Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Israel and the US post-Israeli election

After Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu's win in the Israeli election Tuesday, foreign policy observers and analysts are speculating on what changes in US-Israeli relations may follow.

Netanyahu took the unusual step of publicly announcing his rejection of any possible two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. That has been the longtime official goal of the United States and theoretically of Israel, too. How possible it was and how seriously either country took it has been in question for some time. It was in 2006 that Jimmy Carter's book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid was published, warning that the time for a two-state solution was in danger of passing permanently.

Roberta Rampton and Patricia Zengerle report in U.S. rebukes Israel's victorious Netanyahu on Mideast policy Reuters 03/18/2015:

White House spokesman Josh Earnest reaffirmed Obama’s commitment to a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict and said that based on Netanyahu’s comments, "the United States will evaluate our approach to this situation moving forward."

Netanyahu’s insistence that there will be no Palestinian state while he holds office, seen as a maneuver to mobilize his right-wing base, angered the Palestinians and drew criticism from the United Nations and European governments. Chances for restarting long-stalled peace moves already had been low.

U.S. lawmakers were divided on Netanyahu's hardened stance.

"It was remarkable to back-track so significantly on a two-state solution," said Democratic U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, adding it could make Washington's effort to mediate more difficult.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said he hoped the United States and Israel would see the election as "an opportunity to start over." But he said: "A two-state solution is impossible as long as Hamas exists and runs Gaza."
Yes, you could say that "lawmakers were divided" over Netanyahu's public policy shift.

He has put himself clearly on the side of the Republican Party against the Democratic Party and the Democratic President. The Republicans are happy about that development, as Cenk Uygur explains in Who Are Netanyahu's GOP Supporters? The Young Turks 03/18/2015:

Paul Pillar writes on Netanyahu's Latest Challenge to Obama The National Interest 03/18/2015:

After all the alarming and scaring that this prime minister has done, one of his final scares was to warn that Arab citizens of Israel would actually—you'd better sit down before you read this—vote. This was an even more blatant, and openly racist, approach to the subject of voter turnout among opposing parts of the electorate than the enactment of voter suppression laws in the United States. ...

For the United States, the most significant of Netanyahu's statements in his appealing to the intractable Right of the Israeli electorate was to declare clearly and unequivocally his opposition to a Palestinian state. In so doing, and in affirming his determination to hold on to occupied territory, he offered no honorable alternative way to deal with the trilemma of how Israel cannot hold onto all that land and be a Jewish state and be democratic. Evidently he sees things the same way as his billionaire backer Sheldon Adelson, who said, “Israel isn't going to be a democratic state—so what?”

Of course, there is no surprise in the substance of Netanyahu's statement. It has long been abundantly clear from the conduct of himself and his government that he has had no intention of acceding to creation of a Palestinian state, and that past remarks suggesting that he did were only window dressing. But to move from window dressing and polite fiction to open declaration nonetheless has consequences, not only for the one making the declaration but also for others who have to deal with him. [my emphasis]
As Israel goes even more in the direction of creating an apartheid state, we can expect to hear from Republicans how Israel can serve as a model on how to handle not just "terrorists" but minority populations who are theoretically full citizens of their own country.

Juan Cole describes the implications of Netanyahu's stance in Apartheid Forever: Israel’s Netanyahu rules out Palestinian Citizenship Rights Informed Comment 03/17/2015:

Netanyahu and the Israeli right-of-center say they want to keep Palestinians homeless and without citizenship rights in a state because they fear a Palestinian state will make claims on Israel and present a security challenge. Netanyahu said Sunday that if Israel relinquished the West Bank it would become a bastion of Muslim radicalism (but West Bankers are substantially more secular than the Jewish population of West Jerusalem).

But in fact, Netanyahu and the right are dedicated to Greater Israel, to annexing the West Bank territory and finding a way to expel the Palestinians from it. The Palestinians are not a security challenge– they are like the guard at a bank getting in the way of bank robbers. The bank robbers feel a need to knock him out or kill him, remove him from the scene.

But it is shameful to have Israel preside over 4 million stateless people forever. This is Apartheid. And Netanyahu has just made Apartheid the official policy of Israel, just as South African leader P.W. Botha dedicated himself to making black South Africans stateless and without the rights of citizenship. The only fig leaf Israel had for its Apartheid was the farce of the “peace process” and a pro forma ritual invocation of a “future Palestinian state.” Now Netanyahu has ripped off the fig leaf and stands naked before the world. Botha was called by his victims the “Great Crocodile.” It would be better epithet for Netanyahu than “Bibi.”

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