U.N. VOTE ON PALESTINE A LONG-AWAITED, MUCH DESERVED VICTORY FOR A PEOPLE ILLEGALLY DISPOSSESSED BY ISRAELI BELLIGERENCE … RECOGNITION SHOULD FORCE A REASSESSMENT OF U.S. ‘SANTA CLAUS’ RELATIONSHIP WITH ISRAEL … WHY ISRAEL FLOPPED IN GENERAL ASSEMBLY
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, TUESDAY, DEC. 4, 2012) — Today, we turn our attention to the long-smoldering hotbed-on-ammo-dump known as Middle East politics. The center, naturally, is the state of Israel.
Last week, the United National General Assembly approved Palestine as a non-member observer. The vote was 138 to 9, with 41 abstaining. It was a long-overdo recognition of the Palestinian people and their equally long overdo right to a homeland.
The U.N. vote combined an overwhelming recognition of Palestine with a much-deserved rejection of Israel, which engineered its own doom.
How badly did Israel botch “issue management” in this vote? Three ways:
* First, Israel first tried to keep the resolution from coming to a vote. It failed.
* Second, it next tried to defeat the move. It failed again, miserably.
* Third, after the U.N. acted, the country “scoffed that the vote meant noting. … Now even the United States is ticked off” (William Saletan, The Slate). It rather reminded THE PLANET of the kid who does everything, including back-stabbing, to get the lead in the school play. When he fails and is exposed, he says it didn’t matter to him anyway. After saying it meant nothing, Israel then announced more settlements on the West Bank and illegally withheld Palestinian tax revenues.
By its announcement of settlements, the government (not the people) of Israel once again revealed its true colors, loving war and shunning peace, for war, hostility, and terrorism are the mechanisms by which the current government finds its security.
Four Reasons Why Israel Flopped in the U.N.
Saletan of The Slate had as good an analysis of why Israel failed so badly in the U.N., and we share some of that here. Saletan wrote that Israel lost the vote and alienated its friends because of four reasons:
(1) Unilateralism — Israel condemned the Palestinian appeal to the U.N. as “unilateral,” but “if most of the General Assembly’s nearly 200 members approve something, that something is, by definition, not unilateral. How did the Palestinians win the support of all those countries? By negotiating. They just weren’t negotiating with you. That’s how negotiation works: You have to offer the other side a better deal than they can get elsewhere.”
(2) Incitement— Israel accused Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, in his speech to the U.N., of trying to “incite” his followers. Saletan writes, “Give me a break. Yes, Abbas’ speech was full of purple invective about apartheid, colonialism, racism, and ethnic cleansing. That’s how an advocate talks when he’s pitching the plight of his people to an assembly full of countries that have suffered apartheid, colonialism, racism, and ethnic cleansing. Abbas thinks Israel has done a lot of evil things. Rebut him if you like. But you can’t just label this rhetoric “incitement” and claim that it makes peace talks impossible.
“Any honest look at Palestinian history will tell you two things. One, there’s been plenty of real incitement to violence against Israel. And two, this speech wasn’t part of it. While Hamas has championed violence, Abbas has steadily preached negotiation. “Our people cling to the right to defend themselves against aggression and occupation,” he told the General Assembly, but “they will continue their popular, peaceful resistance.” That’s a speech of incitement? Please.”
(3) Jewish State— “Since 1993, the Palestine Liberation Organization has acknowledged “the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security.” Abbas has reaffirmed that commitment. ‘We did not come here seeking to delegitimize a State established years ago, and that is Israel,’ he told the General Assembly. What Palestinians demand, he stipulated, is the right ‘to live in peace and security alongside the State of Israel.’
“But Israel refuses to take yes for an answer, because Abbas fails to include the magic word Jewish. ‘You still refuse to recognize the Jewish state,’ Ambassador Prosor chided Abbas in a rebuttal address before the General Assembly. On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, Palestinians’ ‘unwillingness to accept a Jewish state in any borders whatsoever is the root of the conflict. … The Palestinian Authority is unwilling to move towards accepting the existence of the State of Israel.’
