Moshé Machover: The endless so-called ‘peace process’

By Moshé Machover, The Cambridge Student – 25 Nov 2010
www.tcs.cam.ac.uk/download/TCS_Volume12_Michaelmas_Issue9.pdf

[IOA Editor: Following is the full, unedited interview, a shorter version of which was published in The Cambridge Student.]

Moshe Machover

Moshe Machover

Here are some questions for discussion:

[1] Do you see the current US-sponsored dialogue as amounting to anything?

The current intermittent dialogue is the latest phase of a process that started with the Madrid Conference of 1991, following the first Gulf War.

At that time the first intifada, ­ a popular, essentially unarmed, uprising of the Palestinians in the territories occupied by Israel in 1967 ­ was at its height, and Israel found the military and political cost of directly suppressing the population in these occupied territories (OTs) too high. At the same time, the PLO, then led by Yasir ‘Arafat, was in serious financial trouble, having lost its main sources of finance as a consequence of its stance during the first Gulf War. Previously, the PLO was subsidized by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and some of the Gulf Emirates. More importantly, it was allowed by the regimes of those countries to tax the Palestinian refugees living and working there (some of whom were earning a good living). All this stopped when ‘Arafat and the PLO leadership supported Saddam Hussein following his invasion of Kuwait and during the war.

The Israeli leaders realized that they could exploit the situation of the PLO leaders and, by dangling in front of them vague political promises as well as granting them some real personal privileges, get them to serve, in effect, as proxies for Israel in controlling and suppressing the Palestinian masses.

At that point, Israel departed from its previous policy of not talking to the PLO. Instead, it embarked on a strategy of an endless so-called “peace process”. This is how it goes. At each stage, Israel demands new concessions from the Palestinian side. If the latter balks at making these concessions in full, Israel breaks off the talks and blames the Palestinians for being extreme and intransigent. If the Palestinians accept, then Israel ­ making few if any actual concession on it part ­ finds some other excuse to prolong the process. A favourite Israeli ploy is to strike at Palestinian targets, for example assassinating leaders it describes as “terrorists”. If some Palestinian group responds by killing Israelis, then Israel can break off the “peace process” and blame the Palestinians. Meantime Israeli colonization of the OTs proceeds at full steam, thus creating new facts on the ground. Next time the negotiations resume, the concessions made by the PLO at the previous round are taken as the new starting point, and Israel demands fresh concessions. And so it goes.

As I said, the current dialogue is just the latest phase in this process. It is highly unlikely to lead to different results than past phases.

Israel’s strategic aim is to prevent the creation of anything that can even remotely be described as a sovereign Palestinian state; to colonize as much as possible of the best Palestinian lands; and to confine the Palestinians to a series of disconnected enclosures ­ not so much like Bantustans (which were a useful reserve of exploitable labour power for the South-African apartheid regime), but like US Indian reservations, or open prisons. The Gaza Strip has already been converted into the largest prison camp in the world.

[2] If or when these talks fail, what will the consequences be for the region? (e.g. a third intifada, unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state, increased settlement building, etc.)

Israeli colonization of the West Bank will proceed and escalate in any case ­ whatever happens in the talks. If the talks fail to produce any tangible improvement in the life of the Palestinian masses (as they most probably will), a new intifada may erupt.

Under present conditions, a so-called Palestinian “state” led by the compliant PLO elite, will be a travesty. However, Israel is trying to prevent even this. It prefers to continue the endless “peace process”.

[3] Do you think the ‘Fayyad plan’ of gradual state building is a viable way forward for Palestine?

No.

[4] How do you see the regional and international significance of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? To what extent is it the key to Middle Eastern stability?

The Israeli ­Palestinian conflict is historically and in its very essence regional. I enlarged on this in my 2006 Amiel and Melburn Annual Lecture, “Israelis and Palestinians ­ Conflict and resolution”, and I cannot elaborate on it here.

In my opinion, the Israeli settler state is regarded by the dominant imperialist power, the US, as a factor promoting stability in the region. That is, Israel, as a junior partner and local enforcer of imperialist domination, promotes the stability of this domination, and the stability of the corrupt and subservient Arab regimes.

Conversely, this regional “stability” is a key factor in preventing a resolution of the Israeli ­Palestinian conflict. I  believe that the conflict can be resolved only following a major change in the balance of power, which at present is hugely tilted in favour of Israel. Such a major change can only come about by overthrowing the present “stability”. The Palestinian struggle can achieve liberation if it is part of this process. I have enlarged on this analysis in my article “Resolution of The Israeli­ Palestinian conflict: A socialist viewpoint”, which is a sequel to the talk cited above.

Moshé Machover is an Israeli socialist anti-Zionist activist and co-founder of the Socialist Organization in Israel (Matzpen). He is currently living in London, England. He is emeritus professor of philosophy, King’s College, London University. His most recent book is Israelis and Palestinians: Conflict and Resolution.

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