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Friday, February 23, 2024

Israel’s provocative stand and Obama’s precariousness

By Ardain Isma

CSMS Magazine Staff Writer

Yesterday’s parade in Jerusalem Day was a serious provocation by all Middle Eastern standards, according to many witnesses. There was a major display of police presence coupled with a grandiose celebration, marking 44 years since the “reunification” of Jerusalem, or more properly its seizure during the 1967 War. The parade, not surprisingly, was made up of an amalgam of ultra-orthodox religious fanatics, and right-wing settlers. They marched, passed through the Arab East Jerusalem on their way the Jewish enclave of Sheikh Jarrah.

The Palestinian Authority wants East Jerusalem to be the capital of any Palestinian state. Sheikh Jarrah has been a serious flashpoint for being located in the heart of what has been the dream of all Palestinians: Making East Jerusalem as ther capital. Over 3,000 officers, including border police and undercover units, were on patrol across Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, called a special session of the Knesset, declaring that the reunification of Jerusalem after the Six-Day War gave the city the “momentum to develop.” Referring to the ongoing illegal settlement construction, he proclaimed, “We are building and we will build still more… A real city is being built here.”

The open air of defiance, observers say, was meant to shed clarity on Israeli position vis-à-vis the thorny Jerusalem issue. This also is putting the Obama administration into a precarious position. For years, US foreign policy in the Middle East not only was perceived as heavily biased toward Israeli aggression and land grabbing over the detriment of defenseless Arabs, but also it has always been seen as an accomplice to it.

Obama’s contrition before the Arab masses and his seemingly advocacy on behalf a Palestinian state are diametrically at odds with the hawks in Tel Aviv are aiming for. Two days ago, Netanyahu pledged that Jerusalem would never be divided, and Israel is preparing to use its nukes if necessary to make sure what it wants is what is the FACT.

Netanyahu’s provocative pledge was quickly echoed by Kadima opposition leader Tzipi Livni, who proclaimed that the unity of all Jewish people was essential at a time when some are “questioning Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.” “There is no ‘their’ Jerusalem and ‘our’ Jerusalem,” she declared.

Israeli arrogance and Obama’s dilemma

Last month, Netanyahu, in a speech to the US Congress, ruled out any possibility of a Palestinian state and insisted there would be no return to the 1967 borders, no Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, no return of any of the Palestinian refugees or their descendants to their homes in Israel, no military withdrawal from the Jordan River that would form the eastern boundary of any Palestinian state, and no negotiation with a Palestinian government that included or was supported by Hamas.

Speaking about Jerusalem, Netanyahu said, “The government is obligated to building Jerusalem, as [Jerusalem] is the heart of the nation… It must never again be divided”.

Shortly after delivering what many called a historic speech on the massive Arab revolt against despotic regimes of the Middle East, President Barack Obama was quick to reaffirm his administration’s complete and unconditional support for Israel. And he found the perfect venue to do that, too.  President Obama spoke Sunday before the right-wing Zionist lobby, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Obama’s speech before AIPAC came just two days after he met at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The meeting with Netanyahu didn’t seem to go well, at least in the eyes of the public. At issue was the vexing question of Israel’s furtherance of military occupation of the West Bank and its obtuse intransigence to end the occupation after more than 40 years of brutal and humiliating Jewish domination.

Israel’s occupation of Palestine has never been an issue of repudiation in the mainstream media—mostly biased toward the occupier. What made a commotion this time was Netanyahu public rebuffed to Obama’s remarks over what would a Palestinian State look like and where its possible border with Israel would be drawn. Obama made those remarks during his Arab Spring speech on Thursday. “We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps…”

Sitting adjacent to President Obama and before the White House Press Corps, Netanyahu flatly rejected such ideas, declaring any return to such “lines” would leave Israel “indefensible.” Netanyahu’s contemptuous reaction was followed by Obama’s Republican opponents, who then accused him of “throwing Israeli under the bus,” meaning sending Israel to be “butchered” by enraged Palestinians. This is a gross disrespect to American public opinion.

