order to ‘help’ in their respective elections, or to cement legacies.........

But reality is different: In the region — beyond the Ramallah hothouse — there is no “what if?” The failure of the two-state solution is expected, and discounted, as thinking has evolved in a different direction: The cheer-leaders among Europeans desperate to ‘rescue’ it are stuck in denial from this perspective.....

Even if the Israeli Prime Minister belatedly were to recognise that its policy ultimately has not served Israeli interests, the theft and fragmentation of Palestinian lands, without let-up over forty years — as even a child understands — makes any meaningful independent Palestinian state now virtually an impossibility. Palestinians have understood this for a long time......

There is perhaps a fine irony here: As Israel has contributed to the self-destruction of President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fateh movement, by undermining its credibility and by continuing with the settlement project; so too, perhaps, has Fateh slipped a suicide pill to Israel. Israel’s and America’s blindness to the sea-changes taking place in the region — or the contempt with which they are viewed — may stem in part from their overly close association with the ‘moderates’ in Fateh.

Israel has become so accustomed to Palestinian negotiators running to talks with Israel — irrespective of the deaths of Palestinians or new announcements of further illegal settlement construction — that Israel and the US Administration take the “Palestinians desperate for any hope” narrative so seriously that they believe that an Israeli ‘signal of peace’, however cynical its motive, is enough to placate the region — and to allow Israel and the US the quiet with which to continue with their plans.

But if this is what they think, then it is little wonder that the West so regularly misreads the ground in the region: Not all Palestinians are ‘desperate’ for hope from Israel. Far from it, many are making ready against the possibility of conflict.

The feeling among Islamists, many secularists, Christians, and a number of states is of being at the cusp of fundamental change. Change is coming; and the region will not again be what it is today: This major current does not foresee the coming era to be the one that Europe or the US envisages; but something very different. Islamic movements and states such as Syria and Iran increasingly are concerned to judge the evolving strategic shifts accurately. This is more important to them than to make some tactical and short term political accommodation with western powers — no one wants to be caught on the wrong side of events........"

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