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UN rights vote ends hope of mid east peace

NOW the UN Human Rights Council has endorsed the Goldstone report, there are important implications to the decision that could make it a global turning point.

It is the first make-or-break test for Barack Obama's foreign policy. There is no easy way out. The US President must either block this disastrous resolution through effective diplomacy at the UN, accept a bad resolution to avoid a confrontation or veto the resolution and accept the price in world unpopularity.

Oh, it also marks the end of the Middle East peace process era that began in 1993, showing both sides why they can't accept a compromise deal.

This says a great deal about the nature of international affairs nowadays. What does it say about the UN that it condemns Israel but does not act against Hamas, which is guilty of aggression, terrorism, seizure of power by force, calls for genocide, anti-Semitism, indoctrination of children to become suicide bombers, oppression of women, systematic use of civilians as human shields and a range of war crimes, as the report makes clear.

Trying to present the Goldstone report in a more favourable light, the Western media overstated its even-handedness, playing up its few mentions of Hamas to pretend that both sides in the conflict were condemned.

The UNHRC drops this pretence and speaks only of Israel, totally removing the factors that forced a reluctant Israel to launch its attack on the Gaza Strip.

This is not merely another of the many ritual condemnations of Israel but a demonisation. Israel is accused of massive war crimes on a remarkably flimsy basis. Of course it is all political, but this is a step toward delegitimisation. The Arab-speaking, Muslim-majority nations and the left-wing governments that supported the resolution see this as a step not towards a compromise peace but towards an elimination of Israel altogether.

I am not saying this is going to happen, or that the resolution will have any negative impact on Israel. But what is most important is that having tasted blood, these forces will not be interested in getting anything less. Why should they -- including the Palestinian Authority -- settle for a stable two-state solution when they believe they can get far more without giving up anything?

It is an accident but not a coincidence that the Palestinian Authority signed a unity agreement with Hamas in the same week the UN resolution was passed. The two groups will not actually co-operate but the document they reluctantly signed for reasons of organisational rivalry symbolises the fact that their strategies, although not their tactics, now coincide to a large degree.

This is the first reason why the passage of the resolution is an important development. It marks not only the end of the peace process but also the end of the peace process era. The Arab-speaking Muslim-majority nations, and some countries governed by left-wing administrations (Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua in Latin America, for example, and others), seek a one-state solution in which Israel no longer exists. It marks a return -- in thinking but not in military practice -- to the pre-1993 period, when there was nothing to talk about.

The most important country that voted to pass the Goldstone resolution in the UNHRC, Russia, does not think that way, and nor does China. The European countries also do not support such a development. Loud sectors in intellectual life and the media do, but these do not set policy.

The point is these countries will not act to stop the resolution. The many abstentions on the vote are symbolic of the fact that most Western democracies and countries that do not directly endorse this campaign are at best bystanders, and at worst appeasers.

The second reason why this development is so important is what it tells us about US policy. Remember that the Obama administration joined the UNHRC based on the explicit argument that it could moderate the radical-dominated group. This strategy has failed.

And so, on a larger-scale, has the concept that Obama's "popularity offensive" -- in which he distanced himself from Israel, lavished devotion on the Palestinian cause, extolled the glories of Islam and apologised for past US misdeeds -- would have some beneficial effect.

The policy has done worse than fail -- it has, predictably, backfired. The question is whether this will be recognised, much less reversed, by the Obama administration.

But there's more. The US now faces more tests.

Test 1: can it stop the progress of this resolution and report into their implementation through judicial decisions and sanctions against Israel, or not? Certainly, the US will work to water down the ensuing resolutions. To do so, it will need to use leverage and even threats to succeed. A "nice guy" strategy could fail miserably here.

Test 2: the next possible failure would be if the US government accepted a resolution that was somewhat watered down but still too extreme. In other words, Washington would buy off immediate trouble in exchange for longer-term woes.

Test 3: if the resolution is still too far-out, the Obama administration may have to veto it. The European countries know they can afford to be cowardly and leave it to the US to stop the madness.

If Washington does veto the resolution, it will have to brave international condemnation and unpopularity. Does Obama have the guts for this?

Finally, there is the lesson for Israel. Let's cut away all the obvious points about relying on itself, mistrusting the world and so on. There is one item of overriding importance.

Israel knows that if it yields territory and is attacked from that territory, no matter how great the provocation, it cannot depend on international support but instead knows it will face international condemnation.

What does this say about a two-state solution? Suppose Israel pulls out of the West Bank and a Palestinian state is created, either on the West Bank or that plus the Gaza Strip, and that state then either attacks Israel or allows and encourages terrorists to do so across the border. Israel has no response to defend itself that isn't highly costly. Bottom line: no Israeli government will make such a deal, and the Israeli people will not support such a deal.

Along with a myriad other reasons, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas can now argue persuasively that they enjoy broad international support for wiping out Israel. They have no incentive -- since both are indifferent to the welfare of their people -- to make any compromise for peace.

Good-bye, hopes for peace. I now declare the window of opportunity that seemed to open in the late 1980s, which met and failed the test of the Oslo process, and yet which continues to inspire false hope for many people, to be fully and officially closed.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Centre and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs

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Rubin is wrong. There never was a window of opportunity. There was a distorting lens of hope through which peace loving people looked and were fooled into seeing a change in mohammedan societies. They were fooled. I was fooled. Some fools still disbelieve the reality that has emerged. Cynics, cowards and antisemites keep urging Israelis to keep talking appeasing and taking risks. Others demand Israelis ignore democratic decisions and past agreements. The peace industry wants Israel to talk to liars who intend to make gains and spill more Jewish blood in exchange for brownie points for partaking in the peace talks charade.

Posted by paul2 on 2009-10-20 05:22:39 GMT