Israeli rejectionism as policy

What Israel seeks is not peace but pacification.

French President Francois Hollande greets Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as he arrives for a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France [EPA]
French President Francois Hollande greets Mahmoud Abbas as he arrives for a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France [EPA]

Israel’s rejection of a new peace initiative by France was unsurprising, and its excuse flimsy.

“Israel adheres to its position that the best way to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is direct, bilateral negotiations,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. However, the French initiative does not preclude direct, bilateral negotiations.

What it does do is propose an initial peace conference on May 30, which is reportedly expected to include some 30 countries and international organisations. That is the problem: Israel does not like outside mediation from any party except the US, because it knows that Washington – its closest and strongest ally – will never be a truly honest, even-handed broker.

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Under US auspices, Israel can act as belligerently as it likes towards the Palestinians, because there will be no consequences. The most that can be expected is relatively soft verbal criticism, couched in terms of having Israel’s best interests at heart. That, ultimately, is the point of US mediation – an outcome that primarily benefits its ally.

Overwhelming frustration

Take US Vice President Joe Biden’s expression last month of “overwhelming frustration” with Israel, and his criticism of the “steady, systematic expansion” of Jewish settlements on Palestinian land.

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He did not say this was morally wrong, a violation of international law, or speak out of concern for the Palestinians. He said Israel’s colonial project is leading to “a one-state reality, and that reality is dangerous”. Dangerous to Israel’s Jewish demographic supremacy, of course.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [Reuters]
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [Reuters]

Open criticism might be relatively uncharacteristic of US administrations, and certainly there have been tensions between Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama. However, this is meaningless because it is business as usual regardless of what Israel does and says.

As a prime example, just a week after Biden’s criticism, a White House official said the Obama administration was ready to offer Israel “the largest single pledge of military assistance to any country in US history”.

If Israel is generously rewarded for behaving badly, what incentive does it have to behave otherwise?

This is particularly true of US election cycles, when presidential hopefuls fall over themselves to profess loyalty to Israel. Whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump become the next president, both will be more staunchly and overtly pro-Israel than Obama has been, so Israel can simply bide its time until he is out of office in a matter of months.

Best-case scenario

If Israel is generously rewarded for behaving badly, what incentive does it have to behave otherwise?


Some argue that because Trump is not beholden to pro-Israel donors in the way that Clinton is, he may be more independent on the issue.

However, even if that is the case, his “America first” foreign policy – which is widely regarded as isolationist – will benefit Israel in the sense that it can be left completely alone to deal with the Palestinians as it wishes.

This is its best-case scenario because of the overwhelming imbalance of power between the two sides on the ground and at the negotiating table, and because its tactics will not come under outside scrutiny.

Given all of the above, initiatives such as France’s are a sideshow that Israel can reject or ignore at will. Netanyahu’s reaction may result in Paris cancelling the forthcoming peace summit altogether. Even if it goes ahead, it will be meaningless because it will not result in any repercussions for Israel, either for its rejection of the initiative or its ongoing oppression of the Palestinians.

Any initiative not proposed by the US would share the same fate, because in that case Israel does not have to bother with the facade of involvement.

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Remember the Quartet, comprising the UN, US, EU and Russia? It still officially exists, though it has achieved nothing since it was established in 2002, because no pressure has been applied on Israel to take it seriously.


As such, the Quartet is left to its own irrelevance. So too is the UN, which should be central to a solution to the conflict, but has been relegated to simply a member of the Quartet, its numerous Security Council resolutions that Israel violates simply gathering dust, and new ones thwarted by US veto power.

Direct talks

Netanyahu insists on direct talks with the Palestinian Authority (PA), but what is the point when his government is replete with members and parties that oppose a Palestinian state? He himself vowed during his last election campaign that this would not happen under his watch.

The only scenario it will accept is Palestinians' total submission to their subjugation.


As a PR ploy, however, he expresses his desire for peace and entertains the notion of a Palestinian state, while presenting a growing list of preconditions that make it all but impossible, and rejecting the PA’s legitimate precondition that Israel stop expanding its settlements.

Meanwhile, Israel rejects all forms of resistance (armed and peaceful) to its occupation and colonisation of Palestine, which is approaching half a century – the longest military occupation in modern history.

The only scenario it will accept is Palestinians’ total submission to their subjugation. For Israel, the “peace process” is about process over peace, and what it seeks is not peace but pacification.

It is merely a means for Israel to buy time and cover to entrench its occupation and colonisation until they are accepted as an irreversible fait accompli – a point that more and more people believe has already been reached.

It is much like Netanyahu’s statement last month that “the time has come after 40 years for the international community to finally recognise that [Syria’s] Golan Heights will remain for ever” in Israeli hands. Whatever the outcome of peace talks, he added, “the border will not change” – as if there is any point or possibility of such talks given this stance.

Israeli officials condemn any mention of a one-state solution with the Palestinians by those who desire it, or a one-state reality for those who fear it. The irony, however, is that Israel itself is ensuring the very outcome it so vehemently rejects.

Sharif Nashashibi is an award-winning journalist and analyst on Arab affairs. 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.