“Oy. Here’s how recognition works. You acknowledge the other state. You don’t tell it whether to be Jewish, Muslim, or Zoroastrian. Nor do you whine about Palestinians failing to call you a Jewish state, or failing to ensure that you’re named on every map, while you flagrantly withhold the same courtesy. In official Israeli statements since the U.N. vote, I find no acknowledgment of Palestinian territory. Instead, I find repeated references to ‘Judea and Samaria,’ coupled with an assertion that ‘Israel, as the state of the Jewish People, has a right and claim to areas, the status of which is under dispute, in the Land of Israel.’ That’s some chutzpah.”
(4) Diplomatic Terrorism — That the ridiculous, misapplied phrase that Israel Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman use for the Palestinian initiative in the U.N. Considering all the people who have died in the Middle East because of actual, literal terrorism, the use of the phrase “cheapens” it.
Time for U.S. to Pull the Plug on Billions in Israeli Propping Up
THE PLANET back again: The move by Israel to immediately commence building new housing for the West Bank of Gaza is another reminder that the U.S.’ blind multi-billion-dollar support for a country founded on terrorism, created by “scriptural” artifice, and maintained by political fear must stop. It won’t be, of course, because of the hold Israel has over American politicians, similar to the hold the United Educators of Pittsfield have over candidates for public office in the fair city. Keep in mind that the U.S. will send $3.25 billion to Israel in 2013, $3.1 billion of which is for “foreign military financing.” This does not include the annual payment to Israel of up to $80 million for the resettlement of Jewish refugees in Israel.
Only Afghanistan receives more each year from Uncle Sam. This aid should be the first cut made in the “fiscal cliff” actions. A U.S. defunding of Israel would force the country to seek peace with its Arab neighbors. Without making a strenuous effort, it is almost impossible to get a clear picture of Middle East politics by relying on U.S. mainstream media, which is pro-Israel to an embarrassing degree. The Arab world gets condemned as hostile by the actions of a few extremists when in fact it is by-and-large looking for the same thing that we seek: For people to live in peace. If the U.S. were to pull its funding from Israel, it would force the hand of the government and give strength to the peace movement there. Peace in the Middle East would have a much better chance than it does now.
When one examines the history of Israel’s artificial creation in 1948 and the U.S. involvement and subsequent actions, one can make a strong case for withdrawing financial support. Israel has a robust economy, 17th among the world’s 187 nations. Major industries include metal fabrication, manufacturing, processed foods, plastics, agriculture, venture capital, technology, biotech, energy, and diamonds. It has free trade agreements with numerous nations. Through the pursuit of peace with its Arab neighbors, Israel has a strong enough economy to be not just self-sufficiant but thriving.
The Arabic world has undergone historic changes in the past couple years, and that trend is accelerating. Cynical politicians in Israel and the U.S. have used that to their advantage. The so-called increased threats to Israel by Hezbollah and Iran, for example, which have little basis in reality, will most likely result in requests for additional money to be sent to Israel.
The only just solution to the Middle East crisis — Israel’s return to pre-1967 borders and the creation of an autonomous nation of Palestine — seems agreed upon by the reasonable elements on all sides of the crisis. This includes the view of ordinary people, who are weary of the decades of senseless war that Israel’s recalcitrance has produced.
The U.N. Vote: What Happened, Why, and the Consequences
Here is a review of what has happened to once again jeopardize the slim chances for peace in the region, compiled from various wire accounts:
Israel’s moves served as a harsh reminder to Palestinians — euphoric over the U.N. upgrade to observer status — that while they now have a state on paper, most of it remains under Israeli control.
“This is a doomsday scenario,” Daniel Seidemann of Ir Amim, a group that promotes coexistence in Jerusalem, said of the building plans.
Israel’s decision was bound to embarrass the United States, which was among just nine countries in the 193-member General Assembly to vote against accepting Palestine as a nonmember observer state.
