Bye-bye Middle East peace process or Netanyahu’s pact with the devil

Friday 15/05/2015
Little chance for peace

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s alliance with the ultra-nationalist Jewish Home party and the award of cabinet posts to its leading members Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked is the price he had to pay to stay in power.

This political short-sightedness may well be the equivalent of striking a deal with the devil. Short of a miracle when you sell your soul to the devil, the devil always wins. And it has been a couple of thousand years since the last miracle occurred in the Holy Land.

With Netanyahu staying on as prime minister of Israel, sur­rounded by ministers even further to the right than he is, it will, at least through his term, very likely kill hopes of a peaceful end to the conflict that has pitted Israelis against Palestinians and other Arabs and extended the fight to bring into the conflict non- Arab actors such as the Turks and Iranians.

While it is wrong to think — as many in the Arab world do — that Israel is at the core of all of the re­gion’s ills, the Jewish state remains a predominant factor contributing to the region’s issues and in one manner or another has been at the root of nearly every conflict that has traversed the region in the last six or seven decades.

Some Israelis hope they can safely ignore the violence in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen. That may be partially true for the moment but regardless of how secure Israel’s borders are or how sophis­ticated its defences may be, it is worth remembering that when a fire rages in the house next to yours, unless the fire is doused, it is only a matter of time before the flames begin engulfing your house, too.

Indeed, fires are raging all around Israel. But the danger may come from within the country as it becomes consumed by a wrong sense of direction.

Shaked was reported to have called Palestinian children “little snakes” and accused Palestinian mothers of raising their children to become martyrs. Media reports said this amounted to a call for genocide of the Palestinian people.

Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, then prime minister, described her politics as no different from the Nazi party. “What is the differ­ence between this mentality and Hitler’s?” he asked.

Shaked, at the time a junior member of the Jewish Home Party, argued the translation of her com­ments was unfair.

Remarkably, instead of hurting her career those statements raised her public profile.

Zionist Union Member of Parlia­ment Nachman Shai said Netan­yahu’s appointment of Shaked as justice minister was “like appoint­ing a pyromaniac to head the fire department”.

The Israeli-Palestinian peace process — what little is left of it — is intended to settle the 67-year-old dispute and produce a two-state solution by which Pal­estinians and Israelis can live with dignity and security in a peaceful manner. But without major assur­ances and prodding of both sides by the United States, chances of anything concrete emerging from the region are next to none.

And as the Americans are busy with the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS), the fighting in Ukraine, the rise of terrorism on a previously unseen scale, a new cold war emerging with Russia, China’s growing influence and evolving relations with Iran — all that taking place just a few months before the US presidential race kicks into high gear — chances of the Americans becoming in­volved in reviving the Middle East peace talks would take nothing short of a miracle.

And with Shaked having a voice in government, even a miracle makes it seem unlikely.