Obama gave a speech at the UN on the subject of Palestinian statehood. A number of commentators have pointed out that Obama’s position regarding the matter is now more extreme than that of the majority of Israeli citizens.
Here are some of the comments:
we saw from President Obama was a speech that was more pro-Israel than anything we have ever seen from him, which is saying something. And that was not a speech by a president of the United States addressing a world body with any sincerity about bringing an end to the conflict. That was a candidate running in an election where he is being very falsely and unfairly accused of not being pro-Israel enough. […]
Now, in terms of Obama’s speech, I mean, you know, it’s—again, Israelis themselves reacted with stunned disbelief that an American president would give a speech at the U.N. that left even Avigdor Lieberman delighted and saying, you know, Bibi Netanyahu is now going to have to rewrite his own speech, lest he come across as less Israeli than the American president.
The US president has embraced the rejectionist Israeli position on the question of international recognition of an independent Palestinian state. But that’s not a Jewish position. It’s a radical Zionist position. Many Jews, including US and Israeli Jews, do not embrace such extremist views. But the fact that Obama surpassed his predecessor George W Bush, the most radical supporter of Israel among all US Presidents, has left everyone in Israel dumbstruck. The latest Zionist US president sounded like Israel’s own founding fathers. Never have they heard a US president read straight from the papers of the Israeli government. […]
Alas, President Obama undermined his entire “change we can believe in” slogan. His narrative is inspired by the worst of Israel’s official propaganda. Indeed, much of it is cut and pasted from their playbook. He spoke of historical “facts” that have long been repudiated by Israeli historians, and of truths that are nothing more than one sided interpretations of a political situation. Obama claimed that the Arabs launched wars against Israel. But, in actual fact, Israel is the aggressor, launching or instigating wars in: 1956, 1967, 1982, 2006 and 2008. Only the 1973 war was launched by Arabs, but only to recuperate occupied territories after the US and Israel rejected Anwar Sadat’s peace overtures. He underlined the work of Israelis in forging a successful state in their “historic homeland”. But most of the world, and certainly the Arab world, saw Israel’s inception as a colonial project with theological pretexts.
But it’s not only about money. It’s also about crucial support in Congress over urgent domestic issues that could make or break the Obama presidency. And the Israeli lobby, AIPAC, can make the president’s life miserable over the course of the next year. Now, I understand all of that. But what I don’t understand is why it is accepted as a fait accompli! As the nature of politics! Take it or leave it! If this is the case, then let’s at least call a spade a spade; and out the US administration(s) for being what so many seem to say it is: Not Jewish or Zionist, rather hypocritical. It speaks of justice but pursues unfair policies; speaks of repression, but promotes its own interests at any cost. It preaches freedom but supports occupation; speaks of human rights but insists on entrusting the wolf, and only the wolf, with the hen house.
The Israel-Palestinian conflict, along with the continued presence of nuclear weaponry and the persistence of world poverty, exhibits the failure of international law and morality, as well as of common sense and enlightened realism, to guide the behaviour of leading sovereign states. In the face of this failure, the frustrations, injustice, and extraordinary suffering experienced by the Palestinian people has come to dominate the moral and political imagination of the world. No issue has generated this level of solidarity among the peoples of the world since the anti-apartheid campaign toppled the racist regime in South Africa more than twenty years ago. […]
By insisting that only “direct negotiations” can produce statehood Israel is providing itself with a gold-plated pretext for refusing to negotiate at all for years to come. Netanyahu almost comically suggested that the delay could last 60 years. And for what reason? Another line of explanation gives the settler leadership its own veto power, and it has already vowed to carry out provocative “sovereignty marches” into the West Bank during the UN discussions.
In this conflict, time has never been static, or neutral. Each extra day of occupation, refugee status and involuntary exile, in effect, lengthens a prison sentence imposed on the entirety of the Palestinian people. This is bad enough, but, in addition, Israel has taken consistent advantage of the passage of time to expand its unlawful settlements, alter the demographics of East Jerusalem in its favour, build a separation wall found to be a violation of international law by a vote of 14 to 1 in the World Court, and to isolate Gaza from the rest of the Palestinian territories and the world.
During the Oslo peace process that gave rise to the mantra of direct negotiations or nothing, Israel has more than doubled the settlement population, and steadfastly refuses to impose even a temporary freeze on expansion in the West Bank during negotiations, and has never been willing even to consider a freeze on settlement construction in East Jerusalem. Israeli leaders talk openly, even boast, about “creating facts on the ground”, more discreetly referred to by Hillary Clinton as “subsequent developments”, and more realistically understood as the ratification of massive illegality. Such a political posture exposes the lie beneath an Israeli claim of a commitment to “direct negotiations” as a path to peace.
Direct negotiations for almost 20 years have brought the parties no closer to peace, and arguably have had as their main effect the undermining of the conditions for a sustainable two-state solution. What direct negotiations have done is to buy time for Israel’s unacknowledged ambitions and to calm international criticisms of this prolonged and cruel occupation.
Unfortunately, however the diplomatic confrontation unfolds, little is likely to be resolved. The charade of direct negotiations remains on the table. Parties on all sides ignore the revelations of the Palestine Papers, published a few months ago by Al Jazeera English, that showed beyond reasonable doubt that even the supposedly more moderate Olmert government of Israel seemed totally disinterested in a resolution of the conflict, even in the face of repeated PA concessions on fundamental issues made in confidential backroom talks at the highest levels.
Add to this the mockery of fairness that arises from allowing the United States to play the role of intermediary, the “honest broker” in such negotiations. Imagine trying to settle a marriage breakup by asking the elder brother of the wealthy husband to arbitrate a fight over assets with his penniless wife. How could such a framework ever hope to achieve peace that is just and sustainable? And what seems deeply flawed in theory has been shown to be even worse in practice. The parties are further from peace than ever: Palestinian rights and expectations have been continuously shrunk as time passes, and the occupation helps to consolidate a permanent Israeli presence.