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:
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.