Sunday, April 28, 2013

Rashid Khalidi's new book BROKERS OF DECEIT: short, power-packed and insightful

Weighing in at 167 pages, including the index, War and Peace it is not. But Khalidi's just released book packs a punch that is both edifying and bracing, and besides covering the announced topic of the book very well; Khalidi, virtually as an aside, delivers a shattering blow to the argument that through lobbies like AIPAC, JDL, etc. Israel has hijacked US foreign policy in the Mideast and is in the drivers seat. I'll get to that part later.
The sub-title of the book is: "how the US has undermined peace in the middle east," and its narrow focus makes it all the more penetrating. In the introduction Khalidi states his purpose, "This book is concerned, primarily, however not with the misuse of language, important though that is, but with an American-brokered political process that for more than thirty-five years has reinforced the subjugation of the Palestinian people, provided Israel and the United States with a variety of advantages, and made considerably more unlikely the the prospects of a just and lasting settlement of the conflict between Israel and the Arabs."

Khalidi illustrates his argument with chapters on three key events: chapter 1 is "The First Moment: Begin and Palestinian Autonomy in 1982; chapter 2, "The Second Moment: The Madrid-Washington Negotiations, 1991-3" and chapter 3 the Third Moment "Barak Obama and Palestine, 2009-12."

Needless to say (for those with some familiarity with these events)everything involves Israeli demands, Palestinian objections and US support for any and every Israeli position, followed by Palestinian defeat. Kalidi's narrative of how this was done and the gross use of Orwellian "new speak" by the US and Israel is fascinating and often illuminating in unexpected ways. For example, when Begin spoke of Palestinians being allowed to have "autonomy" he also excluded them from having any territory of their own. What was trumpeted publicly as a great concession was in fact double-talk and meaningless; from the start Israel never intended for there to be a Palestinian state, ever.

Adding to his insights, Khalidi himself was a participant in some of these events as an adviser to the Palestinian delegation to the Madrid conference. This is an important book that has the potential to reach a lot of people. It is a work of scholarship, but very readable and never dry.

Now to the part about what is the US fundamental interest in the Mideast and what role the Israel lobby plays. In the introduction Khalidi states what he thinks should have been seen as obvious (it escaped my notice, I have to admit). The key strategic relationship the US has in the Middle east is not Israel, it is Saudi Arabia. Having access and control of Saudi oil (and that of the surrounding Gulf Kingdoms of Dubai, Kuwait et al)is vital for the US and its world position. It is a relationship that began in 1933 and it is a relationship that is deep (read House of Saud, House of Bush, for instance). Fortunately for the Zionist rulers of Israel, the Saudis don't care about the Palestinians enough to threaten to rupture or modify their political and economic relations with the US. When US-Saudi interests conflicted with what Israel wanted, Israel lost. Try though they did, the Israelis didn't stop sales of US f-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia during the Carter years and they didn't stop Regan's sales of AWACS system aircraft to the Saudis. When both of these sales came before Congress it was the petrochemical lobby that beat the Israel lobby.

Other instances of the US slapping down Israel when if felt its most vial interests were at stake are the Israeli military's withdrawal from Sinai in 1975 and the later signing of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, which the US had to shove down Israel's throat. The treaty, a victory of the US over the Soviets, making Egypt a client state of the US, was too important to allow the Israelis to scuttle it.

Since there is no pressure from the oil producing states on the US over Palestine and there is no domestic counter to AIPAC & co. letting Israel do what it does has not had any dire consequences for any US administration. To go against the Israel lobby can be costly election time, and no Democrat or Republican cares about the Palestinians to push the issue.

So Saudi oil is the bedrock of US policy. Insofar as it doesn't conflict with the Saudi-US relationship, any US administration isn't going to antagonize Israel's domestic partisans and lap dogs.

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