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The slide to more war in the Middle East

The 1,600 documents leaked to al-Jazeera TV and the Guardian confirm one’s worst fears and open up a nightmare of reprisals and an inexorable slide to war. The revelations tell a dreadful story of a nation not only crushed by overwhelming military power, but betrayed and humiliated by its own negotiators in negotiations that were a cover for continuing relentless land annexation. The Israeli policy of Might is Right is laid out in all its nakedness by Tzipi Livni, then Israel’s foreign minister, who is reported as saying that it had been the policy of the Israeli government for a long time to create facts on the ground by annexing land and building Jewish settlements within the West Bank sufficient to prevent the possibility of a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. The 20-year peace process is dead, there is no way it will be revived in the foreseeable future, and the most likely outcome – probably sooner rather than later – is war.

Those who have clung desperately to the idea that somehow a bargain could be struck – ‘land for peace’ the favoured notion – are finally exposed by these leaked documents as innocents or deceivers. The Israeli government, having now faced down Obama over a moratorium on settlement-building, are now confident they can get both – seize the land by force and impose peace by a brutally suppressive occupation. The only country that could seriously alter this balance of power is the US, and that option is exposed as a sham by the leaked disclosures of persistent American contempt for the hopeless Palestinian position, let alone by the connivance of British intelligence in plans to crush Hamas.

The grovelling subservience now revealed of the Palestinian negotiators towards their Israeli tormentors is painful to comprehend.  But at least the narrative displays the bitter truth that whatever concessions the Palestinians offered – even so humiliating that it will now split their movement – it was never enough for the Israeli Right which simply increased its demands. Israel never wanted peace so long as it felt it could achieve its aims by violence and war, and the US was never minded to seek to impose peace by withholding its annual $3bn subsidy to Israel of state-of-the-art weaponry.

Fatah will be lethally damaged by these revelations and, in the eyes of most Palestinians, Hamas will be vindicated. If the situation now slides towards war, it will be a far more horrendous war than the Lebanon war of 2006 and the Gaza war of 2009. Since 2006, Iran and Syria have provided Hizbullah with an arsenal of perhaps 50,000 missiles and rockets, including many with ranges and payloads well beyond the capability in previous wars and sufficient to reach Israeli cities. If Israel retaliates with redoubled force, such a war could well draw in Syria and perhaps Iran. A miscalculation could easily ignite a conflagration.

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