x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

US is complicit in Netanyahu's fiction

The Israeli prime minister blatantly distorted reality in his address to the US Congress, but politicians are either ignorant of regional realities or willing participants to Israel's exploitation.

Stand up. Sit down. Stand up. Sit down. The US Congress, apparently, will rise for an ovation every time the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves his fist at the podium.

For what was billed as a new "vision" for the Middle East, Mr Netanyahu's speech on Tuesday night was depressingly, predictably pedantic. This Israeli administration has no plan for peace, only a series of refusals, and as the show in Congress demonstrated, US politicians are only too willing to follow him down the garden path.

The time is finished when the United States could pretend to be an honest broker in Middle East peace. The line that Mr Netanyahu offered, and Congress applauded, cannot lead to peace.

The prime minister mentioned "painful sacrifices" that Israel is theoretically prepared to make for peace, and then tried to exact them from the Palestinians, insisting on an undivided Jerusalem, Israeli control of areas in the West Bank, and a military occupation of the Jordan Valley. The "generous" terms of peace are a fraction of any previous serious proposal.

This is not just wishful thinking on Mr Netanyahu's part, it is wilful disregard of any possibility of a two-state solution. "Why has peace not been achieved?" he asked. "Palestinians have been unwilling to accept a Palestinian state if it meant accepting a Jewish state alongside it."

But this is fiction. Since the Oslo Accords in 1993, the premise of a "two-state" solution has of course included the existence of Israel. To pretend otherwise is pure semantics.

Mr Netanyahu justified this distorted view, and his insistence that Israel will retain sole control of Jerusalem, by laying claim to moral high ground to which his government has no right. In his conception of Jerusalem's history, only Israel had provided "Jews, Christians and Muslims ... unfettered access to their holy sites". But the three faiths have coexisted in Jerusalem for centuries - it is under Israeli policy that Arabs are being forced out.

Palestinians, as this tale runs, have actually benefited from occupation; as The National reports today, a display at the pro-Israel lobby Aipac is entitled "Israel Improving Palestinian Lives".

This is cloaking the occupation in lies, familiar garments for a government with something to hide. That so many US Congressmen dutifully applaud on cue shows how disconnected the United States is from the region.

For the time being, the United States cannot be relied upon. But Mr Netanyahu's narrative will not win out - it is simply too easily disproved.