Ronan L Tynan
Israel’s failure to make peace with the Palestinians risked opening the door to ISIS or Islamic State in Gaza and the West Bank the well known Middle East commentator and journalist Abdel Bari Atwan warned this week at Chatham House responding to a question I put to him about Netanyahu’s rejection of the ‘two state solution’ at a meeting about ‘ISIS: Marketing Terror.’ This is because for years a so called peace process has only served to engender a deep sense of frustration and humiliation. A process made all the worse of course by Israel’s refusal to talk to Hamas. However, this is consistent with Israel’s past strategy because in seeking to destroy and undermine Yasser Arafat’s PLO in previous decades they allowed Hamas to emerge. The same process is now unfolding, except this time Israel is at risk of creating an opening for ISIS, and if that happens it will inevitably unleash a relentless war with a very formidable force that also threatens the EU and the US.
Oliver Miles former British Ambassador to Libya and head of the Foreign Office department responsible for the Middle East explained in unambiguous terms how Israel undermined any prospect of peace from Mrs Thatcher’s time writing in the Telegraph: “When I was head of the Foreign Office department dealing with the Palestinians in the early 1980s, Mrs Thatcher’s ministers, influenced by Washington which was influenced by Israel, were forbidden to talk to the PLO. This in turn prevented them from contributing seriously to the “land for peace” settlement (now called “the two state solution”) that at that time seemed a realistic basis for compromise and peace. By the time the ban was relaxed, it was too late.” Miles also warned without being explicit: “Failure to engage with Hamas as well as Mr Abbas’s Fatah may lead to the rise of more extreme players than either of them – and the result will be yet more unnecessary wars.”
However, as Abdel Bari Atwan warned this week there is now more than a real risk ISIS could emerge in Gaza and the West Bank. This follows on from US Secretary of State John Kerry’s warning last year that without a comprehensive peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians the ability to forge the kind of coalition resolve necessary to defeat ISIS would be problematic. Indeed, Kerry’s speech at a reception in the State Department was remarkable in the way he persuasively and very explicitly made that link based on his direct experience seeking support from Middle East leaders to build a coalition to defeat ISIS: “As I went around and met with people in the course of our discussions about the coalition…there wasn’t a leader I met with in the region who didn’t raise with me spontaneously the need to try to get peace between Israel and the Palestinians, because it was a cause of recruitment and of street anger and agitation that …. And people need to understand the connection of that. And it has something to do with humiliation and denial and absence of dignity…” No surprise that Secretary of State Kerry and Abdel Bari Atwan both used the word ‘humiliation’ to describe the impact of what Israel is inflicting on the Palestinians that offers such an opening to ISIS?
The time is long overdue to stop Israel behaving like the West’s ISIS after its third murderous assault on Gaza in six years, with the last attack having all the hallmarks of a premeditated war against civilians with more than 570 children killed by the Israelis – many in their own homes. The latter needless to add prima facie evidence of warcrimes. Netanyahu and his government are behaving as if ISIS does not exist. Israel’s brutality towards the Palestinians in the form of what amounts to an apartheid style occupation in the West Bank and its notorious eight year siege of Gaza is unsustainable, especially in the context of growing radicalization which Netanyahu’s government is very actively fomenting. As Professor Yossi Mekelberg also reminded us this week Netanyahu secured re-election as prime minister through the politics of fear and deception resorting to infamous racist language – “Arab voters are heading the polling stations in droves.” Racism, xenophobia and a refusal to talks to the Palestinians will not bring peace. Against that background the case for BDS – boycott, divestment and sanctions to change the Netanyahu mind set and that shared by his colleagues has never been more compelling?
Ronan L Tynan