Jim Sillars: Israel stares down barrel of Arab Spring gun

An Israeli border policeman takes aim at Palestinian protesters on the West Bank.  Picture: Reuters/Nayef Hashlamoun
An Israeli border policeman takes aim at Palestinian protesters on the West Bank. Picture: Reuters/Nayef Hashlamoun
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John Kerry, the United States Secretary of State, was applauded by his staff for his heroic effort to re-start peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Over the years since the Oslo Accords in 1993, the Israelis have played the Palestinians like a fish on a hook. Their spokesmen and women address the Western media in well-modulated English delivered in American accents, while the Palestinians use Arabic whose floury, often extravagant, character does not translate well into English. Only Hanan Ashrawi, American educated Christian, could communicate on a par with the smooth as silk Israelis. But as she has been sidelined by the Muslim leadership, it is no contest in the PR wars.

As the peace process got nowhere, Israel used the time to steal more Palestinian land with its settlements – building Jewish-only urban areas, strategically placed throughout the West Bank so that, with their web of security access roads, it is impossible to conceive of how a genuine Palestinian state can emerge. At the Clinton Camp David negotiations in 2000, where Arafat was supposed to have rejected a magnificent deal, the Palestinians were actually offered 22 per cent of 28 cent of their land due to settlements and their locations.

Today there are 131 settlements, with a population of 325,000 in the West Bank, and 190,000 in East Jerusalem. They are a flagrant violation of international law.

Settlers are religious zealots, believing they are on land gifted to them by God, and are a potent force in Israeli politics. They, along with many others in Israel itself, do not believe in a two-state solution. They deny that the Palestinians have any right to any land in the West Bank, which they call part of “Eretz Israel” or “Greater Israel”.

Today’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is on the record as rejecting any possibility of a Palestinian state, and has been an exponent of increasing the settlements to ensure it can never come about.

So, how did John Kerry, pictured below, get this same Netanyahu to agree to re-start talks about creating a Palestinian state in the West Bank?

It wasn’t by any threats of withdrawing from America’s policy of unconditional support of Israel. There is no chance of that. Last month, the most successful lobby in the US, the American Israeli Political Action Committee, took thousands of members to Washington, saw the whole membership of the House of Representatives and 100 senators and extracted from them pledges to maintain aid to Israel, and pass pro-Israeli legislation. American politicians are terrified of the AIPAC, which has a proven ability to unseat anyone who dares question whether it is sensible for US policy in the Middle East to be dictated by Israel.

So why is Israel entering into negotiations? Is it for real? Or is it just another ploy by Netanyahu to run rings round his opposite number, and ensure that when the talks fail, the Palestinians take the blame?

But things are not quite as they used to be. Israel now lives in a different geopolitical world since the Arab Spring. The cosy relationship between Israel and Arab governments, where the latter did plenty of verbal attacking, but nothing more than that, is over.

Both Kerry and our own William Hague have made clear to Netanyahu that, in the new Middle East instability, with the growing aggressive influence of the Shia, and a world growing angry at Israeli intransigence, this is the very last chance for a peace agreement through a two-state solution.

What has been pressed upon the Israelis is that if a two-state solution is not possible, then Israel will have to accept the logic of its occupation, incorporate the west Bank into Israel, and have a one-state solution with the 1.67 million Arabs in the West Bank joining the 3.9 million Arab-Israelis, as full citizens with all the rights that go along with that status. In short, Jews in Israel would find themselves in a minority.

Goodbye to the thing that really matters, a Jewish state. That’s why these two-state talks might succeed. Israel cannot, in the new world emerging in the Middle East, continue permanent occupation of Palestinian land without being accused of being an apartheid state, denying human rights to, and using and abusing the Arabs.

Let us cheat . . it’s only fair

Some exam results in China are different from ours.

In Zhongxiang, where 99 identical papers were submitted last year, the education department this year used metal detectors on students to uncover hidden mobiles, some designed to look like pencil erasers, to prevent parents outside the school transmitting answers to their children inside.

When this chicanery was blocked there was a parental riot, with shouts of “There is no fairness if you do not let us cheat.” It’s all true.