Wednesday, June 3, 2015
The Palestinian “Side Show”
When Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, stated during the recent election campaign that he could not envision a Palestinian state if he were re-elected, those words opened a huge rift between the Obama Administration and Netanyahu. His statement was at odds with long-standing U.S. policies. Despite Bibi’s post-election recanting of that statement, President Obama’s has taken the Israeli PM’s original words as the underlying intention of the current Israeli government.
With Republicans voicing strong support for whatever Netanyahu’s policies in this arena might be, the President, while indicating a firm commitment to Israel security remains his policy, also stated that he could not simply “paper over” the differences between the two nations over Palestine. Not to mention the rather dramatic differences as to how to handle Iran’s nascent nuclear weapons program: “President Barack Obama, seeking to shore up support from the Jewish community ahead of a June deadline for reaching a potential deal to limit Iran's nuclear capabilities, on [May 22nd] said his commitment to Israel was ‘unshakeable.’
“Speaking at the Adas Israel Congregation in Washington during Jewish American Heritage Month, Obama said the United States and Israel were in agreement that Iran must not be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon, but acknowledged there was a debate about how to achieve that.” Reuters, May 22nd. The rift between Israel and the current administration is widening.
But no one believes that the Netanyahu regime really had altered its position on Palestine. I’ve blogged about Israel’s global unpopularity over the issue in “Arrogant Isolationism” (March 19th) and again noting that even the United Nations is skeptical that Israel – as Israel authorizes and builds new Jewish settlement on the West Bank – is remotely serious about a peaceful solution for a separate Palestinian state. See also my April 9th blog, “A Two-State Israel? Really?”
And if there were any lingering doubts about Israel’s intention over Palestine, there’s this little moment of official Israeli policy quoted in the May 25th Huffington Post: “With Netanyahu also serving as the acting foreign minister, [Likud hardliner, 36-year-old Deputy Foreign Minister, Tzipi] Hotovely is currently the country's top full-time diplomat.
“In an inaugural address to Israeli diplomats, Hotovely said Israel has tried too hard to appease the world and must stand up for itself… ‘We need to return to the basic truth of our rights to this country,’ she said. ‘This land is ours. All of it is ours. We did not come here to apologize for that.’… Hotovely, an Orthodox Jew, laced her speech with biblical commentaries in which God promised the Land of Israel to the Jews. Speaking later in English, she signaled that she would try to rally global recognition for West Bank settlements, which are widely opposed.
“‘We expect as a matter of principle of the international community to recognize Israel's right to build homes for Jews in their homeland, everywhere,’ she said.” The international community has not and will not lend any significant support to Hotovely’s statement of Israel’s position. That ship has long-since sailed.
Arab Israelis, if not separated into their own state, could well grow from their current 20%+ minority to a majority within 30 or 40 years. And despite a constitutional system that guarantees equal rights to all of its citizens, Arab Israelis complain of routine police harassment and denigration from neighboring Jewish communities who are naturally distrustful of these Palestinians. Likewise, these ethnic Arabs believe that they will never be treated equally within Israel, and that they are perpetually second class citizens with de facto fewer rights than their Jewish neighbors… until they get their own state.
The United States has almost no remaining credibility in the Middle East. Our two recent wars – against Iraq and Afghanistan – have made matters worse. The Gulf States don’t trust us and our foray to negotiate a nuclear containment of Iran. And most of the world finds American support of Israel, as long as Israel will not deal seriously with the Palestinian quest for independence, simply hypocritical and distasteful. That Israel is attacked on occasion by Hamas militants in Gaza draws almost no global sympathy, since most countries view the attacks as strikes for independence against an oppressive conqueror.
Netanyahu’s processor, Ehud Olmert, was the last Israeli PM to take negotiating with the Palestinians seriously, and virtually nothing positive has happened in that direction under Bibi’s right wing leadership, now further hobbled by the necessity of including even more hardliners into his ruling but fragile coalition. But Olmert was forced to resign under a cloud of corruption charges. Though acquitted of most of those charges in 2012, he was convicted on other charges and sentence in 2014 to six years in prison plus, on May 25th, an additional 8 months on one more charge.
The problem remains that the United States has not done much that the Islamic world sees as positive, is itself increasingly isolated and force into very expensive “go-it-alone” strategies to protect its interests, and has opened the door for other superpowers, from China to Russia, to use this rift to further isolate the United States from the world, and even from its European and NATO allies, most of which oppose Israeli actions vis-à-vis Palestine.
We aren’t doing Israel any favors, supporting even her growing isolation, and allowing the world slowly to turn against that Jewish state, weakening her own potential defensive alliances. In the end, we need to protect Israel, a consistent ally in the region, but we also need to send a clear message that her growing antipathy toward any Palestinian independence is neither sustainable nor deserving of American support. In both our own and Israel’s self-interest, a brokered peace is the only viable path, no matter how long it takes.
I’m Peter Dekom, and we really need to move the Palestinian peace process forward as our own national priority.