Accelerated settlement construction could also set a more confrontational tone as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas weighs his next moves.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland criticized the Israeli announcement. “These actions are counterproductive and make it harder to resume direct negotiations or achieve a two-state solution,” she said.
Friday’s decision was taken by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and eight senior Cabinet ministers, according to the Israeli news website Ynet.
The plans include 3,000 new apartments in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, as well as preparations for new construction in other large West Bank settlements, including Maaleh Adumim, near east Jerusalem, said an Israeli government official.
Among the projects is an expansion of Maaleh Adumim, known as E-1, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the decision with reporters.
Successive U.S. administrations have pressured Israel not to build in E-1 because it would effectively cut off east Jerusalem from the West Bank and split the northern part of the territory from the southern part. Israel has said in the past it envisions 3,500 apartments there.
“E-1 will be the death of the two-state solution,” said Seidemann, referring to the establishment of a state of Palestine alongside Israel. “If the pronouncements are to be treated seriously, we are months away from the implementation of E-1. This is very serious and very problematic.”
Tzipi Livni, Israel’s former foreign minister and chief negotiator with the Palestinians, warned that “the decision to build thousands of housing units as punishment to the Palestinians only punishes Israel … (and) only isolates Israel further.”
Half a Million Jews Now Occupy West Bank, Illegally
Since 1967, the number of Israelis living in settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem has risen to half a million, compared with 2.7 million Palestinians in those areas, and continued construction makes partition of the land increasingly unlikely.
The new U.N. observer state status could enable the Palestinians to pursue possible war crimes charges against Israel at the International Criminal Court over settlement construction on war-won land.
In his speech to the U.N. on Thursday, Palestinian president Abbas said he would coordinate with sympathetic countries and act responsibly, suggesting he would not seek confrontation with Israel.
“It is our right to get the membership of the ICC, but we don’t want to go to it now,” Abbas told reporters in New York on Friday, before the Israeli decision on new settlements became known. “We will not go unless we are attacked.”
Following Israel’s decision to accelerate settlement building, however, Abbas aide Saeb Erekat said the Palestinian leadership was studying its options. He would not elaborate.
Erekat accused Netanyahu of “defying the whole international community and insisting on destroying the two-state solution.”
The U.N. endorsed a Palestinian state in territories Israel captured in 1967. Abbas has said he is ready to negotiate the final borders with Israel, provided Netanyahu drops his refusal to use the 1967 lines as a starting point.
Abbas asserted Friday that a Palestinian demand for a settlement freeze ahead of negotiations still stands.
Abbas: ‘I’m Ready for Negotiations’
“I’m ready for negotiations,” Abbas said, rejecting Netanyahu’s portrayal of the demand for a settlement freeze as a precondition. “Is stopping settlement activities a precondition?” he said. “There are 15 Security Council resolutions that say settlements are an obstacle to peace.”
On the Israeli side, compromise on settlements seemed unlikely. Netanyahu is seeking re-election two months from now at the helm of a Likud party turned more hawkish since primaries earlier this week and in an electoral alliance with an ultra-nationalist pro-settler party.
Abbas returned Sunday to the West Bank, where Palestinians gave him a hero’s welcome. Israel did its best to throw a wet blanket over the Palestinian celebration, cutting off a cash transfer to Abbas’ government , but the move did little to dampen the joy and enthusiasm of about 5,000 Palestinians who welcomed Abbas outside his HQ in the West Bank city of Ramallah. The U.N. bid has given a boost to his standing, which has been suffering after years of failed peace efforts with Israel. At the same time, the rival Islamic militant group Hamas in Gaza has scored points domestically, after an eight-day cross-border conflict with Israel earlier this month.
Abbas aides say his top priority is to reconcile with Hamas, which seized Gaza from him in 2007 and has been running its own government there since then. Abbas heads the Palestinian Authority, a self-rule government that administers 38 percent of the West Bank, while he has no say in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.
The U.N. vote drew mixed reactions among Palestinians trying to reconcile global recognition with the limitations imposed by Israeli control, including border restrictions in Gaza.
