Bailin’s Geneva Stepping Stone to Top of Israeli Politics
The glitzy ceremony in a Geneva auditorium on December 1 did very little to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace – it was more a Palestinian hate Israel platform – but a great deal to place Yossi Bailin, the Israeli co-author of the unofficial peace accords, on the road to realizing his political ambitions at home.
The day before the Geneva ceremonies, he joined his new partners in launching a new left-wing party, using the Geneva Accords as the cornerstone of its platform and the lead-in to his own coronation as party leader. But even before that takes place, he is looking ahead to a much broader power base, the formation of a leftwing-cum-centrist bloc, carved out of the splinters he expects to chip off from other groupings. This ambition shone through the closing moments of the Geneva peace fest. Palestinian and Israeli initiators of the Geneva Accord were invited to stand on the platform together with Bailin and his Palestinian partner Yasser Abd Rabbo. The Israelis – some of whom are members of Labor’s left wing faction, leapt up, hugged and patted each other on the backs. The Palestinians kept to their seats in the hall leaving Abd Rabbo high and dry.
A second apparently minor incident took place on the fringes of the celebration. The new left-wing party, one day old, suddenly changed its name from Yaad – Destination, to Yi’ud – Destiny. Some Russian-speakers whispered in Bailin’s ear that Yaad sounds like the Russian word for poison. In mid-peace celebration, the still unelected leader of the new left-wing party abruptly authorized a change of name, already loath to forego any part of the largely right of center and centrist Russian electorate back home.
No Israeli TV channel aired the Geneva ceremony in full, merely selecting what appeared to the different reporters to be a balanced version. That is unfortunate. The Israeli electorate was entitled to a live, unexpurgated version of a political event of such importance. They would have seen for themselves how Palestinian representatives took over and dominated the occasion with strident diatribes against US President George Bush and Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon and warm praise for Yasser Arafat. One speaker after another, his back to the olive tree adorning the platform, accused Israel of practicing the same sort of apartheid as the white regime of South Africa, of directing cruel racialist policies against the Palestinian people and of building settlements and a separation wall to satisfy its siege mentality.
The Palestinian participants appeared well-rehearsed and put their case cogently, never departing from their central theme, a powerful indictment of Israeli actions and the Jewish state per se.
Israeli speakers, for their part, appeared to be at sea and at odds with each other’s messages all of which harped on peace as a concept without too much content. Nothing was said about Palestinian suicidal terror, the fading of the Oslo Peace Accords and who buried them, or even the Middle East road map. Displays of abject self-abasement before Palestinians such as the one presented to the Geneva audience must surely be rare. A Palestinian troupe played and sang the Prisoners Song by Muhammad Darwish, the anthem of the Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prisons. The Israeli audience, including ex-chief of staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, applauded.
Former US president Jimmy Carter and Hollywood actor Richard Dreyfuss launched tirades against the Bush administration and its head. Carter accused George W. Bush of failing to address the sufferings of the Palestinian people which he said were the main cause of terror and hostility towards America in the Middle East. In other words, Bush policies were responsible for world terrorism – an unusually harsh judgment of a White House incumbent to be voiced in public by a former US president, especially in the middle of a war.
A key role in the proceedings and the drafting of the Geneva Accord was played – albeit behind the scenes – by another American called Rob Malley, formerly of the Clinton team. Of Egyptian origin, Malley does not admit to being Jewish. He was one of Clinton’s senior advisers at the August 2000 Camp David talks between Arafat and prime minister Ehud Barak, whose failure led into Arafat’s current terrorist confrontation with Israel.
The tenor of Carter’s address seemed to indicate that the ex-president has made common cause with the American Democratic left wing and certain European leaders to challenge Bush on his Iraq policy and his attitude towards the Palestinians.
On the basis of these shared sentiments and links, Yossi Bailin was anointed European partner and head of the new Israeli party by his foreign friends, former French lawmaker Simon Weill in the name of Jacques Chirac, Russian Middle East ambassador Andrei Vdovin for Vladimir Putin and Lord Levy for Tony Blair.
While the entire project was backed by the Swiss government, most of the funding and groundwork came from the Brussels-based ICG – International Crisis Group. Its head is Gareth Evans who, as foreign minister of an Australian Labor government advocated the distancing of Canberra from Washington and its transformation into a regional Asian power. Bailin will base his ongoing marketing campaign for the Geneva Accords to the public around the world, on continued financial and political backing from the Europe-oriented ICG. He cannot expect much help in Israel where he has little voter support.
For the first time in Israel’s 50 years as a state, therefore, an aspiring Israeli politician has embarked on a militant course to alienate Israel from its powerful, close historic partnership with the United States and replace it with European backing for himself as their Israeli spokesman and for his political aspirations. This is what the Geneva Accord and Bailin’s close ties with Palestinian leaders are all about.
All the same, US secretary of state Colin Powell is willing to receive Europe’s new Middle East protege in Washington later this week.
Most surprising of all is the absence of any response to the Geneva spectacle and its damaging implications for his own polices from prime minister Sharon’s office.