Palestine: Chile puts Obama in hot water

By Ameen Izzadeen

Like a flicker of a distant star, a positive trend in world politics is apparent. Many nations which once feared to defy the United States seem to be asserting their freedom in world politics. Chile’s recognition last week of an independent Palestinian state in spite of US requests not to do so is one example.

Israeli settlements

Israeli settlements

It is not known, however, whether Chile’s move was part of an Obama administration plan to force Israel not to scuttle the West Asia peace process. Whatever it is, Obama’s re-election prospects at next year’s presidential race are increasingly becoming dim whether he mollycoddles or gets tough with Israel.

Israel has been entertaining suspicions about the Obama administration’s bona fides as a friend. Chile’s recognition of an independent Palestine has only added to this suspicion. Chile is an important US military ally with a capitalist president — and its recognition of the Palestinian state came despite US requests not to do so. Rightwing Israeli politicians, who have branded Obama as an enemy of Israel and the Jews, may accuse him of playing a deceptive game. They may see the US appeals to Chile not to recognise Palestine as an Obama trick to mislead Israel.

However, the Palestinians’ move for independence is gaining support even from unlikely quarters. Chile’s recognition of Palestine came in the wake of similar moves in recent months by Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador. Several other South American states, including Peru, Uruguay and Paraguay, are expected to follow suit.

In the Western world, Spain has indicated it may recognize Palestine as an independent state. The Palestinian Authority is confident it will have the support of more than 180 countries when it presents a resolution to the UN Security Council during the United Nations annual sessions in September, seeking formal recognition as a fully-fledged member.

The Palestinians’ diplomatic drive began when they lost hopes of a solution under the hardline Israeli regime led by Benjamin Netanyahu. The breaking point came when Israel resumed settlement building in the occupied territories in defiance of repeated US appeals.

Legally, the Palestinians are on a strong footing. The Treaty of Lousanne (1923), the Treaty of Versailles (1919) and the Permanent Court of International Justice, the previous world court, have recognized Palestine as one of the successor states to the Ottoman empire while the International Court of Justice has acknowledged in several of its rulings that Palestine is under illegal occupation.

As recently as last year, the ICJ in a ruling that upheld Kosovo’s independence noted that international law was silent on the subject of the legality of declarations of independence. In other words, no declarations of independence violate international law as long as they fulfill the criteria of a state.

The Montevideo Convention spells out four main qualifications of a state: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with other states. Certainly, the Palestinians have fulfilled all these qualifications. Even Israel cannot dismiss this reality. The only criterion that Israel can dispute is the defined territory. While much of the world recognizes the pre-1967 borders as the defined territory of the Palestinian state, Israel has declared the whole of occupied Jerusalem, as its capital. In addition to East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians regard as the capital of their future state, Israel also wants to annexe occupied Palestinian areas where Jewish settlements now stand.

The support the Palestinians are winning the world over has caused alarm in Israel. In one of the first countermeasures, Israel moved to prevent the United States from recognizing Palestine as a sovereign state. On December 15 last year, the US House of Representative adopted a unanimous resolution to oppose a Palestinian declaration of independence. The resolution, fathered by the powerful Israeli Lobby, urges the Obama administration to veto any effort by Palestinians to obtain UN membership.

The trajectory of Obama’s policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict passes through contradictory coordinates. At times, he adopts a tough policy and warns Israel to stop its settlement building activities on the occupied territories and at other times he stoops down to the level of a vassal and declares that defending Israel is the sacred duty of the United States.

At times, Obama reassures the Palestinians and at other times he warns them of consequences if they go ahead with an independence declaration. But the real test for the US will come when the Palestinian resolution comes to the UN Security Council in September. While the Palestinians and their friends want the US to abstain, Israel and its friends in the US Congress expect Obama to use the veto.

One thing is clear, Obama faces a lose-lose situation. Whether he uses the veto or not, he is most likely to become a one-time President, because of the Zionist lobby in the United States which controls Congress, the mainstream media and the finances, has no love for him. The Lobby is openly flirting with Republican presidential aspirant Sarah Palin, who, like hardline Israeli lawmakers, has labelled Obama as an enemy of Israel. In this lose-lose situation, Obama could win only if he exposes the Lobby and appeals to the intellect of the American voter. But sadly, many Americans are guided by their emotions and prejudices rather than intellect and what is right.

(This article also appears in the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka)

About ameenizzadeen

journalist and global justice activist
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