But Obama said nothing new. The Green line or1967 line, which includes East Jerusalem, was something that was based on UN resolutions 342, 238, recognizing the existence of two states coexisting side by side: one Jewish and one Arab. These two UN resolutions are themselves a gross injustice to the Palestinian cause. They leave unanswered the ply of more than 5 million Palestinians scattered around the globe with no possibility of returning home, for their home is now Israel proper. Many of these refugees were people who were pushed out of their homes when their villages were uprooted in 1948 to make room for the creation of Israel.

The 1967 lines carve the West Bank of the Jordan River and the Gaza Strip—a strip of land about the size of one of the smallest Florida counties which is the home of 1.5 million Palestinians packed like sardines in a can in one of the most deplorable conditions on earth. These two Palestinian areas make up just 22 percent of historical Palestine.

Out of that 22 percent, Israel has already extracted 40 percent of it, and it wants to retain it in any peace agreement that would result to the creation of a Palestinian state. In a policy designed to create facts on the ground, Israel has been building permanent settlements arbitrarily and illegally on Palestinian lands. It has been doing it in such way to make it almost impossible to achieve a viable Palestinian state. “They will never have a viable state,” once said former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Truthfully, if this current status quo were to be maintained, it would make any Palestinian state look like cheese eaten by rats that no one seems to have a taste for. 

What is left for the Palestinians?

Remember the old cliché when one negotiates from a victor’s point of view? “What’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is negotiable,” the victorious bully always says. It is a logic that resonates well inside the minds of Israeli leaders—both form the Labor and the Likud parties.

Dan Diker, who heads the World Jewish Congress, couldn’t be clearer on the Israeli position. “I believe the settlements on the West Bank are and forever will be part of Israel,” he emphatically declared on China’s CCTV last Sunday. Diker echoed the same view of Netanyahu, which has been the cornerstone of Israeli policy toward the occupied territories for years. “Any relinquishing of these territories will definitely compromise Israeli security,” he added.   

Diker’s statement was sharply rebuffed by Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian member of parliament. “Does anyone seriously believe that a Palestinian state can threaten Israeli security? Statements like these are unjustifiable justifications to make sure there will never be a Palestinian state,” he said. Mustafa’s cry seemed to be understood by Professor Edmund Chareeb from American University. “We don’t want to have a Palestinian state that will be a state in name only. It has to be something that the Palestinians who may never be happy with what will come out of possible negotiations. However, it has to be something they will be able to live with,” he said.

Israel is betting on its nuclear arsenal to make sure what it wants, it gets. Israel has the world’s fifth largest army, and it is the undisputed regional power in the Middle East. To say that ragtag forces like Hamas or Hezbollah can not only undermine Israel security but also the very existence of the Jewish state is quite absurd and logically, morally and politically repugnant.

Nonetheless, Obama’s speech to AIPAC was designed to reaffirm his administration commitment to the security of Israel. “[The] commitment of the United States to the security of Israel is ironclad,” the President said. AIPAC, being the most powerful Israeli lobby in the United States, is also a bridge between Obama’s campaign number 2 and the Jewish vote, which went overwhelmingly Obama’s way during the last election.

Obama shamelessly bragged that despite economic hardships millions of Americans face daily resulting from government officials across the US taking a meat ax to slash vital social programs, there will always be a way to fine more money to support Israel’s military. “Despite tough fiscal times, we’ve increased foreign military financing to record levels,” Obama emphasized, pointing in particular to funding for Israel’s new “Iron Dome” anti-rocket system.

As we always say on CSMS Magazine, morality has no place in strategic politics, especially when the logic is from the victor’s point of view. At the end of the day, the Palestinians will be left with nothing other than apartheid walls, humiliating checkpoints, racist settlers, which would make a mockery of Obama’s talk of “mutually agreed swaps” in hope of producing a viable, sovereign Palestinian state.

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