Last week’s drip of diplomatic leaks from United States officials led to streams of speculation that a grand bargain is in the works that will create the biggest Middle East peace breakthrough since the 1978 Israel-Egypt Camp David accord.
Or is this a public relations gambit to shore up the flagging reputations of three protagonists – US President Joe Biden, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi leader Mohammed bin Salman – who yearn to catch the glow of peace-making or, at least, of seeming to want to do something about it?
An apparently pending deal is based on Saudi recognition of Israel to be offered in return for US security guarantees – along with shipments of sophisticated weaponry and provision of nuclear technology, the latter supposedly just for peaceful energy technology.
Certainly, the Saudis can only gaze with longing at the billions of dollars worth of US military and economic aid provided to Ukraine, even without a formal security accord, to ward off Russia.
For Israel, the benefits also seems obvious. If Saudi hostility ends, much of the rest of the Muslim world would likely fall into line. And, presumably, Saudi Arabia would be weaned away from its flirtation with Iran, Israel’s current arch-nemesis.
For the USA, reduced tensions and solidified Middle East alliances would let Biden enter the ranks of peacemakers and focus on the long-gestating American “pivot to Asia” to confront China and away from the messy Middle East.
A White House lawn photo of Biden celebrating the whole thing would be welcome in advance of his 2024 re-election bid.
Yet, there was something unusual about the hoopla surrounding the anonymous American leaks and then endorsements by Netanyahu and bin Salman.
Talks on the subject have been going on for only a few months. Future steps are unspecific. Yet US officials let on that peace is at hand.
Netanyahu says Israel is at the cusp of a historic breakthrough leading to a so-called peace agreement with Saudi Arabia. But he did not outline a clear path for clearing the hurdles facing such a deal.
There are several hurdles in the way of such an agreement, including the Saudis’ demand for progress in the creation of a Palestinian state — a hard sell for Netanyahu’s government, the most religious and nationalist in Israel’s history.
The Saudis are also seeking a defense pact with the United States and want help in building their own civilian nuclear program, which has fueled fears of a regional arms race with Iran.
Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down more than a decade ago, and violence has soared over the past year and a half, with Israel carrying out frequent military raids in the occupied West Bank and Palestinians attacking Israelis.
Netanyahu’s government has approved thousands of new settlement homes in the West Bank, which Israel captured in the 1967 war and which the Palestinians want for the main part of their future state.
Those who think that peace can prevail in the Middle East without the Palestinian people enjoying their full and legitimate national rights are mistaken.
Now the Palestinian Authority (PA) has ended up as a mere security contractor to protect Israel, the oppressor, while oppressing the Palestinian people it claims to have come into existence to protect and lead towards full independence.
While Israel continues its apartheid policies in the West Bank, Jerusalem and its siege of the Gaza Strip, the ever expanding Israeli settlements continue to be the biggest obstacle to the creation of a Palestinian State.
As more settlements are built on Palestinian land, the idea of the two state solution, supported by the majority of the world community including Israel’s strong allies like the United States, becomes impractical and nearly impossible to implement.
The current Israeli government is continuing the same policy of expanding the settlements by protecting settlers while they grab more Palestinian land.
The PA now controls, in theory, less than 40% of the West Bank while, practically, Israel is still in overall control. Netanyahu has often seemed to revel in using the podium of the General Assembly to lambast Israel’s enemies
PBS / ABC Flash Point News 2023.