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Netanyahu’s victory ‐ what is the cost?

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The victory of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel’s election may have come at a surprisingly high cost. Mr. Netanyahu publicly proclaimed what every thinking person on the planet always knew, but which most global world leaders chose to ignore: he will never allow the establishment of a free and independent Palestinian state. Now, world leaders, especially those in the United States who have fostered the farce of negotiations between Israel and Palestine, must see two unpleasant facts: 1) the Prime Minister has lied to them for years, and never had any intention of seriously negotiating with the Palestinians, and 2) The problem of the Israeli occupation of Palestine needs to be resolved.

These may seem simple or obvious, but are more complex than they may seem.

  1. Negotiations: The fact that Mr. Netanyahu never had any intention of negotiating in goodfaith should have been clear, since he continued building illegal settlements as so‐called negotiations continued. The Israeli military never slowed in their brutal oppression of Palestinians in the West Bank, never stopped arresting without charge men, women and children, and never stopped protecting the murderous crimes of illegal settlers. What sincerity and ‘good faith’ could possibly attend those actions?
  2. Ending the Occupation: This is a far more complex issue. For decades, the U.S. could say that Israel and Palestine merely needed to negotiate. One hesitates to explain, yet again, at the risk of boring the reader, that negotiations can only take place between two entities, each of which has something the other wants, that can only be obtained by surrendering something it has. Israel can take whatever it wants from Palestine with complete impunity, granted by the U.S. and condoned by the international community. Why should Israel negotiate? By doing so, it has something to lose, and little to gain. The status quo provides it with nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Global leadership may now take a closer look at the situation. Europe, Israel’s largest trading partner, has already indicated some skittishness about European countries doing business with Israeli companies located in the occupied West Bank. Many European countries have also voted positively on non‐binding resolutions to recognize Palestine. When Sweden last year officially granted diplomatic recognition to Palestine, Swedish Foreign Minister, Margot Wallstrom indicated that doing so would put each party on a level playing field and help move peace talks forward. Conservatives in Sweden were dismayed, saying that a negotiated settlement was the only way to establish an independent Palestinian state. Now, however, it is publicly acknowledged by the Israeli Prime Minister that negotiations are not now, and never were, a viable alternative.

Russian President Vladimir Putin stated in 2014 that Russia, which has long had friendly relations with Palestine, was prepared to recognize that country as soon as a negotiated settlement is reached. Now that it is known that there will be no negotiated settlement, it will be interesting to see how Russia reacts.

In South America, where most countries have already established diplomatic relations with Palestine, pressure on Israel is also sure to increase. And Israel’s petty criticism of Brazil in 2014, when Israeli spokesman Yigal Palmo called that nation a ‘diplomatic dwarf’, will not soon be forgotten. Now, knowing that Mr. Netanyahu has lied for years to the global community will only add to international frustrations with him and his policies.

And what of the United States? There are several areas where U.S. policy may be forced to change in terms of Israel:

