Goldstone Report presents real opportunity for the US

Posted: October 17th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Shmuel Rosner writes in Maariv that the UN Human Rights Council’s endorsement of the Goldstone Commission Report in Geneva on Friday might be the end of the Obama initiative and the effort to renew negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. PM Netanyahu took a similar stand before the vote in Geneva, declaring that endorsing the report will bring the end of the peace process, as it will reward terrorism and strengthen the Hamas (strange to hear this from Netanyahu, who did just about everything in his power to humiliate Abu-Mazen and consequently, help Hamas).

Rosner writes (my Italic):

The administration has three major concerns regarding this report: the Americans understand that Israel is under enormous pressure, and that Goldstone could be the last nail in the Obama initiative’s coffin; at the same time they understand that Abu-Mazen is under great pressure as well, and that it is impossible to ask from him anything that will be seen as a surrender to the US or Israel’s orders; and they also have political concerns: Obama can’t confront the international institutions or to discount and ignore them the way the previous president did.

I disagree. While it is clear the Abu-Mazen is in troubles, I think that the report gives the US a good opportunity to apply effective pressure on Netanyahu, and finally get some sort of declaration on a limited settlement freeze and renewed negotiations, in exchange for an American support for the Israeli position when the report is brought before the UN Security Council.  

On Friday, Netanyahu was disappointed to find out that China, Russia and India voted for the endorsement of the Goldstone Commission Report. Great Britain and France, who showed some understanding to the Israeli side in the days leading to the vote, abstained. They didn’t vote against the endorsement, even when they knew it wouldn’t change the result of the vote. There was even an “unpleasant” conversation between Netanyahu and Gordon Brown on the matter. According to Haaretz, both Brown and France’s Sarkozy support the demand to freeze all settlements, and they made it clear to the Israeli government. That leaves Israel with only one permanent member in the Security Council supporting it – the US. And this is the opportunity the president has been waiting for.

The administration should stop worrying about Obama’s deteriorating image in Israel – we don’t vote in the US elections, after all – and let Israel know that the days of the automatic veto are over. Israel can go on enjoying America’s economic and military support – so AIPAC will have nothing to complain about – but if it’s diplomatic aid that Netanyahu is seeking, he needs to start playing ball with the president.


7 Comments on “Goldstone Report presents real opportunity for the US”

  1. 1 Ihsan Hamid said at 1:53 pm on October 17th, 2009:

    Noam,

    I read your blog regularly and respect you and your writings.

    I’m having great difficulty understanding why Israel seems to be so frightened by the Goldstone report’s findings – as though it were its Achilles heel. I have not read the report myself, but know about its contents mostly from the media and other blogs. Thus far, every article and blog has not answered the questions I have about Israel’s reaction to the report, and as an Israeli yourself I hope you can answer them. I know some of the answers will no doubt be concealed from Israelis too, but nonetheless:

    1. Why does Israel not carry out its own investigation of the Gaza siege?

    2. As an occupying power for over sixty years and showing no signs of wavering that power any time soon, why does Israel even care about what Judge Goldstone found in Gaza?

    3A. Did Israel knowingly commit war crimes in Gaza that it now seeks to conceal from international scrutiny?

    3B. Is Israel worried that should the ICC investigate Gaza then the occupation itself and eventually Israel’s legitimacy as an occupier would also come under international scrutiny?

    3C. Should the occupation come under scrutiny because of the Goldstone report, would international pressure force the removal of settlements and force a two state agreement or (if that is not feasible because of Israel’s expansion to date) could it go a different way and force a single non-Jewish state with equal rights for all?

    I ask these questions because, as you know, Prime Minister Netanyahu threatened to derail the peace process should the Goldstone report be brought before the last UNHRC special session. I am no fan of his, and I know he is not stupid, but to suggest that he is willing to prolong conflict with the Palestinians indefinately and thereby put the security of all Israeli Jews (i.e. the hallmark of the Jewish state) at risk indefinately based on a report seems to me like he is very worried about something big (and bad for Israel) happening as an outcome of Goldstone’s report. Perhaps, Noam, you can shed some light on this?

