Republican presidential candidate wants to destroy UN if it recognizes Palestine

Posted: August 11th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: The Right, the US and us | Tags: , , , | Comments Off

In an op-ed published by the pro-Netanyahu tabloid Yisrael Hayom, Republican Newt Gingrich calls upon the United States to stop supporting the United Nations if it votes for Palestinian independence. “We don’t need to fund a corrupt institution to beat up on our allies,” says Gingrich.

Washington should make immediately clear that it has no tolerance for dangerous stunts that threaten Israel’s survival.

When the U.N. is set to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state and Israel is the only country in the world not even permitted to determine its own capital city, something is very wrong.

The time to stop this disaster is before it happens. Congress and Obama must detail the potential cost of a U.N. betrayal of Israel before the General Assembly meets.

I wonder what Michele Bachmann’s response will be. Surly, she can’t be left behind in the “who’s more pro Netanyahu” race. My guess is that nothing short of deploying the Marines in Paris would do.

US Mideast policy: Well on its way to total irrelevance

Posted: August 10th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off

By following Jerusalem’s lead regarding the Palestinian UN bid, the United State is diminishing its own position in the region, and actually proving that the Palestinians have nothing to hope for in negotiations with Israel

A few months ago, there was still speculation in Jerusalem that the White House is behind the new wave of diplomatic pressure from the EU. Some even wondered whether the administration is secretly supporting the Palestinian UN bid, hoping that this would finally get Israel to take a step or two towards the Palestinians, possibly even freeze settlement construction, so that negotiations could resume.

Nobody thinks so now. The administration has clearly decided to throw its entire weight behind Jerusalem and against the Palestinian move. Washington is threatening both in public and in private that the UN bid would seriously harm American relations with Ramallah, and might even bring to an end the financial aid for the Palestinian Authority. As usual, the US congress—which seems crazier than the Knesset, impossible as this is to imagine—is threatening to stop all financial aid to the PA, and there are even talks of withdrawing funds from the UN itself if its members dare to vote in the Palestinian favor.

Punishing the entire world for seeking to end the occupation! It seems that American foreign policy was taken hostage by the Likud. Current political circumstances in Washington could be blamed, but the facts are pretty clear. One could find in the Israeli mainstream media, and even in the Israeli administration, those who are inclined to support the Palestinian UN bid, yet America seems to be speaking in one voice against it.

Even the New York Times, whose editorial was at times very critical of recent Israeli policies, warned the Palestinians of the possible consequences of their UN move.

The best way, likely the only way, to head off this debacle is with the start of serious negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. The two sides haven’t even been in the same room together since September 2010.


Arab leaders haven’t given the Israelis any incentive to compromise. The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, seemed to give up on diplomacy when Mr. Obama could not deliver a promised settlement freeze. We see no sign that he has thought even one step beyond the U.N. vote.

It’s been twenty years—since the term of George H W Bush—that the United States has allowed Israel to continue its settlement activities. While Palestinian “unilateralism” consists of turning to the international community, with the blessing and support of most of the world, Israel is engaging every day in the real unilateral activities, ones that change the reality on the ground in ways that would make Palestine, if such a state is ever to be born, no more then a tiny Bantustan (just this week Israel has approved a couple more projects that would make a compromise in Jerusalem impossible).

While the destructive Israeli policy is answered with fable condemnations from Washington – yesterday’s statements hardly made it to the papers – the Palestinians are threatened with very concrete punishments, including a move that would leave thousands of Palestinian Authority employees without means to support their families (one could guess how happy they would be to continue doing Israel’s policing work in the West Bank). To sum it up, when the US blocks a Security Council resolution condemning the settlements, and in the same year, vetoes Palestinian statehood, it’s clear that regardless of the rhetoric coming out of Washington, American policy in the Middle East is similar to that of Israel’s expansionist right.

The New York Times editorial did get something right though:

If the Palestinians want full U.N. membership, they have to win the backing of the Security Council. The United States will undoubtedly veto any resolution, and that will further isolate both Israel and Washington.

It’s not really important whether US Middle East policy is the result of the mess on Capitol Hill or whether the administration really believes in what it is doing (I imagine Dennis Ross does). In both cases, the result will be the same: Washington becoming less and less relevant in the region’s geo-political game. I even guess that Russia and China recognize that, and that’s another reason for them to support the Palestinian bid.

The irony is that all the “punishments” America inflicts on the Palestinians will just speed up this process: funds means influence, and once the United States stop supporting the PA, there are two options: either the Authority collapses, or it survives on alternative sources, in Europe or the Arab world (the latter is less likely, given the current economic and political situation). In both cases, America is out of the game.

The last few months have proved one more thing: Abbas is right in refusing to negotiate with Israel under such conditions. With Washington as a broker, what could he expect from such talks? He’ll be lucky to keep his shirt before leaving the negotiation table.

WATCH: Palestinian UN envoy breaks down at Security Council

Posted: July 28th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

A vivid example of the high emotions felt by Palestinian leadership as the September showdown at the UN draws closer was evident on Tuesday, when during a Security Council meeting, Palestinian observer, Riyad H. Mansour, broke down as he was reading the last sentences in his prepared remarks:

Why should the Palestinian people be forced to languish yet another year — or even one more day — under foreign occupation? They should not and they must not. This is the time to end the Israeli occupation. This is the time for Palestine’s independence. This is the time for Palestine and Israel to live side by side in peace and security, and this is the time for a new Middle East. We believe that the international community is ready for that, and we trust that the appropriate actions will be undertaken soon to make this a reality.

Watch the debate here. The Palestinian representative starts reading his remarks around the 20th minute; start watching around the 38th minute for the text I quoted. It’s a very subtle moment, yet unmistakable. Around the 40th minute the remarks by the Israeli Ambassador to the UN begin. Full text of the meeting can be found here.

