Barack Obama: Israel’s lawyer

Just yesterday, Prime Minister Netanyahu demanded that the Palestinian Authority recognize Israel as a Jewish state in exchange for Israeli compliance with international law. Shortly after, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley illuminated  the United State’s official position on the proposal, explaining, “We recognize the special nature of the Israeli State. It is a state for the Jewish people.” While President Obama’s views on the institutionalization of Israel’s ethnic character are of no surprise, such an outright endorsement of Netanyahu’s insult to the PA stands in stark contrast with the vision of the United States as impartial mediator the American public has been spoon-fed over the past few months.

If the admission of offering military, financial and political concessions in exchange for a partial extension of the so-called settlement “freeze” hadn’t done enough to destroy the Obama Administration’s credibility in the peace process, this was surely the final blow. How could any casual observer continue to believe Obama had the interests of both parties at heart while simultaneously lauding Netanyahu’s inanity as even remotely legitimate?

Israel’s settlement construction is illegal under international law. The United Nations General Assembly, United Nations Security Council and International Court of Justice all concur: Settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem must immediately halt and reverse, along with construction of the partition wall. Just as chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said, Israel’s Jewish character has no bearing the illegal status of Israel’s settlements. Netanyahu’s condition is a wanton distraction.

The proposal also has nothing to do with Israel’s right to exist as a nation. Far from being existentially threatened, Israel has enjoyed full recognition of its sovereignty by Fatah and the PA for the past 17 years. The issue lies in Israel’s insistence that its statehood be defined on ethno-religious terms. Yet somehow the implications of this definition is utterly lost on Obama. Electronic Intifada founder Ali Abunimah illustrates the point well in two of his recent tweets:

abunimahtweets

Would Obama align himself with the moral argument underpinning either of these assertions? One would hope not. Then why is it somehow permissible to endorse the same position when it comes to Israel? And how can his administration support linking the PA’s acceptance of such assertions to Israel’s admittedly partial and temporary compliance with standards of international law?

What’s more, who could defend Obama as a worthy proponent of peace while he cheers Netanyahu on in his quest to force Abbas into selling out Israel’s Arabs, further codifying their second-class status, while at the same time attempting to settle the question of Palestinian refugees’ Right of Return prima facie?

To summarize, if the PA were to accept such a deal, Israel would have achieved the following:

  • Further military, financial and political support from the United States;
  • Formal permission from the PA to continue subjugating Israeli Arabs;
  • And nullification of the Right of Return for Palestinian Refugees of the Nakba

The PA would achieve the following:

  • A temporary “freeze”of settlement construction on what is to become a Palestinian state if talks succeed, one that would presumably not include freezing construction in East Jerusalem (in contravention of international law), nor the construction of current projects including the thousands that began just a few weeks ago, nor  suspending the confiscation of Palestinian property to make room for further construction, just as the last “freeze”did not include these things

The United State’s endorsement of such an insulting proposal makes clear Obama’s complete disregard for Palestinian interests, and his commitment to repeating the mistakes of his predecessors. The authors of The Israel Lobby explain, “As Aaron David Miller, an adviser to six different secretaries of state on Middle East and Arab-Israeli affairs and another key player in the Clinton administration’s peace effort, put it during a 2005 postmortem on the failed negotiations: ‘Far too often, we functioned…as Israel’s lawyer’” (Mearsheimer and Walt, 48). How exactly has Obama done anything to improve upon this characterization?

You can find Maggie’s work at http://www.resistingoccupation.com or follow her on Twitter @maggiesager.

Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 45 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. link to haaretz.com

    Senior Palestine Liberation Organization official Yasser Abed Rabbo said on Wednesday that the Palestinians will be willing to recognize the State of Israel in any way that it desires, if the Americans would only present a map of the future Palestinian state that includes all of the territories captured in 1967, including East Jerusalem.

    Any formulation the Americans present – even asking us to call Israel the ‘Chinese State’ – we will agree to it, as long as we receive the 1967 borders. We have recognized Israel in the past, but Israel has not recognized the Palestinian state.”

