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It’s official: America’s role in the Mideast is over

The latest U.S. veto – the first of the Obama administration – proves that the U.S. is incapable of bringing peace to this region

They’re not “illegal”. They’re “illegitimate”.

That’s the excuse that the world’s most powerful nation, a beacon of freedom and democracy, came up with to explain why it vetoed a UNSC resolution calling Israeli settlements in the West Bank illegal.

That’s the best they had.

All the President’s men, all the President’s speech writers, all the President’s media strategists – they all worked for days on end on that one. And that’s the ingenious combination of letters and syllables they came up with to define an Israeli policy – that they themselves oppose! That they themselves were willing to pay billions of dollars just so Israel would stop it for three months. 90 days!!!

They’re not “illegal”. They’re “illegitimate”.

Those guys in the West Wing really got their act together when it comes to copy writing. Good stuff.

But I still don’t get it. All you had to do was abstain. What’s the worst that could have happened? Lieberman would have gotten angry? Netanyahu would have frowned? Honestly, what is the worst thing that could have happened from just sitting back and letting the world show some solidarity with the Palestinians? Were the threats coming from AIPAC that bad? What other explanation could there be?

Your ambassador, Susan Rice, had a strange explanation. She said that a one-sided UN vote would hamper the chance to reach a deal through negotiations. What negotiations was she talking about, exactly? The ones you failed to renew? And how can you claim anything to be one-sided, when you were the only ones to vote against this resolution?

They’re not “illegal”. They’re “illegitimate”. Classic.

No wait, not classic – a masterpiece.

A masterpiece of hypocrisy.

On the one hand, you have a president who promises change – yet keeps the good old paradigm of “Israel + U.S. = everlasting occupation”.

On the one hand, you have a president who can call for freedom in the Arab world – from Cairo to Tehran, as protesters are being shot down – and just hours later shoot down the hopes of freedom for Palestinians. They’re exempt from your vision.

On the one hand, you have a president who promised to be a fair and neutral broker in the Mideast, but proved to be exactly what the Palestinians have said all these years: The Americans care only about the Israelis. You’ve lost any ounce of credibility you had left.

On the one hand, you have a president who seemed to not care about the lobbyists, but turned out that the only thing he had in his sights were the upcoming 2012 presidential elections.

On the one hand, you have a president who people thought would work to end the Israeli occupation of the territories, but turned out to be weak in light of the Israeli occupation of Capitol Hill.

They’re not “illegal”. They’re illegitimate.

“Pathetic” is an understatement. “Irrelevant” is much more appropriate. “Irrelevant” is the new sign that should be stuck on your back, Mr. President. It’s time for someone else to take over this show.

Since you’ve taken office, you’ve shown nothing but incompetence when it comes to maneuvering between the powers of the Mideast and a gross misunderstanding of the conflict.

You’ve done nothing. And you’ve had your chance.

As an American, I am ashamed.

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    1. Jeremy

      I have “illegitimate” children, not “illegal” children.

      Reply to Comment
    2. I think the reality here is that talking is far easier than doing. Obama can obviously get away with minimal backlash from the AIPACs of the world by “talking” illegal, but can’t afford to go further than that (which would be “doing” illegal, too).

      It’s crazy, but it’s two years out from the next presidential election, and maybe he’s *already* trying to avoid losing support from influential people? God knows then how he’s going to successfully finish the peace process in September of this year!

      Reply to Comment
    3. Rana

      is it that Obama is no longer relevant or is that the US Presidency is a farce and the real power brokers are the donors and lobbyists/ patrons of the ruling class?

      Reply to Comment
    4. A friend also pointed me to this, a speech from Ambassador Rice to the UN straight after the vote: http://usun.state.gov/briefing/statements/2011/156816.htm

      “Our opposition to the resolution before this Council today should therefore not be misunderstood to mean we support settlement activity. On the contrary, we reject in the strongest terms the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity. For more than four decades, Israeli settlement activity in territories occupied in 1967 has undermined Israel’s security and corroded hopes for peace and stability in the region. Continued settlement activity violates Israel’s international commitments, devastates trust between the parties, and threatens the prospects for peace. […]

      While we agree with our fellow Council members—and indeed, with the wider world—about the folly and illegitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity, we think it unwise for this Council to attempt to resolve the core issues that divide Israelis and Palestinians. We therefore regrettably have opposed this draft resolution.”

