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  VANGUARD  
 
Trump’s phony Middle East peace plan and declining US power
 
 

With Israeli PM Netanyahu in Washington for meetings with President Trump to launch a US-led 'so-called' peace initiative in the Middle East, it is important to relate the diplomacy to some other developments with far-reaching implications for Israel.

A recent high-level diplomatic and intelligence assessment about the Middle East revealed deteriorating US fortunes in the region. Washington and the Pentagon are losing leverage against forces emerging from the Syria conflict: Iran, the Russian Federation and Syria.

In Lebanon, likewise, a changing balance of forces has some considerable bearing upon Tel Aviv.
 
Netanyahu and his political rival, opposition leader in the Knesset, Benny Gantz, travelled to Washington for Trump’s announcement. While billed as a major US-led peace initiative, the round of meetings was really an act of desperation amongst the three players. Israel, a major hub for 'US interests' in the Middle East, has entered a prolonged period of political instability. Israelis return to the polls on 2 March for their third general election in twelve months.
 
Behind the scenes long-time political leader Netanyahu is facing serious problems and has been formally charged with fraud, bribery and breach of trust. He has also formally dropped his request for parliamentary immunity if found guilty. President Trump, likewise, has impeachment proceedings pending, which may see him removed from presidential office by legal procedures.
 
The Washington meetings focus upon a fifty-page report outlining US proposals, thirty pages of which concentrate upon economic reforms which have already been rejected by the Palestinians last June. (1) The fact that no Palestinians have been included in the round of Washington talks and discussions shows quite adequately the position of the Trump administration.
 
The Trump peace plan offers a phony “two-state solution” which legitimises Zionist military occupation and control of the Palestinians and gifts to Israel the illegally occupied territories seized by so-called “settlers” in areas covering a third or more of the West Bank.  It does not take genuine Palestinian statehood into consideration. It is, therefore, hardly surprising that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas distanced himself from the peace plan, stating 'this conspiracy deal will not pass'. (2) As Palestinian protests were already taking place in opposition to the plan, President Abbas was meeting various groups and factions in Ramallah to discuss a plan of action.
 
Dr. Eyal Mayros of the University of Sydney says that 'Trump is the most pro-Israeli president ever … his base is made up of evangelists, the conservative wing … (of) the pro-Israeli lobby'. (3) As the Trump administration plays toward its supporters in the lead-up to presidential elections, his advisers seem to have overlooked a recent high-level diplomatic and intelligence assessment which found its way into the public domain in a rather timely manner.
 
In mid-January readers of the Australian newspaper had the opportunity of studying an article 140 column cms in length which included photographs and a chart listing US military capability in the Middle East, by Martin Indyk, a former US Ambassador to Israel and holder of various other titles linked to peace initiatives with Israel and the Palestinians. Entitled, Time to leave the Middle East, the article left readers in little doubt about the crisis facing the US. (4) It has also been interesting to note it has been met with diplomatic silence from the pro-Israel lobby and their Christian-Zionist supporters.
 
Indyk draws attention to the changing balance of forces in the Middle East, with the US having to now contend with Iran, the centre of Sh'ia for the world's Muslims. He also stated recently that 'few vital interests of the US continue to be at stake in the Middle East'. (5) He subsequently continued noting that 'there has been a structural shift in US interests in the Middle East, one that Washington is having a hard time acknowledging'. (6) Realising other forces have now managed to become players in regional diplomacy, Indyk stated the US 'should start courting European allies' for support when dealing with Iran and co-ordinating diplomatic initiatives with both the Russian Federation and China.
 
Interestingly, Indyk also draws upon support for a two-state solution and while acknowledging it 'is not a vital US interest', puts forward the case that 'it is a vital Israeli interest if the country wants to survive'. (7) Indyk, unlike Trump and his administration, has been able to analyse developments and forsee a logical outcome. The two-state solution which falls comfortably into United Nations diplomatic positions has also formed the basis of Palestinian positions for statehood since 1988. Successive US presidential administrations have always vetoed the position and chosen pro-Israeli positions.
 
Within the wider region another problem is brewing for the US.
 
In January, the announcement from Beirut that a new government was taking office in Lebanon led by a Hezbollah-backed candidate, Hassan Diab, has presented Israel with a direct challenge. Hezbollah, a Sh'ia political organisation backed by Iran, has amongst its strongholds the southern part of the country facing the northern part of the Israeli State. The development must have sent shock-waves into the very heartlands of the Israeli State.
 
Observers to the developments have already noted that 'Lebanon has become another arena in the open US-Iran showdown', which has also provided further evidence of the changing balance of forces across the region. (8)
 
According to reports,  Diab has appeared to have been chosen by Hezbollah as 'a relative political outsider to distance the new government from the ruling class that has governed Lebanon since the end of the civil war in 1990', which would appear to signify a radical departure from the previously existing domestic political positions of established parties. (9)
 
With Diab installed as prime minister within the twenty-member coalition, the US has been forced onto a back-foot position; while the Pentagon has provided aid and training for the Lebanese military, the Trump administration have already announced that they regard Hezbollah as having infiltrated the security apparatus of the country. (10) The fact Diab has appointed a female cabinet minister, Zeina Aker, with the Defence portfolio, is also a radical departure from previously existing norms.
       
While key Trump officials have already stated they want to cease US aid to the new coalition government, the country has, nevertheless, remained sensitive and a strategically-placed ally for containing Iranian influences. Last year, the US temporarily stopped $100 million of security-based aid. 
 
When dealing with the Trump peace plan and other Middle Eastern diplomatic initiatives from his administration, Indyk’s view that 'we need a sustainable Middle East strategy based on more realistic assessments of our interests' has shown how US foreign policy toward the region has become haphazard and based on out-dated diplomatic positions. (11) The fact that his article is entitled 'Time to leave the Middle East', leaves little to the fantasies and imagination of those residing in the White House who hanker for a long-lost past when US imperialism could snap its fingers and compliant governments fell into place. It exists no longer; previous positions would now appear to be rapidly falling apart.
 
With Australia slavishly following US-led foreign policy across the globe, which has included troop deployments into Middle East trouble-spots including Iraq, senior decision-makers in Canberra should perhaps give the Indyk article a read and ponder on the logical outcome of their sycophantic diplomatic behaviour:
 
                                      We need an independent foreign policy!
 
1.     Donald Trump's peace plan unveiled, The New Daily, 29 January 2020.
2.     Palestinian to 'resist deal in all its forms', Australian, 30 January 2020.
3.     New Daily, op.cit. 29 January 2020.
4.     Time to leave the Middle East, Australian, 20 January 2020.
5.     Ibid.
6.     Ibid.
7.     Ibid.
8.     Failure of Diab's government, Arab News, 28 January 2020.
9.     Hezbollah man to lead Lebanon, Australian, 23 January 2020.
10.   Ibid.
11.   Australian, op.cit., 20 January 2020.