There is a good article over at Foreign Policy about how most countries, including our European allies, are pretty much fed up with the United States’ constant pandering to even the most damaging, de-stabilizing Israeli dictates. The irony of course is that in doing Bibi’s bidding, the Obama administration is, in essence, validating right-wing Likud policies which absolutely oppose a two-state solution. That irony is not lost on our allies, who know that in vetoing the Palestinian bid for statehood, the U.S. is not acting in its own best interest or the best interest of the region, but rather playing the game of domestic politics which requires that a President up for re-election prove his pro-Israel bona fides by defending every Israeli demand and whim, no matter how disastrous the consequences are for U.S. interests in the Middle East.
From Foreign Policy:
The Obama administration has been engaged in a last-ditch diplomatic effort to persuade the Palestinians to halt their drive for member-state status at the United Nations. Its latest idea centers around a Middle East Quartet statement that would define the timelines for a beginning and an end to a new round of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
However, the administration has thus far failed to convince Abbas to halt his statehood drive at the United Nations. “We are going to the Security Council,” Abbas said today in Ramallah, setting up a showdown in New York next week that would lead to a U.S. veto. Abbas and Netanyahu are set to give dueling speeches at the U.N. on Friday, Sept. 23.
Behind the scenes, the U.S. and European governments are still working hard to find a path out of this impending diplomatic crisis. According to U.S. officials, European officials, and experts close to the process, the Western powers are considering a new statement from the Middle East Quartet, which is made up of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and Russia. Two key items under negotiation are language referring to the Jewish character of Israel and a U.S. proposal to add timelines to the statement calling for new negotiations.
“We’ve tried to have these discussions with [the Obama administration], but they won’t talk about it,” the European diplomat said about the General Assembly resolution, speculating that the White House is prioritizing its domestic political need to defend the Netanyahu administration. “Maybe from the White House perspective, the more they are isolated with Israel, the better.”
Meanwhile, all sides are involved in negotiating over language in the proposed Quartet statement that would acknowledge the Jewish character of the State of Israel. In July, the Quartet got stuck on the Obama administration’s insistence that the words “Jewish state” be contained in the resolution. This time, various other formulations are being floated. One of them is to use the phrase, “two states for two peoples, one for the Jewish people and one for the Palestinian people.”
Lets be honest, even if the Palestinians don’t succeed, and they won’t with the Security Council, there is no denying they have finally found their backbone and run circles around the Obama administration. This is of course due to the embarrassment the Palestinian Authority suffered when the Palestine Papers were revealed and more importantly, due to the changes sweeping the Arab world.
The Arab Spring has formally arrived in Israel-Palestine and no amount of diplomacy is going to change that fact. That the US still remains shackled to Israel’s narrow, self-defeating dictates even at the cost of alienating and weakening the U.S. on the world stage, is telling indeed. It should cause rational people to question the price of the special relationship. People should begin asking why Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have to fall on their sword in return for what, exactly? It’s not like Bibi Netanyahu has done one damn thing that they have asked. No, the special relationship is very one-sided- Israel makes demands and screams “jump” and the world’s superpower is required to scream “how high?” It’s embarrassing.
While the Israeli and international media have been printing excellent articles, commentaries etc. on this issue, the parade of articles appearing in the MSM here in the U.S. are the predictable, dumbed-down analysis that starts with the assumption that there must be “no daylight” between the U.S. and Israel lest it provide an opportunity for Israel’s enemies. That song and dance is getting old. A recent NYT op-ed argued that the Obama administration MUST veto the Palestinian bid for statehood, saying that if they don’t there will be no chance for Mideast peace. This, quite frankly, is utter bullshit. Decades of unsuccessful negotiations and an intransigent Likud Israeli Prime Minister make it very unlikely that absent a radical diplomatic event (such as going to the United Nations) to make a meaningful effort at finally creating two states, there is zero incentive for Israel to stop building settlements and talk about concessions. Some have even argued that some degree of UN recognition could actually help the peace process.
To his credit, Tom Friedman has a good commentary (it’s not often you will hear me say that about Friedman) about the whole situation in today’s NYT and he calls out Israel for essentially being an ungrateful ally and making itself much less safe in the process. Lets be clear about something though- while Friedman and a few others are willing, at times, to take Israel to task for its enraging intransigence, they never take it to the next logical step and provide the administration with cover by calling for the U.S. to start exacting a price for Israel’s constant insistence that the US must engage in actions that directly conflict with our interests. No, they never go there. Instead, they just bemoan the tone-deaf, diplomatically-challenged, right-wing Israeli government, knowing full well the role that they (the media) play in ensuring that the U.S. citizenry views all issues pertaining to the Middle East through a decidedly Israeli lens.
Former Israeli peace negotiator Daniel Levy has a great article discussing the various options/pitfalls that the Palestinians could face at the U.N., which is worth a read, but he makes an important point about how the U.S. is the ultimate loser in all of this, no matter what happens:
Most of the points waiting to be notched up reside in Europe. If there is to be a U.N. vote, then the EU member states are the sought after prize. Europe could score something of a win itself if the EU can present a sufficiently unified front and hold true to its values, interests, and policies by supporting Palestinian statehood and negotiating a text with the Palestinians that also delivers certain strategic Israeli needs — even if these are neither acknowledged as such nor appreciated by the Netanyahu government. Alternatively, Europe will split and sulk back to its off-off-Broadway role as payer, not player.
Europe’s salience is a bi-product of America’s self-marginalization. Whatever the outcome, the United States is guaranteed to be the real loser in all of this. For domestic political reasons the Obama administration is committed to oppose any U.N. initiative not authorized by Israel and to cajole and convince other countries to do likewise. The United States will find itself isolated, blamed for its own vote and the “no’s” of others, weakening its Palestinian friends while frittering away further diplomatic capital, and all at such a delicate time in the Middle East. Having previously been aligned with Arab autocracies, the U.S. could have opened a new chapter post-Arab awakening. Instead, with Arab public opinion now a driving force, the United States will further alienate itself from popular sentiment by (again) trampling Palestinian rights. Making matters worse for President Obama, the relationship with Netanyahu is wholly unidirectional. According to ex- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Netanyahu is “ungrateful” and U.S. interests (let alone Obama’s own needs) do not figure in his calculations.
Those interests, and America’s regional alliances, are being stretched to snapping point by the excesses of Israeli belligerence toward the neighborhood and dismissiveness toward the Palestinians under its current coalition. Democratic Turkey and democratizing Egypt are increasingly unable or unwilling to feign indifference. Israeli hegemony faces new and serious challenges. The unraveling of Israel’s regional relations could make New York a sideshow, and a tame one at that. If Israel chooses to take punitive counter-measures against the Palestinians — withholding tax revenues belonging to the PA, annexing settlements, or responding violently to unarmed marches (and if the Uunited States joins suit by cutting its own PA funding) — then events could spiral in dangerous and unpredictable ways. The PLO move at the United Nations is not an incitement to violence by any reasonable measure — but the Netanyahu government’s response might become just that.
The price of our one-sided, unquestioning, unthinking relationship with Israel.