The pause that refreshes.
—Coca-Cola advertising slogan (1929) ranked 3rd best of the 20th century By Ad Age
The N.Y. Times headline tells it all Israel Offers a Pause in Building New Settlements. A pause is not a freeze. A pause ends with a resumption of whatever you were doing before. A freeze is something that stops you dead in your tracks. We all know where this is going and it ain’t a pretty place. Maybe a train wreck. Maybe a repetition of the same Groundhog Day type scenario that happened day after day for over 40 years.
Instead of singing hossanahs as Bibi expects Barack to do, let’s look at what the “pause” does not do. It does not stop East Jerusalem construction, which is some of the most incendiary and definitive in terms of poisoning a final negotiated settlement. Neither will this stop evictions from, and demolition of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem.
The settlement freeze was originally meant as a way to freeze the political situation & allow all parties to take a step back & re-evaluate their priorities and agendas. This move does nothing toward that end. It allows the most toxic settlement construction to continue. It allow the continued expropriation of Palestinian property and land in the Holy City.
Further, the “pause” allows Israel to continue building 3,000 units currently under construction. Instead of the pause that refreshes, this should be known as the pause that does nothing. Statements like this only add insult to injury and indicate Bibi doesn’t give a crap about what Palestinians think. He’s merely preaching to his right-wing Israeli choir:
Mr. Netanyahu said that Israel was taking a “difficult” and “painful” step, and that he hoped the Palestinians and the Arab world would “seize this opportunity” to work toward peace.
If he prefers preaching to that choir let him make peace with Avigdor Lieberman or Moshe Feiglin. See if they can deliver Palestinian consent to this travesty of a pause.
At one time, I really believed the Obama administration could advance the peace process. But not with delusional statements like this from Madame Secretary:
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the pause in construction “helps move forward” the peace process.
What in the world is she thinking or smoking? What peace process? And “forward?” Try backward. Try nothing. It does nothing. It fools no one. It’s a fig leaf that allows the U.S. and Israel to say they’ve achieved something when they’ve achieved nothing. In fact, it may be said that in raising expectations and disappointing so many, it’s actually set the alleged peace process backward. Certainly not forward.
The only slightly bright spot was Clinton’s reference to negotiations resuming based on 1967 borders. This is a position Israel detests and will avoid like the plague, especially a right wing government like Bibi’s which seeks to retain as much occupied territory as possible in any projected (more like “imagined”) peace agreement.
Michael Oren, that supposedly elegantly moderate Israeli ambassador has, as usual, revealed more than he realized in this statement:
Mr. Oren said Mr. Netanyahu’s decision to temporarily halt settlement construction was “a gesture, first of all, to the president of the United States. I can’t stress that enough.”
Indeed, this shows that Bibi has no interest in achieving peace, at least not with the Palestinians. Perhaps peace with Obama so he may be left to pursue his own agenda regarding the Iranians and Palestinians, but certainly not peace with Abbas or the PA. Who does Oren think Israel is going to make peace with? Obama?
After Mr. Netanyahu spoke, Israeli television news commentators said the settlement moratorium seemed aimed more at making peace with the Obama administration than with the Palestinian Authority.
Indeed. Bibi doesn’t give a crap about the Palestinians nor does he believe in peace. This is an incredibly cynical move on his part and the sad thing is that Obama seems to have fallen for it. In his defense, I’m sure he only praises this piece of Kabuki theater because he believes the parties can now get to the serious stuff of final status negotiations. But Bibi is way ahead of him. He’s not going to go to final status negotiations. And even if he does he’ll string that out for ages as all previous Israeli governments have done so well.
I feel sorry for George Mitchell, who’s been laboring under the heavy weight of trying to deliver a stillborn peace baby. He’s simply too intelligent and decent a man to believe a word of this statement he delivered:
“The steps announced by the prime minister are significant and could have substantial impact on the ground. For the first time ever, an Israeli government will stop housing approvals and all new construction of housing units and related infrastructure in West Bank settlements. That’s a positive development.”
I feel less sorry though for Daniel Levy, who should know better. He has no government position to defend as Mitchell does. Therefore, his Pollyanish optimism comes across as completely empty and hollow:
“The U.S. has taken a further step in laying out a program,” said Daniel Levy, a director of the Middle East Task Force at the New America Foundation in Washington. “What Netanyahu is not doing on settlements led the U.S. to be more forward-leaning in its language than it has ever been before.”
As one of the leading think tank doves and founder of J Street, Levy is abandoning a truly progressive position on this subject and throwing his weight behind an ephemera. We are far beyond a situation in which “forward-leaning language” (whatever that phrase means) will help the situation. The Palestinians and Arabs states will rightly say: “can a starving man eat words?” Give a starving man a meal, that is, something real he can sink his teeth into.
Language is just that, words. Anyone can string together pleasing words into elegant phrases that sound lovely to the ear. Obama did that in Cairo. We all (or most of us) were carried away by the sounds. But we’re beyond that now. We need deeds. And a “pause” is not a deed. It is theater.