This time, the proverbial good luck of President Lula seems to have deserted him. He arrived Sunday in Tel Aviv amid a rare crisis between Israel and the United States and another West Bank’s blockade in retaliation for a new outbreak of Palestinian protests against Israeli policy of annexation of East Jerusalem.
In this environment, Lula’s aspiration to be the “prophet of dialogue,” as he was called days before by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, has proved at least futile.
While the Brazilian was packing for the trip of 5 days that will also take him to the occupied territories under the nominal control of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and finally to Jordan, an Israeli cabinet minister further to the right of the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu did what in other circumstances would be unthinkable.
During the visit of the US Vice President, Joe Biden, he announced the construction of 1,600 houses in East Jerusalem, where Palestinians want to install the capital of their future country. It was a deliberate blow to the efforts of the Obama administration to revive peace negotiations in the region, frozen since December 2008.
Biden left Israel humiliated. In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was “insulted” and the principal adviser to the president, David Axelrod, spoke of “outrage”.
If Israel allows itself to offend to this point its largest and most powerful protector, not to give the Palestinians a contiguous and viable state sought by the international community, including the US, what difference Lula imagines he can make?
Yesterday, he said to be carrying, “since he was in the womb of my mother,” the “virus of peace.” The metaphorical microbe did not infect the Israelis. President Shimon Peres was strictly following protocol when he said in a speech to know that the Brazilian had a message of peace, and that “his contribution will be welcome.”
On the Israeli side it won’t be. First, because Lula’s idea “to hear more people,” as if the UN, the European Union, the United States and Russia weren’t enough, is anathema to a government that thinks that most countries tend to be pro-Palestinian and want to force Israel to make “unacceptable” concessions (as curbing settlements in the West Bank and dividing Jerusalem in two).
Second, because the “people” Lula is thinking about include none other than the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who preaches the eradication of Israel (next to this, the denial of the Holocaust is a mere detail).
According to special aide Marco Aurélio Garcia, Iran cannot be ignored because it has a “strong influence” on the issue. It is the opposite. The Islamic Republic is the one that cannot ignore the possible peace agreement it opposes because it would give legitimacy to the Jewish state.
Who really has strong influence on the issue, instead, is the Arab League, starting with Saudi Arabia. In 2002, the Saudis have succeeded in the entity’s approval of a peace plan whereby, in exchange for the return of territories taken in the Six Day War the relations between Israel and the Arab world would be “normalized.”
It didn’t do a thing. Recently, the League called for the resumption of indirect negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. (Seventeen years after the handshake between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat at the White House people speak of indirect talks as if it were an improvement.)
Lula and the Itamaraty (Brazil’s Foreign Ministry) seem to also ignore that the approach of Brazil with Iran, whatever it’s worth, is unpopular not only in Israel, in the region. Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the two major Arab countries, don’t rejoice in it either.
Finally, the arrogance of the Lula diplomacy reaches the nonsense of supposing that the current “cynical and tough” US position towards Israel, in the words of Garcia, facilitates the entry of other actors, one of them being Brazil, in the Middle East’s peace process.
It is once again the world upside down. If Netanyahu does not give in to Obama, will he give in to whom? To Lula? The pharaonic dream of becoming the global statesman who will go down in history for having been successful there where all failed in the last 60 years leads Lula from futility to absurdity.
This is because Lula’s diplomacy, along party line and intent on getting votes, only seeks to promote the image of their guide before the domestic public.
Offering up to mediate not only the historical conflict between Jews and Palestinians, but also the internal conflict between the Palestinians of Hamas and Fatah, Lula shows the degree of exacerbation of his megalomania.
This is O Estado de S. Paulo’s editorial published in the paper’s March 16, 2010 edition.