This article first appeared in Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka on July 9, 2010
By Ameen Izzadeen
The Palestinian peace process is back on track. That’s what a ‘nailed’ US President Barack Obama wants the rest of the world concerned with peace in the troubled region to believe after his talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Following the talks, Obama addressed the media and told them what he thought about Netanyahu’s stance on the peace process.
“I believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu wants peace. I think he’s willing to take risks for peace,” Obama said.
There is a difference between the real story and what someone believes to be the real story. Similarly, there is a difference between Netanyahu’s stance and what Obama believes to be his stance.
Notwithstanding the confusion over the stand they take and the semantics they adopt, it appears that Netanyahu’s version prevails. The US administration is trying to portray the Obama-Netanyahu talks as a step forward. But it fails to acknowledge that the one step forward has come after ten steps back. Experience shows that such positive steps in the past have become meaningless in the face of Israel’s actions that have derailed the peace process.
The peace process, which is as old as the conflict itself, has achieved little over the years. Apart from the 1979 Camp David accord between Egypt and Israel and the 1994 Israeli-Jordanian peace agreement, the only progress the peace process has seen is Israel’s expanding boundaries, which continue to gobble up the Palestinian territories.
Days before Netanyahu made his fence-mending trip to Washington, an Israeli human rights group, B’tselem, said Jewish settlements had eaten into 42 percent of the Palestinian territory of the West Bank.
Pointing out that Jewish settlements are growing in the occupied West Bank three times faster than the expansion in the rest of Israel, B’tselem Director Jessica Montell says the settlements are harming Palestinians in their daily life and their access to basic necessities.
The report only underscores the Palestinians’ complaint that Israel is creating facts on the ground to destroy and defeat the prospects of a two-state solution, which Obama has promised to set up before his term ends.
Yet a ‘tame’ Obama in his White House media conference made no mention of the settlements which he, only months ago, slammed as a major obstacle to the resumption of peace talks. Neither did any media personnel raise the settlement issue. This only proved how choreographed the White House news conferences have become over the years. Well Israel is a sacred cow. Didn’t the 82-year-old journalist Helen Thomas face the White House media corps’ fury when she remarked that the Jews should get the hell out of the Palestinian territory? Thomas, who has covered the White House since Eisenhower’s time, was forced to quit. Her colleagues, instead of upholding her freedom to express her thoughts, applied pressure on her to leave the White House media corps. The Helen Thomas affair confirms allegations that the United States cares little for justice and morality where Israel is involved.
President Obama in his early days in office tried to be different and decided to exert pressure on Israel probably without knowing the Zionist power. He talked tough with Netanyahu and warned him not to go ahead with settlement building. “The U.S. does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop,” he said in Cairo last year.
Quite unfazed by the new man in the Oval Office, Israel announced its plans to build new settlements in the occupied territories. The announcement was seen as a slap in the face of the US because it came while the US Vice President Joe Biden was visiting the Zionist state in March this year.
In the same month, when Netanyahu visited the White House, Obama accorded him a low-key welcome that expressed his displeasure at Israel’s failure to heed the US request. It was a shock to the Israelis. No US president had the audacity to treat an Israeli leader in that manner. The Zionist pressure groups launched an Obama-bashing campaign. Pointing to Obama’s middle name, Hussein, they said the Muslim in the White House was set to destroy Israel. Referring to Obama’s stop-settlement appeal, the Zionists said that no US President had questioned Israelis’ right to build settlements on the biblical areas of Judea and Samaria or made it a condition for peace.
Disturbed by the relentless hate-campaign, Obama was to learn a bitter truth. He realized that no candidate could win the US presidential election without submitting to the Zionist lobby. Obama changed course from what is right to what he thinks what Israel would see as right. He faces his first major election challenge this November when the Americans vote in the mid-term congressional polls.
His climb-down only underscores the claim that Israel has a large degree of control over the White House. During a heated cabinet debate in October 2001, Shimon Peres is said to have warned the then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon not to antagonize the Americans. Sharon is reported to have told him: “I want to tell you something very clear, don’t worry about American pressure on Israel; we, the Jewish people, control America, and the Americans know it.”
Notwithstanding the debate in the internet whether Sharon made these comments or not, the US policy on Israel shows that the controversial remark is not far from the truth. The US protected Israel when Israel massacred more than 1,500 Palestinian people in 2008-2009, when Israel committed war crimes by starving more than 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and when Israeli commandos killed peace activists who tried to bring relief aid to the Palestinians.
The US, by protecting Israel, has become an accomplice in the crimes Israel commits. It is because of the US support that Israel is emboldened to build settlements in occupied Palestinian territories in violation of international law; refuse to heed the International Court of Justice ruling which called for the dismantling of a security wall that has robbed more Palestinian land; hold tens of thousands of Palestinian people as political prisoners and denies the Palestinian youth the right to pray in Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. When the MV Marmara massacre came before the UN Security Council last month, the United States, with its arm-twisting diplomacy, succeeded in diluting the resolution which called on Israel only to conduct its own inquiry. Many human rights groups have criticized the inquiry as a sham.
So it was quite expected when Obama, flanked by Netanyahu, described the relationship between the US and Israel as “unbreakable” and “enduring”.
The relationship “encompasses our national security interests, our strategic interests and has grown closer and closer as time goes on,” he said.
The born-again or ‘Zionised’ Obama praised Israel’s cosmetic gesture in easing the blockade on the Gaza Strip — Israel agreed to allow a limited number of consumer goods into the besieged territory — and failed to rebuke the Zionist state for the killing of nine aid workers aboard the Turkish ship MV Marmara.
With mission accomplished, Netanyahu returns to Israel a hero. He has subdued Obama who could not even ask Netanyahu whether he would extend the moratorium on settlement building after the September deadline. To obscure the shame of Obama’s climb-down, Netanyahu offered him the common-enemy or the Iran formula.
Both the United States and Israel agree that the need to deal with the common enemy supersedes all other issues, including peace with the Palestinians.
“We strongly believe that, given its size, its history, the region that it’s in, and the threats that are levelled against us-against it, that Israel has unique security requirements. It’s got to be able to respond to threats or any combination of threats in the region. And that’s why we remain unwavering in our commitment to Israel’s security,” Obama said at his White House news conference.
The reaction from the Palestinians to the peace call from Obama and Netanyahu was cautious. With 42 percent of the West Bank gone, the Palestinians want to know what size and shape there future state will be.
Palestinian Authority leaders point out that the peace process for the best part of 17 years under three US presidents had only made their case worse. They say they still remain under Israeli occupation and have lost more people in violence and more land to Israelis. But at the same time, they say they don’t want to be seen as anti-peace. They feel this is just another step that will take the Palestinian hopes several steps backwards.