Will a tripartite US-Saudi-Israeli ‘Deal’ make Any difference?
An image of the White House lecturing, and facing off versus Netanyahu’s policies, might look ‘tough’ … but will any of this elaborate ‘dance’ -- whether Biden and Netanyahu meet or not -- make a jot of difference?
The Financial Times adopts a dour tone: The final statement of the G20 on Ukraine was “a blow to Western countries that have tried to convince developing countries to condemn Moscow - and support Ukraine over the past year,” adding gloomily that this latest declaration was drained of even the previous inclusion of ‘Russian aggression against Ukraine.’ “Now,” the FT laments, “there is no such wording.”
This may seem a symbolic omission, but it links directly to Ukraine’s failure to make any progress with its offensive against Russian defensive lines. Here is where symbolism speaks louder than words: The omission says that the collective Western élites are out-of-sync with the rest of the world. Washington will have to ‘cope’ with the consequences of their ‘project failure’ -- and manage it from an unaccustomed position of weakness, rather than through collective pressure on Moscow.
It should have been obvious, coming so soon after the BRICS expansion and the Africa Summit in Saint Petersburg, that collective global sentiment had turned sour on the prevalent ‘Rules-Based Order’, and has entered a quite radical mode.
Yet, much of the ruling strata still do not ‘get it’ – that change is coming.
The habits of the ‘old order,’ however, are slow to evolve. So, we return to an old-style dance, and to a music that evokes another era: Will the Israeli PM meet directly with Biden, either on the margins of the September UN General Assembly, or in the Oval Office of the White House? These pirouettes and swirls have been continuing for nine months now, infused with breathless anticipation.
There are, of course, real issues at the centre of this performance: The US would like Netanyahu to join the tech boycott of China, and generally to help diminish China. Secondly, Team Biden would like the Israeli government to recant its project of Judicial Reform; and thirdly, to ‘throw the Palestinians a bone or two’ as part of persuading Saudi Arabia to normalise with Israel in a tripartite – US-Saudi-Israeli -- deal.
The putative ‘deal’ would be shaped around a US-Saudi defence pact -- including US security guarantees, a multibillion-dollar arms deal, and a nuclear reactor -- in exchange for Saudi recognition of "Israel," a cooling-off of relations with China, and tangible Israeli measures to ameliorate the lives of the Palestinians.
With this curt listing of the Biden wish-list, what stands out immediately is that none the US big ‘asks’ are in Netanyahu’s interest:
Severing with China on tech? No way; "Israel" has billed itself as the ‘Tech Start-Up Nation’.
On September 12, "Israel’s" Supreme Court will consider petitions seeking the disqualification of July’s Knesset law removing ‘unreasonableness’ as the criteria by which the Court can elect to strike down laws passed (validly) in Parliament.
However, Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana has already said that the Supreme Court should recognize the limits of its power; that it cannot strike down a Basic Law; and that the Knesset shall not be trampled upon. Plainly put, the Minster is saying that the government will not comply, were the Court to strike down July’s Knesset vote. And Netanyahu has endorsed Ohana’s statement. So, ‘no’ -- endangering his coalition is not in Netanyahu’s interest.
The reality is that Netanyahu is ‘hostage’ to his coalition -- and not vice versa. And the reality is also that in recent months, entire Palestinian communities between Ramallah and Jericho have been chased out (i.e. cleansed) by settler violence, paving the way for a total Israeli takeover of thousands of acres of land.
Gideon Levy has warned that ‘an unbelievable population transfer’ is underway in the West Bank.
Yes, a photo-op with Biden is thought likely to lend credibility to Netanyahu’s electoral prospects at home. For Biden, an image of the White House lecturing, and facing-off versus Netanyahu’s policies, might look ‘tough’ … but will any of this elaborate ‘dance’ -- whether Biden and Netanyahu meet or not -- make a jot of difference?
When set against the tide of geo-politics sweeping the globe towards a new political, trading and economic disposition, it becomes hard to see why such attention is given to this issue.
Even though both Presidents Xi and Putin were absent from the G20, their ‘presence’ dominated the meeting. Will then "Israel’s" cutting back of relations with China halt the tide moving in China’s direction? Will US ‘security guarantees’ for Saudi Arabia, even if approved by Congress, make a significant difference, given the Kingdom’s strategic transposition to join the BRICS and the SCO? Would giving $1 billion to Mahmoud Abbas change the boiling Palestinian cauldron?
The point here is that the rancorous face-off in "Israel" by two irreconcilable blocs of Israeli society is ‘what it is.’ A word here or there from Washington will not change the powerful and volatile dynamics already in motion.
Old habits, however, linger … linger well past the time when old rituals (an Israeli PM visit to the Oval Office) had agency and the world hung on the outcome. As the G18 just demonstrated, however, it is how the Ukraine drama unfolds that will make its impress upon global geo-politics. The Middle East ‘steamer’ is coming to high pressure across Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Iraq. Is the West again out-of-synch with uncomfortable realities?