Israel’s Grand Illusion Collapses in Gaza’s Ruins

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The Film ‘The Grand Illusion’ by Jean Renoir, which I’ve been returning to occasionally through the years, is a 1937 B&W masterpiece that suggests, among other things, that “war is futile, and that mankind’s common experiences should prevail above political division, and its extension: war.” (Wikipedia.) “Renoir’s critique of contemporary politics and ideology celebrates the universal humanity that transcends national and racial boundaries and radical nationalism.”

I was thinking often about this film during the latest Israeli-Palestinian flare-up of semi-war with Hamas in Gaza. And what strikes me the most is not only the futility of war (it’s the fourth or fifth such round-of-hostility since Hamas took over power in Gaza in 2007), but the complete collapse of Israel’s belief that the Palestinian issue and conflict has been put to rest. The notion that—especially during the last twelve years of Netanyahu’s rule—the Palestinian political struggle for independence and a state of their own is practically all but over. That Israel has succeeded in squashing their national aspirations down. That they will agree, and get used to living as second, or third-class citizens under Israel’s occupation for good.

Maybe the biggest prize that Trump has given Netanyahu—more even than moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem, and declaring the disputed Golan Heights an Israeli territory—was the ‘Abraham Accords.’ The so-called ‘peace deal’ with the United Emirates and Bahrain, far away oil-rich Sheikdoms, and then Morocco and Sudan, all bribed and blackmailed to a degree by the Trump/Kushner administration with ‘huge’ presents to sign in on it. Of course, Israel was never at war with any of these outlier countries, and the agreement was at best a ‘normalization of relations.’ “We are witnessing the last vestiges of what has been known as the Arab-Israeli conflict,” Jared Kushner wrote in the Wall Street Journal two months ago.

Unfortunately, many fell into the fallacy of these agreements, including some experience, astute observers. For Netanyahu, the biggest prize was that by diverting the conflict away from the Palestinian issue—here we go, ‘The Grand Illusion’—that conflict would go away. So much so that he and others in the Israeli government were living under the delusion that the Palestinian issue is done and cooked on low heat forever, never to be irrupted again. “The deadly fiction that the Palestinians were so abject and defeated that Israel could simply ignore their demands,” wrote Michelle Goldberg in the NY Times recently.

Oh man, how wrong one can be—Netanyahu that is—when one’s sole purpose is to remain in power. And to use that power as means not for justice and humanity, but for victory at all costs. And make no mistake, the latest war was not about Gaza, nor was it about “Israel’s right to defend itself.” It was not even about the Palestinian elections and their inner power struggle, or Israel’s politicians attempting to form a governing coalition (as some have suggested). No: It was about the Palestinians right to exist in dignity. To have a state of their own. To be treated as human beings with equal rights under the sun. Not to be evicted at will from their homes in Jerusalem—where it all had started, this time and also many years ago—and to end the occupation once and for all. To borrow and paraphrase Bill Clinton’s campaign slogan, it was “The occupation, stupid.”

Israel’s refusal since the end of the Six-Day War of 1967 to realize that, to accept the consequences, and mostly its failure to stop the expansion of the settlement endeavor, is very costly and now almost behind repair. The two-state solution is dead, declared so here before, or at best is on death bed. Even with Biden in charge in Washington; even with a new Prime Minister in Israel (hard to believe it would ever happen); even if Israelis would realize their mistake (some do, the majority don’t), I don’t see how it can be reversed. I hope it can, but the facts on the ground, and the political challenges against it, are too immense. It is now a one-state solution. And how it would survive and thrive is anybody’s guess.

Case in point: Arab Israelis. Or Palestinian Israelis. For the first time in a long time they irrupted too. On the streets of Israeli cities with mixed populations—Lod, Accra, Haifa, Jerusalem, and Jaffa—they revolted and took to the streets, causing death, injuries, and havoc. They fought against extremist Jewish right-wingers who fought against them with the police mostly on their side. (Black Lives Matter, anybody?) It was ugly. It was violent. But it proved one point rather clearly: Put aside the political overture of some Israeli politicians and one Arab moderate politician to form a united governing coalition, the Arab Israeli people are not with them. They see themselves as Palestinians. That is how and where their hearts beat.

So deal with it, Israel, before it’s too late. If it’s not already so.

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What’s Really Behind Israel-UAE- “Peace Deal”


As I write this, the euphoric dust continues to hang low over Israel and America, following the announcement of the normalization agreement between Israel and the UAE. The superlatives (thrown about to distort the truth) were so overwhelming that even a veteran observer such as yours truly found it difficult to clear the fog of falsehood. Of course, none was bigger in this regard than President Trump’s tweet: “HUGE breakthrough today! Historic Peace Agreement between our two GREAT friends, Israel and the United Arab Emirates!”