    • Mooser says:

      Ah Richard, I see you are solving your quote mark problem. You are giving up spurious quote marks little by little, and have weaned yourself off beginning quote marks.

  2. Citizen says:

    Reinstating Dennis Ross as his go-to guy consultant on any foreign policy concerning Israel? Obama will remain brushed by Penny Pritzker et al in the stable from which he feeds.

  3. Hostage says:

    What the State Department Spokesman actually said was

    We have recognized the special nature of the Israeli state. It is a state for the Jewish people. It is a state for other citizens of other faiths as well.

    He also said these core issues were a two way street and that the Palestinians could demand something in return too. So, today they said that the Palestinians will be willing to recognize the State of Israel in any way that it desires, if the Americans would only present a map of the future Palestinian state that includes all of the territories captured in 1967, including East Jerusalem.

    “In response to U.S. State Department Spokesman Phillip Crowley’s statement on Tuesday night that the Palestinians should respond to the Israeli demand, Abed Rabbo told Haaretz, “We want to receive a map of the State of Israel which Israel wants us to accept. … If the map will be based on the 1967 borders and will not include our land, our houses and East Jerusalem, we will be willing to recognize Israel according to the formulation of the government within the hour,” added Rabbo. … Abed Rabbo continued, “It is important for us to know where are the borders of Israel and where are the borders of Palestine. Any formulation the Americans present – even asking us to call Israel the ‘Chinese State’ – we will agree to it, as long as we receive the 1967 borders. We have recognized Israel in the past, but Israel has not recognized the Palestinian state.”

    The State Department said it really wasn’t interested in a two month freeze: “The United States doesn’t want a two-month delay on peace process but rather achieve a clear path that allows Israel and the Palestinians to continue negotiations, the U.S. State Department said Tuesday in response to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s offer to extend the settlement freeze in return for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.

    “We don’t just want to push the can down the road two months,” U.S. State Department Spokesman Philip J. Crowley said. “We want to create a clear path that allows the parties to begin the arduous process of addressing the core issues one by one with the intention of reaching a successful negotiation within a year’s time,” he said.

    If I didn’t know any better I’d call that checkmate.

    • ehrens says:

      While you are reporting what really was said, you might add more of Crowley’s remarks:

      What Prime Minister Netanyahu said yesterday is, in essence a core demand of the Israeli government, which we support.

      In other words, whatever Israel wants, the US will support.

      • Hostage says:

        Nothing would prevent the Palestinians from supporting Netanyahu by simply affirming the same empty religious analogy that Crowley employed: We have recognized the special nature of the Israeli state. It is a state for the Jewish people. It is a state for other citizens of other faiths as well.

  4. Jim Haygood says:

    Expecting Obama to be sensitive to discrimination is a forlorn hope.

    He’s a child of privilege, a Harvard lawyer raised in a comfortable white upper middle class household. Growing up in multiethnic Hawaii and in Indonesia, he hasn’t an inkling of the cultural experience of being black underclass in America. His daughters buy books (To Kill a Mockingbird) to learn about that distant, unfathomable past.

    If anything, his [essentially irrelevant] pigmentation was a political asset in picking up black, hispanic and white liberal voting demographics.

    The man is insensitive to the plight of Palestinians because he’s never experienced systematic discrimination himself. Plus, he’s adopted the expedient, exclusivist values of his Jewish billionaire sponsors.

    Any superficial resemblance between Oreobama and civil rights campaigners of the past is an optical illusion. Just turn up the brightness knob on your TV or computer screen, and it will go away.

    • pabelmont says:

      I don’t know whether Obama has an inkling as to the nature of discrimination. I myself grew up in a “white” neighborhood, etc., but am a staunch protestor of Israeli discrimination. I hope I ‘have an inkling’.

      THAT SAID, Obama is a politician in the democratic Party in the USA in 2010 that depends (or believes it depends) on money from millionaires who push Israeli supremacy for all they are worth, and they are worth plenty. THEY certainly understand (and practice or energetically promote) discrimination. As a (mere) politician (and having given no evidence of being that greater thing, a statesman), Obama feels trapped whatever he “has an inkling” about. In practical terms, he IS trapped.

