Thursday, March 19, 2015

Obama Administration sketches a new posture on the Israeli occupation - or does it?

The White House chose Peter Beinart to write their press release in the form of a news story on US policy toward Israel, Enraged by Netanyahu's rhetoric, White House officials believe Israeli-U.S. relations fundamentally changed Haaretz 03/19/2015. Via Beinart, the Obama Administration frames things this way. They complain about Netanyahu's comment about the Arabs voting and about his campaign comments about settlement policy in the occupied territories and his explicit rejection of a two-state solution.

This is a little much to swallow:

There is little President Obama considers more loathsome, administration officials note, than stoking racism to win votes. “Given our own history we have a unique perspective on the idea that minorities’ voting is not something to be condemned or feared,” said one administration official. The analogy is significant because the civil rights movement is Obama’s moral compass. For an administration official to compare Netanyahu to George Wallace or Bull Connor, even obliquely, says a lot about which side of history they believe he’s on. [my emphasis]
Does the "moral compass" that Martin Luther King, Jr. was following in this speech resonate with the President: Martin Luther King's Speech Against the Vietnam War, column by David Bromwich 03/16/2008?

I'm guessing not.

Ironically, calls itself "one project of our parent foundation, the Randolph Bourne Institute." But the link leads directly to the segregationist/"libertarian" Mises Institute.

The White House via Beinart floats the following policy options. First one:

... let the Palestinian Authority collapse and let Bibi deal with the calamity that follows. Early this year, Israel began withholding more than $100 million in tax revenue to punish Palestinians for trying to join the International Criminal Court. Since then, the Obama administration has been going around, cup in hand, trying to get European and Persian Gulf countries to give the Palestinian Authority the money to stay afloat.
Number two:

A second option is to allow the United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution condemning settlements. In other words, to withdraw America’s veto. Administration officials insist that they will never cut military aid, since that would harm Israeli security. And they say Obama will go on meeting Netanyahu, as unpleasant as that may be. They also won’t support Palestinian efforts at the International Criminal Court, since that feeds Israel’s “delegitimization.”
Beinart doesn't mention it, but both the Cheney-Bush and Obama Administrations have been distinctly hostile to the notion of the ICC having jurisdiction over Americans. We're Exceptional, after all.

Not vetoing UN resolutions that Israel doesn't like, though, would be a notable change in the US diplomatic stance. Realistically, though, as long as "Administration officials insist that they will never cut military aid," Israel is unlikely to take such diplomatic slights that seriously as pressure.

And number three:

The third, and most dramatic, move would be for America to support a UN resolution outlining the parameters of final two state deal. Administration officials expect the French to push such an effort on the theory that UN parameters would attain the iconic status enjoyed by UN resolutions 242 and 388, and, eventually, become the basis for serious talks. The Obama administration would not sign a European-crafted resolution, which they suspect would make specific demands on Israel about territorial withdrawal and the division of Jerusalem while offering only vague language about Palestinian obligations on refugees and recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.

But there is a serious effort, which began last year, and has already involved extensive negotiations by people close to the administration, to Americanize a final status resolution. Such a resolution would endorse an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and making Jerusalem the shared capital of two states. It would acknowledge that the 1967 lines could be modified by land swaps, but to satisfy the Palestinians, perhaps declare that those land swaps be equal in size. To make the resolution more palatable to Israel, however, the US would insert clear language recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, essentially ruling out a large-scale right of refuge return and making Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank contingent on the performance of Palestinian security forces. [my emphasis]
Here's where I start to suspect that chronic Democratic stumbling may take over.

This stance assumes that the Democrats and the Obama Administration would put their two-state position up against the de facto Republican-Likud position of Greater Israel.

But can we really assume that a two-state solution, even with the best imaginable will on all sides, is a realistic option any more? I very seriously doubt it, though if it could be pulled off in a comprehensive settlement, I would be happy to see it. But it doesn't look very feasible. Robert Perry writes in Netanyahu Unmasks Israel Consortium News 03/18/2015:

The truth is that the two-state solution has been a fiction for at least the past two decades, dying in 1995 with the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. But the two-state illusion still served important political purposes both for Israelis, who would pay it lip service while continuing their steady encroachment on Palestinian lands, and for U.S. politicians who could point to the mirage as an excuse not to pressure Israel too hard on its human rights violations.

Yet, whenever any U.S. official actually tried to reach that shimmering oasis of a two-state solution, it would recede into the distance. Then, the Israelis would rely on their friends and allies in the news media and politics to blame the Palestinians. Now, however, the illusion of Israel seeking such an outcome in good faith has been lost in Netanyahu’s anything-goes determination to keep his office – a case of political expediency trumping strategic expediency.
Assuming the two-state solution is dead, what we're looking at is basically the choice that Jimmy Carter and others have described: (1) A predominately Jewish Israel with Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories as the subjected population in an apartheid state; or, (2) constructing some version of Greater Israel that would make the occupied territories part of Israel and make the Palestinians there full citizens, which would mean a non-Jewish majority in the not-too-distant future.

And choice, in other words, between a Jewish state that practices apartheid or a democratic state that is not Jewish-majority.

So what would it mean for the Obama Administration or a future one to "insert clear language recognizing Israel as a Jewish state" in a UN decision that would take on the force of international law? That would put the United States more on the apartheid side of that choice.

And if absorbing the occupied territories makes them part of Israel, what would it mean to make "Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank contingent on the performance of Palestinian security forces"?

That resolution only makes sense in terms of a two-state solution, where "Israeli" and "Palestinian" were still two separate things.

But without a final settlement on the nature of the state, doesn't recognizing Israel de jure as a "Jewish state," and giving them the right to have their army in the occupied territories until Israel determines that there is no remaining terrorist threat, mean locking the status quo into place in all essential aspects?

That one is a puzzler to me.

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