      Talking, but not acting.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Ben Israel

      The question I think that needs to be asked was why the Palestinians felt that they had to press the issue now, of all times. At the moment they have the most pro-Palestinian President in the White House of all times. He is under great pressure due to the turmoil in the Middle East, agonizing over whether to continue to support unpopular pro-American leaders. He is also coming off a devastating defeat in the mid-term elections. So why did he need this headache thrust on him at this very time?
      The answer, I believe, comes from the fact that the Palestinian Authority now feels they have no choice but to finally end the charade of the Oslo “peace process”. The whole thing was based on the idea that, eventually, a compromise peace would emerge from negotiations with Israel. I emphasize the word “compromise”. The problem was that such a peace would never be acceptable to the Palestinians, because the Palestinians are not interested in simply receiving an “independent Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel in peace and prosperity”, nor is their goal merely “self-determination”. Their goal, is a they see it, as JUSTICE. This means rolling back 1948. Thus, the Palestinian has now evolved from what people (i.e. Israelis and Americans) thought was a “compromise peace” to what the Palestinian terms aways really were, as enunciated publicly innumerable times by Arafat and Abbas, by both FATAH and HAMAS as being:
      (1) Complete withdrawal to the pre-67 lines.
      (2) Unlimited and unrestricted right of return of Palestinian Refugees
      (3) No “end of conflict” but rather a limited cease-fire.
      These demands would be met by irresistable international pressure on Israel which would come as the culmination of a long-period of an international campaign against Israel’s very legitimacy conducted in various forums around the world. In other words, the world would finally come around to the position that, not only were settlements criminal, and the “occupation” unacceptable, but that the Palestinian refugees MUST be allowed to return and the creation of Israel in 1948 must be defined as a criminal act that must be reversed. A “compromise” peace is light-years away from bringing about the justice the Palestinians are seeking.

      While it is true that in the secret negotiations between the sides in 2000-2001 and 2008 the Palestinians did refer to some sort of minor territorial compromises which were never agreed upon and ambiguous statements that the Palestinians could “understand” that Israel couldn’t accept an unlimited “right of return” of Palestinian refugees , we can see from the howls of outrage from the Palestinian street and from Jews who support the Palestinian cause, following the Al-Jazeera leaks that any sort of compromise on the three demands I listed above was unacceptable and actually treasonous.
      Abbas, faced with the turmoil in the Arab world and the embarrassment of the Al-Jazeera leaks, added to the pressure from HAMAS, finally concluded that he had no choice but to break out of the “Oslo” straitjacket he was in. It must be remembered that he is taking a risk in doing this, because the Palestinian Authority is dependent on American handouts, but it seems he felt he could take the chance.
      However, it seems that finally, all the lies and deceit of the Oslo “process” have been exposed and the Palestinians now feel they have to express their true aims.

      Reply to Comment
    6. micky

      Yes, the veto makes the White House look weak but the question that hasn’t been answered is why does Israel put the Americans in this position. Why won’t they stop building settlements? Why don’t they care about their standing in the international community?

      Reply to Comment
    7. Shelly

      Mad Men.
      Nothing more; nothing less.

      Reply to Comment
    8. John

      Ben Israel. Ami has it right, you have it wrong. The operative word is “irrelevant”. The Palestinians tabled this resolution at the end of last year in the wake of the US failure to negotiate the renewal of the settlement freeze (incidentally it is an extraordinary twist of logic that sees a UN resolution reaffirming that settlements are illegal, rather than the building of those settlements itself, to be thesign of bad faith in negotiations). The Americans have spent the last few months trying to delay them. In the end they failed because of two things. The Palestinians drew the conclusion from the events in Cairo that relying on international goodwill rather than the consent of your people is a dangerous game. From the farcical Quartet statement that issued from Munich they drew the conclusion that the US were simply incapable of acting as an honest broker.
      In terms of what Abbas is asking for, none of the three conditions you put out is in fact true or accurate. What the Palestinians in public and private have asked for is:
      (i) State based on ’67 lines with minimal agreed swaps (in private this is anywhere between the 1.9% and 6.7% that Abbas/Olmert reached. A 4.5% swap would retain 90% of current settlers by population in the West Bank and East Jerusalem)
      (ii) fair, just and agreed solution to the refugee question. As the Palestine papers showed Livni and Abu Ala were negotiating on figures of between 10 000 and 100 000 over a decade to return to Green Line Israel.
      (iii) Not sure where you get the “ceasefire” stuff from. That is purely Hamas policy. Never been part of the Fatah/PLO lexicon. But you probably knew that.