      • RoHa says:

        “Obama is a politician in the democratic Party in the USA in 2010 that depends (or believes it depends) on money from millionaires who push Israeli supremacy”

        And, if he has any brains at all, he knows how to keep them out of range of the grassy knoll.

    • Mooser says:

      Jim, do you really think it is beyond the compassion of any decent human being, even if they have not experienced discrimination, to learn about it, observe its effects, and understand why it is to be abhorred? I don’t.
      Which makes Obama quite a bit worse, if you think about it. He has decided to take on those values, he certainly has the intellectual necessities (the ability to read and a pair of eyes) to adopt a better view.

  5. AreaMan says:

    The issue about the Jewish character of the state, is that a peace treaty would include an end of claims and an end of conflict. Including an end to the effort to remove Jewish administration from Israel.

    Otherwise, the conflict continues in some other form.

    Abbas has announced much more draconian rules for the new Palestine he wants to create: No Jews At All. Did you hear the uproar when he said that? I didn’t.

    And we know you are all protesting loudly at:
    The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, The Islamic Republic of Iran, The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and The Islamic Republic of Mauritania.

    And all the leftists and terrorist supporters are just on fire about the Church of England and the Church of Norway.

    But the rules for Jews are to be different. There’s a name for that…

    • seafoid says:

      Abbas said no to Jews with an occupation army behind them. Jews to get the same rights as Palestinians.

      Abunimah is right. Imagine Northern Ireland catholics having to pledge loyalty to a Protestant State.

      Mauretania is a non sequitur.

    • potsherd says:

      The rules for Jews are an advantage to the Jews. Any Jews who can prove they were resident in the territory of the Palestinian state before 1947 will be welcome as Palestinian citizens. Which is more than Israel is willing to extend to the Palestinians they expelled.

    • MarkF says:

      The goal is to remove Israeli administration, financed by our tax dollars, from the occupied territories, not from Israel.

      “And we know you are all protesting loudly at:
      The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, The Islamic Republic of Iran, The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and The Islamic Republic of Mauritania.”

      Nope, not protesting because none of the above suck 3 billion a year from our wallets and beg for more prior to Yizkor service.

      As far as leftists & terrorist supporters, you probably mean non-neocons, which include conservatives, who are mostly on fire about extracting us from neoconservative policies that are harmful to our homeland, the United States.

      The rules are not different for us Jews. Unless you mean the rules for how Israel receives unconditional support from our government and from our community irregardless of their behavior. There’s a name for that too…..

      • AreaMan says:

        ” none of the above suck 3 billion a year from our wallets”

        Iran gets around 60 billion dollars a year from the West in unearned oil payments. Saudi Arabia gets about twice that, and the law there is that everybody has to be a Muslim.

        Neither Obama nor Netanyahu would agree that Israel gets “Unconditional support…irregardless of their behavior”.

        P.S. Actually the word is “regardless”. “Irregardless” is not a word in English.

        • Iran gets around 60 billion dollars a year from the West in unearned oil payments. Saudi Arabia gets about twice that, and the law there is that everybody has to be a Muslim.

          I don’t recall Iran receiving any of my tax dollars. Last I heard my tax dollars were doing all they could to prevent Iran from importing basic medicine.

          As for Saudi Arabia, at least they pay us in cash for all the crap we give them. Also, given that 99% of Saudi Arabian citizens are Muslim or Muslim identifying, its a moot to point to bring up the fact that a Saudi Citizen must be Muslim.

          Israel on the other hand is a country composed of invading colonialists that ethnically cleansed 90% of the indigenous population and forced the survivors to live under ethnic domination.

          Its a country where being Jewish means you have more rights and freedoms than being non Jewish in a land where more than half the people are not Jewish.

          What makes it worse is that unlike Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Sudan, Burma, etc the crimes committed in Israel are funded by U.S Tax Dollars while the United States further destroys its own reputation and global standing by openly supporting Israel in its racist policies.

        • MRW says:

          Iran gets around 60 billion dollars a year from the West in unearned oil payments.

          What would constitute an earned payment in your logic?

