By Marwan Bishara
The good news: "Netanyahu to give peace process a 'robust push". The bad news, any rational person privy to the ideology and makeup of the Israeli government knows this is not serious.
And yet, after their meeting, Barack Obama, the US president, has publically supported his Israeli interlocutor, saying he believed Binyamin Netanyahu would take "risks for peace" and praised the Israeli prime minister for easing the blockade on the Gaza Strip.
Obama also called for "direct talks" between Israelis and Palestinians irrespective of the continued illegal settlements.
All of which begs two questions: How does a defunct and discredited diplomatic process continue to masquerade as a success despite its utter failure? And why do the US and its Western allies continue to finance and pamper it when it creates more instability and conflict than peace and progress?
The short answer is bullshit.
In an attempt to define bullshit and theorise about its uses and meanings, Harry Frankfurt, the Princeton philosopher, has differentiated between bullshit and lies in his book On Bullshit, and concluded that bullshit can be more dangerous than lying.
Bullshit is more than a word; it is a chronic widespread system of rhetoric and representation that mystifies the truth. It has increasingly become a way of communication not only in the private sphere but has become part and parcel of Western propaganda.
Falafel to fanfare
At times, according to Frankfurt, sincerity also qualifies as bullshit. This is especially true when those uttering it are in denial over their true motivation. This explains why many of the stubborn advocates of the present peace process bullshit even when they are being sincere.
In fact, I cannot but shake my head in bewilderment whenever I am exposed to the "peace industry". Peace and co-existence initiatives by NGOs have used everything from falafel to fanfare and music but failed utterly to improve the situation. Instead, they have contributed to making the occupation look normal.
Having said that, I do not discount the great degree of lying in the process. But unlike the lies and deception, bullshit has created an aura around the peace process.
How many doubt that the timing of Obama's invitation to the Israeli prime minister ahead of the autumn midterm congressional elections is more about domestic politics than foreign policy?
As one Washington Post columnist commented sardonically, it would have been appropriate for Obama who reprimanded Netanyahu before, to have flown the white flag of surrender during the visit.
Mostly bullshit is about spreading half truths, fake statements that allow what amounts to a de facto war process of occupation and colonisation to masquerade as a peace process, causing major suffering and destruction.
Since the so called "peace process" started two decades ago, all promises of progress, peace and prosperity, have turned into disappointment, conflict and regress.
After hundreds of meetings, tens of initiatives and seven interim agreements, the situation in the Israeli occupied territories might have "improved" in certain micro areas, but at a macro level it has notably worsened.
During that time, the peace process has bestowed the title of "peace partners" on an ever more aggressive Israeli occupier and increasingly discredited the Palestinian Authority (PA). In the process, colonisation deepened, the colonised suffered and nonsense triumphed.
Illegal Jewish settlements continue to proliferate and destabilise the West Bank and, in particular, East Jerusalem, despite recent assurances to the contrary.
A report by the Israeli organisation B'Tselem on the eve of Netanyahu's visit, on the proliferating Jewish settlements despite assurances to the contrary speaks volumes about Israeli deception regarding the settlement issue.
Now the Netanyahu government is promising "improvements" on its blockade of 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza, but the end result is clear: it will continue to police, and treat the impoverished and overpopulated refugee camp like the mega prison it has become.
Likewise, despite talk of economic revival under the PA, the standard and quality of living in the semi-autonomous areas of the West Bank is below 1980s levels, when the West Bank was under full Israeli occupation. In relation to Israel, which is now a member of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development - a club for developed countries - it continues to deteriorate.
It is mind boggling that the likes of Tony Blair, the International Quartet envoy, gets away with promoting improvement in life conditions and better "security" at the heart of the miserably occupied territories.
Netanyahu's focus on economic rather than political rights for the Palestinians has led to no real improvement in the movement of labour and capital, nor in true amelioration of access to healthcare or education, let alone to the outside world.
With the exception of a number of English speaking "peace process contractors" (those living off politically motivated Western aid), most Palestinians continue to live in destitution.
Comparing the situation between the refugee camps the moderates administer in the West Bank and those run by "extremists" in Gaza is like comparing the situation in two prisons.
Bluffing is of course integral to, or even indispensable for, diplomacy, but it generally has limits or is a side show for something more strategic. So what is the strategy behind the promotion of the defunct peace process?
Since the end of the Cold War, the Middle East peace process has emerged as the US regional order.
Entire peoples and states have been judged on where they stood on the peace process. Those, especially among the Arabs, who supported it have been called moderates and those who opposed it have been called extremists.
The "Peace Process" became a private club whose membership carried a number of strategic advantages, while being on the outside risked sanctions, even war.
Paradoxically, over the last two decades, both the US, the sponsor of the peace process, and Israel, its ally and peace partner, have waged destructive and bloody wars in the region.
But both remained untouched as sponsor and partner in the peace process.
If these were any other countries, they would have been sanctioned, blockaded and bombarded, even occupied.
This explains why Israel's most infamous general was referred as a "man of peace" by George Bush, the self-proclaimed US "war president".
Promoting the peace process has become a strategic reality, even necessity, regardless of its realisation or implementation.
There are far better ways to free Israelis from the political and moral burden of their occupation, and bring Palestinians liberty and independence from foreign occupation.
But the peace process is the best way to maintain Pax Americana in the region, secure Jewish support in the US while pampering the special relationship between the US and Israel.
Given the choice between peace in the Middle East and peace between the US and Israel, the Obama administration has made its choice known this week.
Marwan Bishara is Al Jazeera's senior political analyst.
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|Timothy V. Gatto|