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Wrong visitor
By Salama A Salama -
Al-Ahram Weekly
22 - 28 July 2010

Each and every time the US comes up with reasonable proposals for peace, it is only a matter of time before these proposals are torched on the bonfire of Zionist and Israeli opposition.

Since Oslo, the peace process has gone through multiple mutations, all giving Israel ample time to get on with its designs. You may recall that Bush Sr stopped a major loan guarantees plan to Israel in order to force it to change its ways. What happened next? He was forced out of the White House, after only one term in office.

Barack Obama is aware of that. With an eye on congressional midterm elections, Obama received Binyamin Netanyahu at the White House and tried to reverse the impression their first stormy encounter had left. The US president seemed like a new man, giving his wholehearted backing to Netanyahu and supporting the latter`s call for direct talks, even before George Mitchell had the time to finish his mission.

Reversing his earlier position, Obama seemed to forget that he vowed to stop Israel from building more settlements. That`s what Netanyahu has been waiting for. So the Israeli prime minister went back to Israel and ordered more settlements built, more Jewish homes constructed around Jerusalem, and more Palestinian homes demolished and land confiscated.

Pressures then mounted on Mahmoud Abbas to hold direct talks with the Israelis and do what Netanyahu tells him to do. Meanwhile, the US administration is practically financing the settlements through its programme of tax exemptions.

It has been agreed by the Arab follow-up committee to give indirect talks three more months, ending September. If these talks produce no tangible outcome, the Arabs are going to raise the matter at the UN.

Now, I wonder, how will the Palestinian president react to US pressure? Also, will the Arab follow-up committee go to the UN or drop the whole thing? Will the US pressures on Abbas undermine the remainder of Arab dignity and rights?

Many will blame Abbas if he launches direct talks without prior conditions. Many others will blame him if he did what Yasser Arafat did before him; namely, refuse to bow to Israeli and US pressure. But what is at stake is not the future of Abbas. It is the future of all Palestinians.

The way I see it, both Obama and Netanyahu are trying to undermine the Arabs. So I am truly puzzled to see our gates open to that scorpion, Netanyahu, who is certain to use his visit to Egypt to shore up his domestic position and strike fresh blows against the Palestinians. This is what he does each time he feels that the Americans are behind him. So it puzzles me why Egypt should agree to receive him, when it must be clear that his visit can only undermine its reputation.

The only beneficiary of the visit will be Netanyahu and his government. He will use the visit to give momentum to normalisation with other Arab countries. The visit, it is true, was postponed due to the complications surrounding the Libyan relief ship`s journey. But then it went ahead anyway.

These are critical times for the Palestinians and their future. We should be helping them, not helping the Israeli prime minister. Egypt should set the pace, instead of being dragged into useless meetings and irrelevant banter. If we lose heart now, the damage may be irreversible. So irreversible indeed that not even Obama would be in a position to help us, not that he wants to.

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