        • MarkF says:

          I apologize, I was not clear. 3 billion a year in welfare from our tax dollars. With absolutely NO benefit to us. Since neoconservative doctrine calls for pre-emption, I’ll go with it. You’ll say that Israel uses the money to purchase arms made by American corporations. And I’ll respond by saying that we should just purchase the arms for ourselves and let Israel use it’s own tax revenues to purchase arms. Welfare is welfare. At least Saudi Arabia PURCHASES arms from us. It’s not a welfare handout.

          “Saudi Arabia gets about twice that, and the law there is that everybody has to be a Muslim.” So Israel is aspiring to be just like Saudi Arabia. A very worthy endeavor. At least they’re not doing so on the U.S. dole like Israel.

          “Irregardless” – thanks for the correction.

          Bibi and Barack might disagree, and they’d be wrong. Israel receives full support politically and financially from us, without regard to OUR situation. We borrow money to supply Israel with a stipend.

          Iran and Saudi Arabia “earn” the money because we are purchasing a product from them. I have a choice whether to purchase gasoline, and if I choose to not purchase ME oil I can research that and adjust my consumption. My tax dollars to Israel, not so much.

          Funny how neoconservative doctrine is so hypocritical. Against welfare, social security, etc., unless it’s welfare for Israel. Universal health care for Americans using American tax dollars? Nope. Using the opportunity costs to purchase universal health care for Israelis with American tax dollars? You betcha.

    • Mooser says:

      You realise, of course, Area Man, that you have just provided a complete justification for Nazism.
      So if the US declared itself a “Christian State” and demanded that Jews leave or be expelled as an alien influence, that would be hunky-dory with you?
      Come to think of it, I bet it would be!

      Zionists think they own the Jews, don’t they?

    • Mooser says:

      “But the rules for Jews are to be different. There’s a name for that…”

      There sure as hell is, Area Man. When the rules are different for Jews, it’s called Zionism.

      But don’t let me stand in your way, pal. If you think the highest aspiration of the Jews is to live under the same conditions as Iran, Afghanistan, and Mauritania, you just go right ahead. I bet you’ll find lots of people who want to live under a Jewish Taliban. Yup, I bet they’re waiting outside your door to sign up right now!

    • Sumud says:

      Abbas has announced much more draconian rules for the new Palestine he wants to create: No Jews At All.

      Yawn.

      Link?

      • AreaMan says:

        Try thispage. Abbas words are more ambiguous and might be more draconian than I thought. He’s quoted here as saying:

        “I will never agree that there be Jewish soldiers in NATO, and I will never agree that there will be a single Israeli among us on Palestinian soil.”

        Now this means either no Jews or no Israelis in a new West Bank State, which would mean no Arabs could move from Tel Aviv to Ramallah, or it means no Israelis anywhere from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean. Since Palestinian soil is said to stretch at least that far.

        And since there are no NATO forces that can, so far as I know, legally discriminate against Jews, it means no NATO peacekeepers either. I’m really skeptical of NATO peacekeepers myself, but the no-Jew rule seems at least an odd way to say it, and maybe a bit mad.

        BUT: There are several (at least three) different translations over at MEMRI which say really different things. So we can’t be sure.

        Anyway: what we were talking about is recognizing Israel as a Jewish State, which still seems reasonable, as all it could end up meaning is that the new PA-led state would not be trying to change it to an Islamic State.

        • Sumud says:

          Well how do. You started off so certain:

          Abbas has announced much more draconian rules for the new Palestine he wants to create: No Jews At All.

          And then end up with this:

          BUT: There are several (at least three) different translations over at MEMRI which say really different things. So we can’t be sure.

          Anyway: …

          That’s some climbdown.

          FYI: credible sources AreaMan! I’ve read enough Arutz Sheva to know they just make stuff up. Similarly, MEMRI exist only to slander arabs/muslims and especially Palestinians.

          Try this instead:

          “Jews, to the extent they choose to stay and live in the state of Palestine, will enjoy those rights and certainly will not enjoy any less rights than Israeli Arabs enjoy now in the state of Israel,”
          Fayyad: Jews can be equal citizens in Palestinian state

        • Chaos4700 says:

          Israel National News! Your direct source for propaganda straight from der Vater’s mund.