Shahira Taleb, a 45-year-old Gaza housewife who has been unable to visit family in the West Bank because of an Israeli travel ban between the territories, was skeptical.
“I don’t know if it’s something that will change our life or is just a new paper added to thousands of papers issued over the past years in support of our cause,” she said, standing in line at a bakery.
But Talal Jafari, a 47-year-old shopkeeper in the West Bank city of Hebron, said for Palestinians, every victory counts. “The entire world supports us, and that by itself is great for us,” he said.
The Significance of the U.N. Vote
The Daily Mail reported that the move to upgrade the Palestinians to a nonmember observer state does not change much on the ground, but it carries deep potential significance.
The vote amounted to an international endorsement of the Palestinian position on future border arrangements with Israel and an overwhelming condemnation of Israeli settlements in the areas claimed by the Palestinians.
Netanyahu rejects a return to Israel’s 1967 lines. Israel remains in control in parts of the West Bank and considers east Jerusalem, the Palestinians’ hoped-for capital, an integral part of its capital.
A VIEW FROM THE PRO-ISRAELI VIEWPOINT
THE PLANET disagrees strongly with Klayman’s analysis (the reference to the President as “Barack Hussein Obama” is the biggest tip-off), but we wish to present his views in the effort to provide our readers with more information than less.
‘Compel Netanyahu to Reverse Course, Before It Is Too Late’
Finally, here is the view of Lara Friedman of Americans for Peace Now, an Israeli-based peace group. Friedman sent this letter to THE PLANET:
Last week, in a resounding vote of confidence for the two-state solution, the UN voted to upgrade the status of the Palestinians to that of “non-member observer state.”
Rather than recognize this vote as a huge achievement for Israel – an achievement in which the entire Arab and Muslim worlds voted for a future Middle East that will be home to both Israel and Palestine – the Netanyahu government decided to exploit the vote as an opportunity to take actions that could well close the door on the two state-solution.
Tell Secretary Clinton that if the Obama Administration is truly committed to Israel’s security and its viability, it must intervene and compel the Netanyahu government to reverse its reckless, provocative, and dangerous decisions.
These include the announcement of the approval of 3000 new settlement units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem – an announcement that, on its own, sends a message that Prime MInister Netanyahu is eager to undermine Abbas and pander to his right-wing political base in the run-up to Israeli elections early next year.
Tell Secretary Clinton: Get tough now. If not now, soon it will be too late.
But that wasn’t all. The Netanyahu government decided to move ahead with the E-1 settlement – the construction of which virtually everyone agrees is a potential death blow to the viability of the two-state solution. E-1 would, by design, block off the narrow undeveloped land corridor which runs east of Jerusalem and which is necessary for any meaningful future connection between the southern and the northern parts of the West Bank. It would thus break the West Bank into two parts – north and south. It would also sever access to East Jerusalem for Palestinians in the West Bank, and sever access to the West Bank for Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem. Both of these situations are antithetical to the achievement of any real, durable peace agreement and the establishment of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state.
Tell Secretary Clinton that if President Bush could convince Prime Minister Sharon to stop E-1, President Obama can certainly convince Netanyahu to do the same.
And that still wasn’t all. The Netanyahu government has also announced that it will withhold tax revenues it owes to the Palestinian Authority – a move that further undermines President Abbas and threatens to collapse the Palestinian Authority.
Tell Secretary Clinton that unless the Obama Administration gets serious, now, about pressuring Netanyahu, President Obama will share responsibility with Netanyahu for the loss of the two-state solution.
APN is a non-partisan, group established in 1981 to mobilize support for the Israeli peace movement, Shalom Achshav (Peace Now). It is based in Washington, D.C. Its e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
“ONE DAY I WOULD BE A BETTER HAND AT THE GAME. ONE DAY, I WOULD LEARN HOW TO LAUGH. PABLO WAS WAITING FOR Me, AND MOZART, TOO.” — THE CLOSING LINES OF STEPPENWOLF BY HERMANN HESSE.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.
LOVE TO ALL.