The Evolving Israel-Palestine Dynamic in a Nutshell

I’ve read a ton on Israel-Palestine, and sadly have retained only a portion of it. This nugget, however, from my IPS colleague, Phyllis Bennis, on a recent Democracy Now show, is a keeper. In just a few paragraphs, Phyllis explains why the peace process has been doomed to failure, and how and why the dynamic is evolving.

You know, I think Ali is absolutely right that the critical factor right now is the BDS movement globally. I think that the fact of the strength, the rising strength, of the BDS movement, particularly in Europe, is very much the reason for the French decision here. It’s absolutely true that France is not a great friend of the Palestinian people, and they are certainty no heroes—I never said or thought that. But I think that what is true is that the divide, the growing divide, between governments, long-standing allies of the U.S., and their willingness to break with the U.S. on these critical questions is very much a reflection of the rising strength of BDS movements in countries around the world, whether it be South Africa, whether it be throughout Europe or elsewhere. So I think that that—those two things are very much linked.

I think the question of the International Criminal Court is fundamental because of the question of international justice. The idea that somehow peace or justice, in any form, is going to come as a result of pretending that the Palestinians and Israelis come to the table as equals, as if this was Peru and Ecuador, for instance, sitting at a table to resolve a border dispute, that’s not what is going on here. What we have is, on the one hand, the 23rd wealthiest country in the world, the only nuclear-armed country in the Middle East, the fourth most powerful military, by far the strongest military in the region, backed by the world’s sole superpower, on one hand, and on the other side of the table, a stateless population that is militarily occupied by another government, without a state, without a military, without an economy to call its own, without control of its own airspace, its own waters, its own borders, etc. You can’t call those two equal partners for peace because you sit them at the same table. That kind of negotiation is never going to work.

And I think the significance of this new move is to say to the world, that’s over. This kind of forced negotiation on a false premise is over, because it has failed for 24 years, and that what we’re now looking to is an international movement, centered by the social movements of people, like the BDS movement at its core, and that governments will, over time, change in response to the pressure from their own populations. Eventually, when enough governments change, the United Nations will change. We saw that for a brief moment of eight months in the run-up to the war in Iraq, where the U.N. and some governments, for their own opportunist reasons, stood on the side of preventing war, as the charter commands them to do. We may see that over time on the question of Palestine.

Right now, the critical factor is what former U.N. special rapporteur on Palestine, Richard Falk, has called the struggle for legitimacy. Israel is losing the struggle for legitimacy. It’s losing that battle in a global—in the global arena. It’s losing it, critically, here in the United States. And it’s in the context of Israel’s dwindling legitimacy that these moves in the United Nations, whether the Security Council or the International Criminal Court, take place. It’s the loss of legitimacy that is now fundamental to Israel’s position.

Here’s my spin: This is tied to the much larger dynamic on the global stage: that the ability of the U.S. to dominate is declining. The pace of the decline still is relatively slow, but it’s unmistakably accelerating. In a decade or two, we will live in a far different, re-ordered world. The open question is how we’ll get there. Will the U.S. pull back gracefully and willingly, or will our hubris lead to a giant implosion, with disastrous consequences?

Time will tell.

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