          Seriously. And MEMRI too? Are there any Israeli-funded hate speech sites you don’t hit up as sources?

        • AreaMan October 13, 2010 at 5:56 pm

          “Try thispage. ”

          Arutz Sheva, heh? Well there you go AreaMan! The far right mouthpiece of the settler movement is your source..Who would have guessed? No wonder your prose smells funny all the way to here down under.. ..

    • Shingo says:

      “And we know you are all protesting loudly at:
      The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, The Islamic Republic of Iran, The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and The Islamic Republic of Mauritania.”

      Iran is home to the second largest Jewish population in the ME.

      Jews in Iran are so happy in fact that they refused bribes to move to Israel.

      Oh, and all the states you mentioned have declared borders and are not stealing land.

      • AreaMan says:

        Tens of thousands of Jews left Iran when the Ayatollahs took over in 1979. I know several who escaped, in violation of Iranian law, more recently.

        Nevertheless it is true that Iran is an Islamic state, and nobody is trying to change that.
        And my point is that Israel has a right to be a Jewish state. Which still stands.

        Due to the violence and hostility of the surrounding Muslim and Arab states, Israel has not been able to sign a peace treaty that settles agreed-on borders. Legally, Israel is the successor to the British Mandate, and has sovereignty over Palestine. But the government of Israel does not appear to want all of that sovereignty, which makes things less clear.

        • MRW says:

          Legally, Israel is the successor to the British Mandate, and has sovereignty over Palestine.

          Dead wrong

          “Unauthorized statements have been made to the effect that the purpose in view is to create a wholly Jewish Palestine. Phrases have been used such as that `Palestine is to become as Jewish as England is English.’ His Majesty’s Government regard any such expectation as impracticable and have no such aim in view. Nor have they at any time contemplated …. the disappearance or the subordination of the Arabic population, language or culture in Palestine. They would draw attention to the fact that the terms of the (Balfour) Declaration referred to do not contemplate that Palestine as a whole should be converted into a Jewish National Home, but that such a Home should be founded IN PALESTINE.”….His Majesty’s Government therefore now declare unequivocally that it is not part of their policy that Palestine should become a Jewish State.

  6. Colin Murray says:

    Yet somehow the implications of this definition is utterly lost on Obama.

    It’s not.

    Then why is it somehow permissible to endorse the same position when it comes to Israel? And how can his administration support linking the PA’s acceptance of such assertions to Israel’s admittedly partial and temporary compliance with standards of international law?

    The threat of withdrawal of Zionist campaign contributions to the Democratic Party make it a precondition for retention of power.

  7. pabelmont says:

    In my view (see “Here is the question”, below), Netanyahu is by no means offering to comply with international law if the PA (or anyone else) will, today, recognize Israel as a Jewish state. (BTW, if the PLO spokesman has indeed offered to perform such a special recognition in the future, not today, as part of a comprehensive peace treaty, then he has at least got the time element right — tomorrow, not today — but this seems unlikely unless there is also a right of return for the Palestinians of 1948 and their progeny in the same peace deal.)

    Here is the question: does international law merely demand the cessation of new settlement building and of new settling (new moving of Israelis into occupied territories as residents), or does it (as I imagine) require removal of all the settler-residents from residence in occupied territories and, quite possibly removal of the settlements themselves (destruction of the buildings, etc.)?

    In its July 9, 2004, advisory opinion, the International Court of Justice declared Israel’s apartheid wall illegal and stated that it was Israel’s duty to remove the wall and, furthermore, was the duty of all nations to ensure that Israel does so. So, the wall is illegal and the remedy is removal of the wall. Since the settlements (buildings) and settlers (resident people) are also illegal, it appears that the remedy is removal of the residents (settlers) and of the buildings (settlements).

    Netanyahu has not offered to perform full removal in exchange for any action by the PA; therefore he has not offered to comply with international law in exchange for recognition, today, of Israel as a Jewish state.

