Oftentimes, Israelis and their supporters bury their heads in the sand, ignoring all that goes on around them. Take, for example, the case of a university professor who joyously announced in a commentary published in a leading American newspaper, The New York Times — which in turn was remiss in not fact-checking — that 71 per cent of Arab respondents to an "opinion poll" had "no interest" in the Palestinian-Israeli "peace process". Probably sharing his enthusiasm, the paper headlined the column, ‘The Palestinians, Alone'.

It turned out that the shady "poll" that was cited by Efraim Karsh, who teaches at King's College, London and is author of Palestine Betrayed, was nothing more than a tally of readers responding to another reader's query on the website of an Arabic television network. One would think that Karsh should have known better. His puerile analysis failed to differentiate between Arab views of the "peace process" — a lacklustre issue — and their genuine concern for the Palestinians, whose homeland was mostly usurped by Israel 63 years ago, while the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have been under Israeli control since 1967. Karsh's conclusion was that the Palestinians should abandon their dependency on the Arab world: "The sooner the Palestinians recognise their cause is theirs alone, the sooner they are likely to make peace ..."

Karsh would have done better had he digested what two prominent American Jewish leaders, Jeremy Ben-Ami and Debra Lee, wrote recently: "Decades of telling and retelling a comfortable narrative in which Israel is always extending its hand in peace, only to have it rejected by the Palestinians, understandably makes it hard to accept when the facts show otherwise". They stressed that "facts don't support the charge that the present Palestinian leadership is not a partner for peace".

Perceived failure

Although there has been a noteworthy change in the American public opinion on Palestine, Arab public opinion on the Obama administration has turned negative because of the president's perceived failure to deliver on the "new beginning" he had promised in his memorable Cairo address. This is clear from the results of a poll conducted last month by the University of Maryland and Zogby International in six Arab countries — Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Only 15 per cent of Arabs remain hopeful, while 63 per cent are discouraged about US policies, reported Dr Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland, who oversaw the poll. There has been a "dramatic change", Telhami emphasised, in the perception of President Barack Obama, "whose disapproval rating jumped considerably, from 23 per cent in 2009 to 62 per cent in 2010".

He added that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict remained "the single most disappointing issue for the Arab public, with 61 per cent of those polled citing that issue as a major disappointment, followed by 27 per cent citing Iraq".

Lack of optimism

Nevertheless, 86 per cent of Arabs appeared prepared "in principle" to accept a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders. But the number of those who believe that Israel would never accept such a solution has increased from 45 per cent in 2009 to 56 per cent in 2010. This may give some ammunition to those who are counting on a one-state agreement.

The confusion emanating from Israel's dilly-dallying about peace with the Palestinians was best described in the lead paragraph of a recent Washington Post report by Janine Zacharia from the Occupied West Bank. It read: "While Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak visited Washington ... to talk about peace gestures towards the Palestinians, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was planting a tree in a Jewish [colony] in the West Bank — an indication of permanence that few Palestinians would welcome".

Meanwhile, former US ambassador Chas Freeman recently lambasted Israel for being "an extreme liability for the US financially, strategically, politically". Freeman made this assessment during a seminar at the Nixon Centre that focused on the point of whether Israel was an "asset or liability" for the US.

"Clearly, Israel gets a great deal from us," he complained. "Yet it's pretty taboo in the United States to ask what's in it for Americans." He continued by considering "what we generally expect allies and strategic partners to do for us", before claiming that "Israel does none of these things and shows no interest in doing them". He concluded: "Israel is therefore useless in terms of support for American power projection. It has no allies other than us. It has developed no friends. Israeli participation in our military operations would preclude the cooperation of many others. Meanwhile, Israel has become accustomed to living on the American military dole".

It is therefore not surprising that Turkey has turned its back on the Israeli regime, or that others may want to do so in future should Tel Aviv continue on this track.


George Hishmeh is a Washington-based columnist. He can be contacted at ghishmeh@gulfnews.com.