  1. Negotiations: For many years, the U.S. has prided itself on its efforts to start, restart, sponsor and move forward nonsensical peace talks. U.S. elected officials, when asked about the brutal occupation, could always mouth worthless phrases about ‘returning to the bargaining table’. A new catchphrase will have to be established, but one thinks in vain to find one.
  2. International Law: Will the U.S. now put some pressure on Israel to abide by international law? The U.S. has used its veto power countless times to protect Israel from any consequences of its violations of law. The hypocrisy of doing so is clear. One example is telling. In February of 2011, then U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, vetoed a resolution condemning Israeli settlement activity in occupied Palestine. In doing so, she said, astonishingly, that while the U.S. sees “the folly and illegitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity, we think it unwise for this council to attempt to resolve the core issues that divide Israelis and Palestinians”. Since the fairy tale of negotiations has now dissolved, will the U.S. now think that, perhaps, ‘this council’ (U.N. Security Council) is indeed the place to ‘resolve the core issues that divide Israelis and Palestinians’?
  3. Human Rights of the Palestinians: Will the U.S. take a stand for Palestinian rights? Every time Israel implemented one of its brutal, genocidal onslaughts on the Gaza Strip, using U.S.‐ provided bombs to do it, U.S. officials could talk of Israel’s need to ‘defend’ itself. Yet former U.S. Secretary of State, and likely 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said this about Syria in 2011: “Now the United States believes firmly in the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all member‐states, but we do not believe that sovereignty demands that this council stand silent when governments massacre their own people, threatening regional peace and security in the process. And we reject any equivalence between premeditated murders by a government’s military machine and the actions of civilians under siege driven to self‐defense.” Can this not be applied to Palestine? It is now recognized by the United Nations. Over 120 nations individually recognize it. It’s ‘sovereignty and territorial integrity’ must be protected; the threats to ‘regional peace’ that are caused by the brutal occupation must be addressed and any equivalence ‘between premeditated murders by a government’s (Israel) military machine and the actions of civilians under siege (Palestinians) driven to self‐defense’ must be rejected. Will this now change? In the summer of 2014, the U.S. did offer some tepid criticism of Israel, when it bombed United Nations refugee centers. Yet that didn’t stop, or even slow, the shipment of more weapons to Israel.

So what comes next? Will Mr. Obama finally, with nearly two years of his term remaining, take some kind of semi‐principled stand? He might at least, one thinks, reconsider U.S. foreign aid to a nation that is in constant, serious violation of international law, and that accepts that foreign aid as it simultaneously spits in the face of the United States. Members of Congress, of course, will be difficult to convince. Human rights are not even on their radar when they are coupled with the possibility of losing campaign contributions. AIPAC (American Israel Political Affairs Committee) is very generous to those politicians who toe its brutal line. But even there, some new cracks, caused by Mr. Netanyahu’s speech to Congress earlier this month, seem to be widening.

One thing, at least, is clear: it will be difficult, although not impossible, for the U.S. to continue to conduct business as usual regarding Palestine and Israel. And if a new approach is forthcoming, it will be interesting to see what it is. Either way, the efforts of others throughout the world on behalf of Palestine will only increase now, and that can bring positive results. They won’t occur overnight, but they will occur. Palestine will be free.

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Thanks for this terrific article, Robert.

It should make every American cringe with guilt, shame, and remorse.

It should also mobilize folks to ensure that justice is done, and that the Palestinians are given their freedom (and all that freedom entails) back. Their freedom that was torn from them in terrible, horrible actions that occurred decades ago and continues today.

“Palestine will be free.”

Yes, it will.

When I first heard Mr Netanyahu’s appalling statements about ‘not on my watch’. I thought they were the words of a desperate man, thinking all was lost for him so he might as well declare himself truthfully at last (a truth that has been obvious to most of us for years and years). When I heard late into the night that against all predictions, he would have the greatest number of seats in the Knesset,… Read more »

Rice: The USA sees “the folly and illegitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity, we think it unwise for this council to attempt to resolve the core issues that divide Israelis and Palestinians” . I agree that the council, or the USA, should not resolve the issues.. The slight-of-hand has been the suggestion — false on its face — that holding Israel to compliance with international law is about resolving the issues themselves, about negotiating the… Read more »

James Besser: “In my quarter century as Washington correspondent for Jewish newspapers, I frequently defended Israel against charges that it had created an apartheid system in the West Bank. But this week’s election, with Benjamin Netanyahu poised to serve another term with an even more hardline coalition, means that apartheid is the path Israeli voters have chosen. The inevitable results will include even greater international isolation for the Jewish state, a boost to efforts to… Read more »

EU report on Jerusalem does not look good. It seems it has come to the boiling point. Again, this is Netanyahu’s talent of taking a bad situation and making it worse. To think the majority in Israel support Netanyahu policies that end up in violence is unbelievable. “A hard-hitting EU report on Jerusalem warns that the city has reached a dangerous boiling point of “polarisation and violence” not seen since the end of the second… Read more »