      “We can see by the howls of outrage from the Palestinian street…”. Except, of course, there weren’t any. No howls of outrage in the West Bank at all. And Hamas couldn’t muster more than a few hundred of its core support in Gaza. The Palestine papers actually showed that there is a constituency ready for peace. You, sadly, don’t appear to be part of it.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Kibbutznik

      @ Ben Israel
      ” ….. Go outside and see:
      the slaves are rising up,
      a brave soul
      is burying its oppressor
      beneath the sand.
      Here is your cruel,
      stupid Pharaoh,
      dispatching his troops
      with their chariots of war,
      and here is the sea of Freedom,
      which swallows them. ”
      Aharon Shabtai

      Reply to Comment
    10. Ben Israel

      The terms you outlined are not the terms they keep telling their own people they are demanding. They have never told their people that they will accept restrictions on the “Right of Return”. When, a few months ago, it was reported in a London Arab newspaper that Abbas had agreed to let Israel keep the Western Wall, there were also “howls of outrage” and it was officially denied they made any such offer.
      If, as you say, the Palestinians have agreed to the 4.5% swap which will leave 90% of the settlers in place, then why are they demading a settlement freeze? Why did they embarrass the most pro-Palestinian President in history by demanding this meaningless UN Security Council resolution? Why did they break off negotiations with Olmert if they were so close? Why wasn’t Obama informed they were so close to an agreement when he came into office (instead he wasted time on the settlement freeze)? Why didn’t Abbas, Livni and Olmert call a press conference before the 2009 Israeli elections and announce they were close to an agreement and a vote for KADIMA was a vote for peace? Instead they said NOTHING!
      The terms you mention are virtual reality only. The Palestinians will NEVER accept a peace agreement on those terms. Any Palestinians leaders who agrees to limit the right of return for the refugees is committing suicide. Arafat wouldn’t give it up, none of his successors are even in a position to give it up.

      Reply to Comment
    11. […] הפוסט פורסם באנגלית במגזין המקוון 972+ 0 תגובות למאמר // תגיות: ארה"ב, ברק אובמה, התנחלויות, כיבוש, מו"מ מדיני, מועצת הביטחון של האו"ם, שלום […]

      Reply to Comment
    12. Majid Jamali Fashi

      comment was deleted due to its offensive content.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Micky.

      The veto makes the US Administration look more than weak. It defines them.

      The US (Israel) cannot allow the UN to intervene, or gain any form of foothold that levels the playing field.

      If they do it’s game over.

      Reply to Comment
    14. aristeides

      Ami, if you’re an American, you should understand that all political decisions are domestic and the US government is Zionist-occupied territory. Nothing makes this more clear than the recent veto. Zionist Democrats in Congress would have no compunctions about punishing Obama by joining the Republicans to wreck every one of his domestic programs in retaliation against any move they consider “anti-Israel.”

      Reply to Comment
    15. Majid Jamali Fashi

      but turned out to be weak in light of the Israeli occupation of Capitol Hill….Mr Kaufmann, this is your quote, not mine, and I fully agree with you

      proves that the U.S. is incapable of bringing peace to this region…Mr Kaufmann, this is your quote, not mine, and I fully agree with you

      you have a president who seemed to not care about the lobbyists, but turned out that the only thing he had in his sights were the upcoming 2012 presidential elections…Mr Kaufmann, this is your quote, not mine, and I fully agree with you

      We are in total agreement, so why are you deleting my posts?

      Reply to Comment
    16. @majid – the problem is, that that wasn’t the only thing you wrote. I think you are perfectly aware of why I deleted your earlier comment, and I urge you to refrain from posting offensive ones in the future.
      Thanks for your cooperation.

      Reply to Comment
    17. Majid Jamali Fashi

      I think that we are nearly in agreement on my other points. We both agree that the Right of Return is essential for peace. We probably both agree that Palestine cannot hold both its rightful owners (about 7 million) and 6 million colonists. SO what do you think should be done?

      Reply to Comment
    18. Majid – I think that 1) it would be best if you didn’t put words in my mouth.
      2) You keep your comments in accordance with our comment policy, which you can read on our “About” page.
      The one I deleted did not follow those rules. I hope this clears things up for you.

      Reply to Comment
    19. Majid Jamali Fashi

      so where do we disagree?

      Reply to Comment
    20. Marjorie Stamm Rosenfeld

      The only sensible comments here are the ones by Ben Israel. What’s more, the settlements are not illegal. People who don’t know this should read Eugene Rostow and Julius Stone on the legality of the Israeli settlements under international law. Here are some relevant links:

      http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/khartoum.asp (1967 Khartoum Resolutions)

      http://maurice-ostroff.tripod.com/id45.html (Eugene Rostow’s 2 articles in The New Republic

      http://www.nytimes.com/1992/04/01/opinion/israeli-settlement-and-the-geneva-convention.html (Letter to NY Times from Eugene Rostow)

      http://www.aijac.org.au/resources/reports/international_law.pdf (Julius Stone on the legality of the Israeli settlements)

      http://emetnews.org/analysis/israeli_settlements_are_more_than_legitimate.php (Eric Rozenman quoting Stephen Schwebel, International Court of Justice)

      Reply to Comment
    21. Kibbutznik

      ” What’s more, the settlements are not illegal. ”