Caught in the jubilation were—except the Palestinians, for obvious reasons—not only the major players themselves, but the media here and in Israel, including long time, astute observers of Trump, Netanyahu, and the Middle East. Who, feeling the urge to join in this intoxicated international Hora dance, lost momentarily their usually analytical observation power. And so I aim, in my limited capacity – though as always dedicated to the truth – to clear some of this stardust for your benefit. But before I do that, some important—indeed promising—developments of this deal (yet to be ironed out,) must be highlighted and commended.

This development is welcomed and, if successful, opens a wealth of opportunities for Israel, the UAE, and the entire Middle East. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi and the Emirati leader who brokered the deal, described it in a tweet (second to Trump, of course) this way: “During a call with President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu, an agreement was reached to stop further Israeli annexation of Palestinian territories. The UAE and Israel also agreed to cooperation and setting a roadmap toward establishing a bilateral relationship.”

Unlike Trump’s bombastic tweet, this one is rather clear and informative. It states first that the raison d’etre for the deal is to stop Netanyahu’s planned annexation, promised to his voters in the last election. Only secondly comes the promise of “cooperation and setting a roadmap toward establishing a bilateral relationship.” It’s worth pointing out here that Netanyahu, in his major speech to the nation, not only minimized the annexation issue and insisted it’s only a “temporary suspension,” but like Mr. Trump declared it a “done deal,” rather than a work in progress. Furthermore, it’s important to state here that Israel and the UAE have been engaged in economic, scientific, and intelligence cooperation for quite some years, indeed under the radar. In that sense, bringing it to light is also an important achievement.

I should acknowledge also that this ‘new deal’ opens the possibilities of similar such agreements in the near future with other Middle East countries, especially other oil-rich sheikhdoms such as Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Oman, small countries that share also a common enemy: Iran. Which is another factor in this equation, and a rather important one to Israel and America. It creates a buffer zone for the Iranian aspirations and adds the most powerful army in the Middle East—i.e. Israel’s IDF—permission to defend and possibly attack Iran. Of course, with the backing of America. What’s wrong with all that, you ask?

Let me tell you. First, this is not a peace deal. Nothing of the sort. A peace deal is an agreement made between enemies, most often after a long, protracted war. Israel and the UAE were never at war with each other. Not even close. Growing up in Israel, and serving in the IDF both in compulsory and reserve duties for many years, no one ever mentioned that sheikdom, let alone even knowing where it is. (Confession: I had to look at the map just to make sure.) Yes, it’s part of the larger Arab League, and as such it’s also a signatory to its peace proposal of 2002, which it now has betrayed, according to not just the Palestinians, but Saudi Arabia as well.

This is not a peace deal; rather, it’s a normalization agreement. Which brings me to my second point: Annexation. On the face of it, what a great deal. It stopped (or suspended) Israel’s annexation of a large part of the West Bank. Now, I ask you, if this is such a great deal, why the Palestinians are not happy about it? They should be celebrating in the streets, right? But no, they know better. And what they know is that, first, the threat of annexation is not gone. Second, they know that annexation de facto is still in progress, acre after acre, kilometer after kilometer, hill after hill. For them, the need for a united Arab League to stick with the 2002 peace plan, which Israel has done its best to disregard, is much more important.

Regarding this crucial element of the agreement, I’ll say one more thing: It’s mostly thanks to Benny Gantz and his Blue and White Party, on the receiving end of so much ridicule in Israel—but not from me, as I laid out in a previous post — The Lesser of Two Evils, from April 26 — because they joined the coalition with Netanyahu. But he and his party were the ones to actually prevent Netanyahu from going ahead with it on July 1st. They refused, unless America supports it, and unless it’s part of the overall ‘peace deal’ the Trump administration has suggested with the Palestinians. In a way, they are the ones who prevented it—if it’s indeed prevented—and not the agreement with UAE.

Lastly, I believe the real reason beyond this deal is Netanyahu and Trump’s way of escaping jail. Wait, let me explain. While the said deal is important on some levels (as pointed out above), it’s the political gains that the two of them are seeking, to ensure they stay in power and avoid prosecution. In Netanyahu’s case, his court proceeding will kick into high gear next January, where and when he’ll have to appear in court to defend himself three times a week. Imagine that. He cannot stop these proceedings, as they are underway already. His only chance to stay out of jail is to remain in power and to bend the rule of law—Belarus, Russia, China—his way. Had Trump not being president currently, he’d probably be in jail by now, that’s my belief. And should he lose the coming election—he better!—the democrats, justice, and law forces will go after him like a ‘huge’ fireball. His only salvation is to stay in power. Hence this deal.

Lastly: Comparing these so-called “Abraham Accords” to Israel’s peace treaty with its sworn enemy Egypt in 1979, and to the peace treaty with Jordan in 1994; comparing the major players of this deal to Sadat, Begin, Hussain, and Rabin is at best misleading, and at worst an outright lie. So befitting this marriage-of-convenience of Netanyahu and Trump.

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