Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

U.S. Tries-But Fails-To Pull Pre-Emptive Fast One on Quartet

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

U.S. Tries-But Fails-To Pull Pre-Emptive Fast One on Quartet

Article excerpt

So, an occupied territory is partitioned by an intrusive wall marching across the arid landscape. The Arab inhabitants are either under occupation, or huddled in an unproductive corner of their own land. Some countries still give recognition to a government in semi-exile in a tiny enclave of the nation.

Despite repeated U.N. resolutions, International Court of Justice (ICJ) judgments, and blandishments from most countries, the occupiers refuse to allow self-determination within the internationally agreed boundaries, instead offering interminable talks in which everyone is too polite to point out to the occupying state that it is violating international law, U.N. decisions and its own promises.

But Arab states join France and the U.S. in giving Morocco a free pass in scofflaw behavior-which is why the 12th round of U.N.-sponsored talks between POLISARIO and the Moroccans ended in July with similarly inconclusive results to the previous 11 rounds.

The talks, currently under the aegis of the secretary-general's special representative for Western Sahara, former U.S. diplomat Christopher Ross, have produced some results that have ameliorated conditions for the Sahrawis, in family visits for example, but their most outstanding characteristic is the refusal of the international community to take Morocco to task, let alone threaten any consequences for its blatant illegality.

The parallels are obvious in the similar case at the other end of the Sahara-in which, however, the victims do have at least the lip service of the Arab states. The U.S., Europe and everyone else says the Palestinians should have a state of their own. Almost every government agrees that the basis should be the 1967 boundaries. Yet Washington is telling everyone how important it is that the United Nations not recognize a Palestinian State in the forthcoming General Assembly.

If in doubt about why U.S. policy bows to illogicality, it is always sound analysis to look at what Israel wants. And Israel's policy is a diplomatic form of coitus interruptus: going through the motions to please its American partner, but always sure to pull out before consummation. So Israeli leaders have, sort of, kind of, allowed that they might, under carefully unspecified conditions, recognize a Palestine State-of sorts-and that yes, the 1967 boundaries are significant-as long as they can be safely ignored in any final solution.

Implied but never explicitly stated is that this would be a Bantustan-style state, modelled on the South African regime's sequestration of unwanted ethnic groups in the most undesirable territories and giving them a quasi-independence but in which the white settler regime had all significant power. And the Bantustans did not last more than days after the establishment of majority rule.

If Israel succeeded in setting up a "Palistan" like that, we can be sure that it, and the U.S., would be lobbying the U.N. and the world to extend recognition to lend some verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative of statehood.

As it is, like Saint Augustine's famous plea for virtue "but not just yet" while he rampaged through his riotous youth, the U.S. is reduced to saying that of course Palestine should have statehood-but not just yet. Once clear manifestation of the flexibility of nay-saying is how quickly the arguments changed from denying the Palestinian Authority's representativeness because it did not control Gaza, to denying its legitimacy if elected representatives from Hamas took part in the government.

These evasive policies allow Washington to be wagged by its Israeli tail while maintaining the polite fiction that Israel seriously wants a peace settlement in a form that would be acceptable to the Palestinians, the Arabs, the rest of the world, and international law.

The depths to which the Obama administration has sunk since the president's promising start in Cairo and Istanbul became apparent when the "Quartet" of Russia, the U. …

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