Thursday, September 22, 2011

Israel, Palestinians, and Obama at the UN

Steve Clemons piece in The Atlantic, taking issue with the Obama administration's approach to the Palestinians, is an analysis that appeals to me.
Perhaps most disappointing is that President Obama, who in earlier years at the UN chastised Mahmoud Abbas, Benjamin Netanyahu, and George Mitchell for not getting more quickly on a constructive peace track, who felt that achieving an Israel-Palestine two state deal was of such strategic significance to the United States that he made it one of the very first out-of-the gate priorities of his administration, has not only offered nothing new to break the Israel-Palestine negotiations deep freeze but has acquiesced to the very narrative that on the negotiations that Israel embraces. For Israel at the moment, doing nothing is best.

Obama continues to parrot the line that peace can only be achieved between the "two parties", that only they can really bring this global ulcer to a close, when they decide to negotiate. The fact is that the status quo of frozen negotiations is benefiting the dominant, settlement-expanding Israel -- and the US, in promising to veto at the UN Security Council Palestine's bid for official state recognition, is playing guarantor to one side, undermining the aspirations of others on the other side of the equation. What if the US had said to Kosovo -- no statehood, no recognition from the US until you resolve all of your ongoing issues with Russia?

Obama's position on this is dangerous in another sense as well. Obama -- who looked to so many early in his rock star style rise to the Presidency as a leader on the level of a Gandhi, or Martin Luther King, or Mandela -- has assured the rise of Hamas, the legitimation of violence in pursuit of Palestinian political goals, by yet again showing that peaceful, non-violent moderates like Mahmoud Abbas ultimately get nothing -- even if they play the role of the "good Palestinian," the one who listens to his masters, who doesn't get too disturbed when humiliated at Israel's border check points and at UN Security Council meetings.

Abbas was not kidnapping Israeli soldiers nor firing rockets to generate political leverage in favor of getting his country's dilemma back on to the roster of global concerns. This week he is doing what Gandhi did to the Brits, embarrassing the world as Gandhi did to the then globally sprawling United Kingdom for its hypocrisy and inhumanity. Abbas is using peaceful means to move his cause, playing by the rules, and actually taking the same track to attempted Palestinian statehood that the Israelis used.

And Obama is going to say no -- rejecting Palestine's bid at the UN Security Council. It is 2011 of course. 2012 will be an expensive year of political campaigning and this makes riling up some donors in the Jewish American community politically complicated. It should be noted that some enlightened Jewish Americans support a two state solution, peace, and even Mahmoud Abbas' play at the United Nations.
Clemon is probably a little harsh here on the Obama administration . The fact is that the Israel Lobby in the United States is so powerful that no American president can easily oppose it in what it sees as its national interest and expect to survive politically. American Jews need to search their hearts and try to ascertain what is truly in the long-term best interests of both the United States and Israel.

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