    • potsherd says:

      An op-ed in Ha’aretz claims that BYahoo has recognized this fact and knows any 2ss will not be possible, which is why he is backing the right wing in setting up the mechanism for enforcing apartheid and ethnic cleansing of ALL Arabs in a binational state.

    • Shingo says:

      “Netanyahu has not offered to perform full removal in exchange for any action by the PA; therefore he has not offered to comply with international law in exchange for recognition, today, of Israel as a Jewish state.”

      Exactly. Netenyahu is merely offering to delay gratification in exchange for a permanent condition from the Palestinians.

      Of course the PLO already recognized Israel under Arafat and not only did the settlements continue, nut Israel killed him as a sign of gratitude.

    • AreaMan says:

      The ICJ has no jurisdiction over the questions that it gave an opinion on. That’s why the opinion is called “Advisory”. You and I also can issue opinions, with just as much authority.

      Various acts of the League of Nations gave national rights over Palestine to the Jewish people, and nothing since then has withdrawn those rights.

      • Sumud says:

        The ICJ has no jurisdiction over the questions that it gave an opinion on. That’s why the opinion is called “Advisory”. You and I also can issue opinions, with just as much authority.

        This is completely false: armchair lawyering, hasbara.

        The first 6 pages of the 21 page summary of the 2004 ICJ Advisory Opinion are an examination of the Court’s jurisdiction and conclude:

        In the light of the foregoing, the Court concludes that it has jurisdiction to give an opinion on the question put to it by the General Assembly and that there is no compelling reason for it to use its discretionary power not to give that opinion.

        The 15 judges of the ICJ voted on various aspects of the Advisory Opinion, on jurisdiction (pg. 14) the vote was 14:1, with the single dissenting vote coming from (no surprises) the American judge: Thomas Buergenthal. In Buergenthal’s separate opinion (page 3, Summary Annex) on the issue of jurisdiction:

        In Judge Buergenthal’s view the Court should have exercised its discretion and declined to render the requested advisory opinion because it lacked sufficient information and evidence to render the opinion. The absence in this case of the requisite factual basis vitiates the Court’s sweeping findings on the merits, which is the reason for his dissenting votes.

        In other words, he does not challenge the Court’s jurisdiction over the matter, but felt the court should use it’s discretion and decline to render an opinion.

        So all 15 judges were of the opinion the ICJ had jurisdiction.

        It’s an Advisory Opinion because that’s what the General Assembly requested. It has nothing whatsoever to do with jurisdiction.

      • Chaos4700 says:

        I didn’t know it was possible to legalize ethnic cleansing. I guess the Nuremberg commission got it all wrong.

  8. Kathleen says:

    Maggie another great and fact based post

    Obama has rolled over to the I lobby. Completely. Nothing has changed. Netanyahu just moved the line once again as all Israeli leaders have done as they continue to steal Palestinians lands.

    Amazing that Abbas has not walked.

    Juan Cole makes great points
    link to juancole.com
    “Abbas raises the possibility that if the negotiations with Netanyahu continue to be frozen, he would go to the UN General Assembly with a plan for a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state, to be blessed by the UNO.

    The problem is that although the UN could give Palestine a seat as a nation, unless the Israeli army were induced to withdraw from the West Bank and to cease blockading Gaza (which is being economically strangled by an illegal and inhumane Israeli ban on civilian exports), the resulting “state” would remain a fantasy.

    If NATO would agree to reassign the troops now beginning to withdraw from Afghanistan to Palestine, and would face down any Israeli intransigence, now that would be a plan.”

  9. Kathleen says:

    Looking for the post about that great artist lady who focuses on the injustices integral to the I/P conflict.

    How about a drawing with Obama and Dennis Ross hanging over his shoulder putting the words in Obama’s mouth. “Jerusalem can never be divided” Israel’s capital. We have come a long way from the original Un decision. A shared Jerusalem

  10. ish says:

    These peace negotiations are a thieves’ charade. Disgusting.

    link to thecahokian.blogspot.com

  11. RoHa says:

    “State Department Spokesman actually said was “We have recognized the special nature of the Israeli state. It is a state for the Jewish people.”

    Is the U.S. State Department declaring that Australian Jews have some special rights that other Australians do not have?