  2. 2 Mo-ha-med said at 2:41 pm on October 17th, 2009:

    “…might be the end of the Obama initiative”

    The initiative is already dead. It already lost all real content when its key demand allowed for ‘exceptions’, ‘natural growth’ of settlements, and most importantly, when it included no enforcement/punishment mechanism. Mitchell’s pointless and inconclusive little shuttling in the Middle is the best proof.

    Netanyahu is seemingly looking for something to blame for his own rejection of the peace process, be it the Goldstone report, a Palestinian reconciliation and potential unity agreement, etc.

  3. 3 Aviv said at 12:45 pm on October 18th, 2009:

    Ihsan, I suspect by asking our friend Noam some of these questions you are effectively barging into an open door.

  4. 4 Aviv said at 12:51 pm on October 18th, 2009:

    Also: You say Israel has been an occupying power for over 60 years. This is the number of years Israel has existed. Most set the date at June 1967.

    Ihsan, you help strengthen my argument that some of Israel’s critics really just want it destroyed entirely. Thank you for your candor!

  5. 5 noam said at 2:47 am on October 19th, 2009:

    Ishan: thanks for your comment. As for your questions:

    A. I believe that Israeli leaders feel that even an internal Investigation could be regarded as admitting that there were war crimes in Gaza, plus, it would harm them politically, since the public is very much against this investigation. What’s even more important is that Israel has nothing to gain from such investigation: after all, if it finds out that nothing wrong happened, would anyone believe?
    B. The leaders in Israel are concerned that the report will start (a) a process of criminalization of the army and political leadership and (b) that it would give back wind for the calls to boycott.
    C. I don’t know of Yugoslavia-style mass murders in Gaza or in any incident in the occupied territories but from what I gather from the media, there were incidents of illegal use of weapons on civilians, and perhaps even some intentional killings. It’s hard to tell.
    Israelis are right in feeling that the Goldstone report is part of a process in which the legitimacy of their action is eroded. I think the report could aid international pressure on Israel to leave the West Bank, but it this pressure has yet to reach the level were it would have a real effect on internal politics. As for Netanyahu’s concerns, see B.

    Mohamed – I don’t know if the initiative is dead, but it is certainly in dire straits. As for Netanyahu looking for someone to blame – I agree.

  6. 6 Ihsan Hamid said at 4:06 am on October 20th, 2009:

    Aviv,

    I don’t want to see Israel destroyed, I could care less for Israel and for Palestine. But what gets me is the suffering that innocent people on both sides of the wall are having to undergo because their leaders are simply worthless. This conflict could have ended years ago if both sides had leadership that was actually worth something.

    To suggest that some critics (such as myself) want to see the end of Israel is pathetic. If you believe that your nation is incapable of any wrongdoing and that there is nothing wrong with either the current government or the occupation itself then you are, quite simply, a dunce. And if you have a problem with criticism, then learn to deal with it. It’s called democracy and is something you should learn to live with.

    If I made a mistake regarding the length of the Israeli occupation (42 years instead of over 60) then I apologise. But 42 years of suffering is no more easier to live with than 60. That said, with friends like you (glossing over the figures and diluting the conflict to try and make it more palatable) does Israel need any enemies?

    Noam,

    Thanks for your reply.

    If Israel investigates Gaza and finds evidence of wrongdoing, why not compensate the victims somehow and begin a process of rebuilding Gaza? I’m sure that Gazans needs homes, food, medicine, jobs and education more than they need to see a general or a few officers or a minister and adviser or two serve meagre prison terms. If Israel is unwilling to work with Hamas, then work with Fatah. I’m sure that if something positive comes out of this then heads need not roll. As for Hamas, has there been any indication that they will investigate their part?

  7. 7 noam said at 4:32 pm on October 20th, 2009:

    Israelis feel that any help to Gaza – or even lifting the siege – will help legitimize the Hamas and its actions. Your offer is a bit naïve, and there is even evidence that the PLO won’t help Gaza before Hamas accepts its authority.

    Personally, I think the Hamas is a problem, but since it is clearly here to stay, there is no point in trying to go around it, deal only with Abu-Mazen, etc. the only chance is by incorporating it into the political process, in hope that with time, some of its leaders will become more pragmatic (it is clear that there is a difference between the “local” Hamas and the more extreme leaders in Syria).