Initially it appeared that Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace initiative was harmless. Although few Israelis, Palestinians or Americans expected it to accomplish anything, it was hard to make the case that it would do any damage.
No more. And not just because the Israeli government keeps announcing the building of new settlements. Or that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu continues the litany of propaganda attacks on Palestinians, including the charge that the 23-year old “Arab Idol” winner, Gaza singer Mohammed Assaf, is a threat to Israel because he nostalgically sings about towns inside the 1967 lines.
All that is to be expected, unless one actually believes that Netanyahu has undergone the conversion that Yitzhak Rabin did once he decided to negotiate with the Palestinians. But who believes that?
No, the evidence that the Kerry initiative is not harmless but damaging comes not from anything Netanyahu did or says but from Kerry himself.
Art by Eva Anner / evaannerart.tumblr.com.
Yesterday Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) released the letter he sent to President Obama urging more sanctions on the Iranian people to prevent a nuclear Iran and, failing that, to get ready for war. It’s the same old, same old with the added element that AIPAC/Israel/Congress is doing this to deter any diplomacy that might resolve the issue now that Iran has a more moderate new president.
The following is the letter with the names of the 76 senators attached. It hardly needs stating that the motivation of the 76 is to please AIPAC in order to raise money from its donors. There is no other reason for taking this action now just days after the new president of Iran takes office. In short, each of these senators are putting campaign dollars before the national interest although I give a pass to the Republicans who honestly believe that war cures all ills. The Democrats don’t, except in cases that involve Israel (actually AIPAC). Here’s the letter and the list of the 76 AIPAC owned senators.
Sometimes I hear from readers who complain that I lay too much blame on AIPAC for our one-sided and failed Middle East policies.
What can I say? I worked at AIPAC for almost six years (1973-1975, 1982-1986) so I know how it operates. Additionally, because I left AIPAC on good terms, I maintained friendships with its staff (no more!) and they filled me in on how the lobby was increasing its power over Congress. Of course, I saw that myself during 15 years as a House and Senate staffer. AIPAC runs the Middle East policy show on Capitol Hill.
Rarely am I surprised by anything AIPAC (or Congress, tucked securely in its pocket) does. But sometimes, AIPAC’s actions are so egregious, and those of Congress so supine, in promoting policies that are clearly against U.S. interests that I have to admit some surprise.
I wonder what it is that other people see about Secretary of State John Kerry’s Israeli-Palestinian breakthrough that I’m missing.
The fundamentals haven’t changed. The Palestinian Authority’s goal is to achieve a peace agreement with Israel in which it (yet again) recognizes Israel and Israel agrees to the establishment of a Palestinian state in the occupied territories of the West Bank (including east Jerusalem) and Gaza.
Secretary of State Kerry is desperate to make an announcement of renewed talks, any talks. As ever, his #1 concern is looking good (literally and figuratively). Prime Minister Netanyahu just wants Kerry off his back because he is anguished over the just-announced EU sanctions which will penalize Israeli institutions that support the settlement enterprise. If the sanctions actually take effect, he will look weak and, even worse, he could be viewed as having produced the “delegitimization” of the occupation.
This is what I think happened:
There is nothing that would have mitigated the pain caused by Trayvon Martin’s murder. Sure, these things have been happening forever but, once we saw his face and knew the circumstances, and once the right jumped in to denigrate him and defend George Zimmerman, the stakes were raised. How one felt about Trayvon and Zimmerman became a litmus test about how one felt about basic equality and justice for African Americans.
Not long ago, acquittal would have been as predictable as the sunset.
But Barack Obama’s election to the presidency twice made some of us (not the smartest of us, I’m afraid, including me) believe that it was a new day. No, not that race no longer mattered but that virulent racism was dying.
Kerry and Netanyahu. Credit: Creative Commons.
I am not impressed by Secretary of State John Kerry’s failed but energetic attempt to broker a deal between Israelis and Palestinians. It’s not that I don’t think his heart is in the right place. I know from conversations with him when he was in the Senate that he totally “gets” what the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is about.
Like Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, with whom I also discussed the issue on multiple occasions, he understands that the obstacle to peace is the Israeli occupation. In fact, I’d say that the views of these three top United States government officials are nearly identical to those of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. Like him, they want negotiations with the goal of ending the occupation while guaranteeing the security of both Israelis and Palestinians.
President Obama’s decision to provide military aid to the Syrian opposition is incredible. The United States is barely out of Iraq. It’s still bogged down in Afghanistan. Obama insists on keeping the Iran war option “on the table.” Yet suddenly we are taking sides in a civil war in Syria. How many Middle Eastern wars can one superpower handle?
The most amazing thing is that the president has the audacity to even propose involvement in Syria to the American people. (Not that he is asking, just telling. If he asked, he’d know that 70% of American oppose aiding the rebels).
Since 1964, when President Lyndon Johnson came up with a phony pretext to gain passage of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution authorizing the Vietnam war, it has been one presidentially-initiated intervention after another: Dominican Republic, Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, Persian Gulf, Yugoslavia, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq , Libya. (This list does not even include the delivery of arms to the mujahideenin Afghanistan which brought us the Taliban, Osama Bin Laden, 9/11 and the endless War on Terrorism).
The month of March 2002 was a terrible time in both Israel and the West Bank. Some 100 Israelis were killed by Palestinian suicide bombers. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon launched a military operation in the West Bank killing some 500 Palestinians. Children made up a significant number of the victims on both sides. The prospects for an end to violence, let alone peace, appeared lower than at any time previously.
It was against that background that Harvard professor, Samantha Power, now President Obama’s nominee to serve as U.N. ambassador, spoke of the need for U.S. intervention.
There is a silver lining in President Barack Obama’s refusal to do much of anything to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is this: if Obama had any intentions of either bombing Iran’s nuclear installations or allowing Israel to do it, he would be laying the groundwork by pressuring Israel hard to end the occupation.