      Separate and Unequal
      ” Such different treatment, on the basis of race, ethnicity, and national origin and not narrowly tailored to meet security or other justifiable goals, violates the fundamental prohibition against discrimination under human rights law.
      It is widely acknowledged that Israel’s settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, violate international humanitarian law, which prohibits the occupying power from transferring its civilian population into the territories it occupies; Israel appears to be the only country to contest that its settlements are illegal. Human Rights Watch continues to agree with the nearly universal position that Israel should cease its violation of international humanitarian law by removing its citizens from the West Bank. This report focuses on the less-discussed discriminatory aspect of Israeli settlement policies, and analyzes serious and ongoing violations of other rights in that context. “

      Reply to Comment
    22. Ben Israel

      If you are correct, then the Jewish populations of Yafo, Haifa, Akko, Lod, Ramla, Ashdod, Ashqelon, Beer-sheva, Naharia, Mevasseret Zion and MANY kibbutzim (maybe including yours) are illegal settlements because they were conquered in 1948, these being outside the UNSCOP Partition lines, and Israel moved its population into them.
      You may be an illegal settler yourself.

      Reply to Comment
    23. Ex Israeli

      Criminality is more to do with the human situation than with the legal situation. The dangerous war criminal T. Blair managed to get HIS CRIMINAL WAR declared LEGAL (by HIS law men). And in the end its all legal. All the millions of dead…its all legal (when you have enough power to make it legal). Usually criminals are in love with their OWN law and their crimes ‘never happened’ even WHILE they were happening.

      Reply to Comment
    24. aristeides

      Ben I – you would be quite correct that the communities you mention are illegal, as being acquired by war, except for the fact that the UN foolishly recognized Israel as a state along the armistice lines, thus retroactively legitimatizing the land grab.

      But because this recognition was conditional upon allowing the return of the Palestinian refugees, and because Israel failed to comply with this condition, it makes the entire state illegitimate.

      The mistake made by the UN was in extending the cloak of legitimacy to Israel in the first place, before it met it obligations to the refugees.

      Reply to Comment
    25. Herbert Kappler

      this comment was deleted

      Reply to Comment
    26. Kibbutznik

      what makes you think that I have not formally commited to BDS ?
      ” The latest U.S. veto – the first of the Obama administration – proves that the U.S. is incapable of bringing peace to this region ”
      A new era at the UN :
      The settlements have been defined as the number-one problem impeding peace…From Israel’s standpoint, the most dramatic result of the drama that occurred behind the scenes at the Security Council is that the settlements have been irreversibly and categorically defined as the number-one problem impeding peace between Israel and the Palestinians. No Israeli attempt to blame the stalemate on the Palestinians will be accepted at the UN.

      Reply to Comment
    27. Herbert Kappler

      this comment was deleted

      Reply to Comment
    28. Elaine Meyrial

      I’m reading David Grossman’s “The Yellow Wind” and rereading the New Yorker article of 9/27/10 about Grossman. In “The Yellow Wind” Grossman interviewed Palestinian attorney and writer Raja Shehade who elaborated with prescience: “…you [Israelis] think that Israel will be strong forever, and will get out of the present situation in one piece. You prefer to forget that the Arabs are developing…You are prisoners of your conceptions and refuse to recognize reality. It seems to me that to live in an area full of hostility and think that you can do so forever, without making any effort to come to terms with your neighbors, is simply not rational.”

      I don’t know whether Mr. Shehade is still alive- this interview took place in 1967, the twentieth anniversary of the Occupation, but I am sure that his analysis will be vindicated as Israel’s only protector and friend, the United States, loses influence in the Middle East as has occurred in Latin America.

      Ben Israel seems to ignore the devastating leaks of the Palestinian Papers which prove that Israel never was a partner for peace and never wanted any kind of compromise with Palestinians. Ethnic cleansing and the complete removal of Palestine from collective memory is the order of the day for Zionists. David Grossman mentions in The New Yorker article that in 1988 “when the Palestinian leadership announced its intention to create a state that would recognize Israel’s right to exist”, he was not allowed to report this on Koteret Rashit and was fired the next day.

      Reply to Comment
    29. Ben Israel

      Could you elaborate on which of Olmert’s proposals to the Palestinians indicated his plan for “ethnic cleansing” and “complete removal of Palestine”?

      Reply to Comment
    30. Kibbutznik

      Olmert no Ben Israel but Bibi is not Olmert :
      ” THE SHEPHERD provocation is a part of the tireless effort to “Judaize” Jerusalem. In simple words: to carry out ethnic cleansing. This campaign has been going on for 42 years already, from the first day of the occupation of East Jerusalem, but the timing of this particular operation results from tactical considerations.

      Netanyahu is facing heavy American pressure to freeze the settlements in the West Bank. He is quite unable to do so, as long as he remains at the head of the coalition he himself chose, which consists of Rightists, religious zealots, settlers and outright fascists. ”

      Reply to Comment
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