The United States has made it clear it would veto a Security Council bid to have Palestine accepted to the UN as a full member.

US Ambassador: If UN recognizes Palestine, Congress will punish UN

Posted: June 23rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, the US and us | Tags: , , , | Comments Off

A little-noticed quote from US Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, reveals the depth of the United State’s commitment to Jerusalem’s demands and more important, the enormous effect the Israeli lobby has on American Foreign policy.

H/t to The Progressive Realist for picking up this one (my bold):

Discussing the possibility that a resolution recognizing a Palestinian state could pass the General Assembly in September, she [Rice] said, “And this would be exceedingly politically damaging in our domestic context, as you can well imagine. And I cannot frankly think of a greater threat to our ability to maintain financial and political support for the United Nations in congress than such an outcome.”

One should never get tired of repeating this: Without America’s support for it, there would have been no occupation.

(via Ali Gharib)

American-Israeli bluffs and the success of palestinian unilateralism

Posted: April 26th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Right, The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

President Abbas has told Newsweek he is disappointed with Obama, but the American President has actually done a nice job of revealing the American double-standards with regards to Israel. Meanwhile, Jerusalem’s hawks are suggesting that in response to a Palestinian declaration of independence, Israel should annex the West Bank. Not such a bad idea

First Lady Michelle Obama, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas & President Barack Obama (photo: Lawrence Jackson/United States Government Work)

Newsweek has an interesting interview with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. It’s titled “The Wrath of Abbas,” and in it Abu-Mazen shares with Dan Ephron his frustration and disappointment over the US administration’s recent moves, and most notably, the attempt to block the Palestinian diplomatic effort at the UN.

The US has vetoed a Security Council resolution demanding Israel would stop all settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and in recent weeks the administration has stepped up his rhetoric against the attempt to get UN recognition for a Palestinian state. Instead, the US is demanding that the Palestinians return to direct negotiations with Israel.

The heart of the matter for Abbas is the way the US backed down from its demand to freeze construction in the settlement as a precondition to negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

… He [Abbas] told me bluntly that Obama had led him on, and then let him down by failing to keep pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a moratorium on settlement building in the West Bank last year. “It was Obama who suggested a full settlement freeze,” Abbas explained. “I said OK, I accept. We both went up the tree. After that, he came down with a ladder and he removed the ladder and said to me, jump. Three times he did it.”

Naturally, Abbas couldn’t agree to negotiate with Israel as construction in the settlements goes on – not after Washington itself put forward a demand to stop such activities. This is probably what John Kerry and other foreign policy veterans referred to when they claimed that the administration “has wasted 1.5 years.” But I am not so sure time was in fact wasted.

American administrations have been demanding Israel to stop building its settlements – and protesting when Jerusalem ignored them – for decades. All President Barack Obama did was try to actually uphold the stated policy – one that was shared by Democrats and Republicans alike. The result was a major crisis between Jerusalem and Washington, which hurt the President even in his own party.

In other words, the demand to freeze the settlements revealed that all previous demands and condemnations were no more than lip service, and that in fact over the years all administrations shared a support for unilateral Israeli activities in the West Bank and Gaza. This is why veterans of the peace process like Dennis Ross and John Kerry might claim it was a failed policy – because it called their bluff – even if that wasn’t what the President intended to do.

The problem was not Obama’s demands from Israel, but rather the fact that he backed down from them — “came down from the tree,” as Abbas put it — because of his political problems back home. Netanyahu was able to manipulate Washington in his favor, and the administration is now back to the old game: advocating direct negotiations and “monitoring” Israel’s actions on the ground, which is the code word for turning a blind eye.


All this is not enough for the hawks in Israel, who hate Obama with such a passion that they suspect he is behind the recent European moves and even the Palestinian unilateral effort. Ironically, a one-on-one with Israeli Benjamin Netanyahu would have probably resulted with the same headline as Newsweek’s interview with Abu-Mazen (except for the different name in the title, of course).

Meanwhile, the administration is floating the idea of publishing “Obama’s parameters” for a two state solution – ones that are likely to be rejected by both sides, as they are based on the 67′ borders (which Jerusalem doesn’t accept) and exempt Israel from its responsibility for the refugees problem, which is a non-starter for the Palestinians. Still, putting forward guidelines for a solution is not a bad idea, as long as the Americans don’t actually expect Netanyahu to negotiate on them in good faith.

There is zero chance that the Israeli Prime Minister will deliver any kind of solution. Netanyahu will not evacuate settlements; at best, he will create the false impression of agreeing to do it in a far away future, hoping that some turn of events will rescue him from the need to keep up his promises. It’s not just Netanyahu’s character and upbringing that pushes him to the right, but also the hawkish coalition he has built, the hard-line advisors he has surrounded himself with (the latest being the recently-appointed National Security Council Chairman Yaakov Amidror), the messages he is sending the Israeli public, his connection to the neo-cons in Washington, and the threat from Avigdor Lieberman in the coming elections. In short, all signs point in the same direction: Netanyahu is playing on time.

Recently, some Israeli hawks have come up with a new idea: Answering a Palestinian declaration of independence with annexing the West Bank and canceling the Oslo accords (didn’t we do the second part at least a dozen times in the past?). It is unfortunate that this idea has very little hope of materializing. As even the settlers know, the Palestinian Authority and the “disputed” status of the West Bank is this government’s greatest—and perhaps only—diplomatic asset. I don’t suppose the Knesset members who initiated this idea meant that Israel should make the Palestinians equal citizens — those rightwing fanatics want the land, not the people — but annexing the territories will be the first step on a one way road that leads to the one-state solution. And as I wrote in the past, this is an option that should stay on the table.