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Obama Israel-Palestine Policy Founders Even in Security Council

If this isn’t a perfect exemplar of the total disarray of U.S. policy toward the Israel-Palestine conflict I don’t know what is.  The background: after the Netanyahu government unilaterally declared the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb in the tinderbox area of Hebron to be national heritage sites, Palestinian protests and demonstrations began almost immediately especially in the Temple Mount area and the rest of East Jerusalem.  Because this is precisely how the first and second Intifadas began (by Israeli provocation and Palestinian uproar in response), many in and outside Israel have been deeply concerned about the situation.

The UN Security Council approved a mild statement of concern which the U.S. delegation did not object to during an SC session.  It read:

“The members of the Security Council expressed their concern at the current tense situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, including east Jerusalem,” [Security Council president] Issoze-Ngondet said.

“They urged all sides to show restraint and avoid provocative acts,” he said after a closed-door meeting. “They stressed that peaceful dialogue was the only way forward and looked forward to an early resumption of negotiations.”

When a Palestinian leader claimed that the U.S. in the statement was calling for Israel to avoid further provocations, the U.S. delegation panicked and immediately disowned it.  Apparently our policy is so tied to Israel’s apron strings that we daren’t be perceived as in any way shape or form criticizing Israel, even when such criticism is more than justified as in this case.

So I ask: does this mean that the U.S. is not concerned with the current tense situation and doesn’t urge all side to show restraint?  That we don’t believe peaceful dialogue is the only way forward?  I’m well on my way to entirely giving up on the Obama Middle East policy.  This is just another nail in the coffin.

I note a report in a Middle East newspaper that George Mitchell has already submitted his resignation to Pres. Obama out of the former’s own frustration and that the president rejected it.  I haven’t seen anything further on this in the media so it’s possible it was not accurate.  But it’s instructive.  Steve Walt has already called for Mitchell to resign.  Obama needs to good swift kick in the ass and that would give it to him.  Why preside over a meaningless, meandering policy going nowhere fast?

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{ 15 comments… add one }
  • Maarten March 6, 2010, 5:49 AM

    I have an article that i would like to share with you but when I press the “contact” button on this website it says: “Your location has been identified as part of a reported spam network. Contact form has been disabled to prevent spam.”

    I have no other way to share this article with you so I will use the comment option.

    The article was published by a dutch newspaper NRC, March 6, 2010.(http://www.nrc.nl/binnenland/article2498489.ece/Simon_Wiesenthalcentrum_wil_boycot_PKN) The article is in dutch. Below is a translation by Google Translate with some additions by me. I’m sorry for any spelling and grammer errors.

    Utrecht, March 6. The international Jewish human rights organization, the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, calls on the Dutch Jews to break ties with the Protestant Church in the Netherlands (PKN). The organization writes this in a letter to the PKN, which owns the Dutch newspaper Dagblad and Trouw.

    The Wiesenthal Center calls for the boycott in response to a letter in February of PKN to the Israeli Embassy in the Netherlands. “The Israeli government has an important key to peace in the Middle East and has to care more about the fate(plight) of the Palestinian people”, writes the PKN-moderamen.

    The statements of the PKN undermines the legitimacy of the State of Israel, believes the Wiesenthal Center.

    The Protestant Churches are asking the Israeli government to take more concrete measures to protect the rights of Palestinians. Thus the moderamen calls on Israel to obey international law and to stop expanding settlements on the West Bank.

    The Israeli ambassador to the Netherlands Harry Kney-Tal said he was “dazed”(stunned) by the letter. “I wonder why the concerns of nearly half of the Jewish people in Israel, are relatively unclear and not considered, before the appeal to the Israeli government was created”said the ambassador.

    The Central Jewish Board responded “surprised” at the letter of the PKN. The CJO called the letter “one-sided” and wonders why the PKN didn’t send a letter to Hamas or the Palestinian authorities.

    On Saturday morning the PKN said they felt the responses were ‘peculiar’ and said they will not withdraw the letter to the Israeli Embassy. ,,”No way, said a spokesman. “We haven’t received the letter from the Simon Wiesenthal Center yet. We will of course first read their letter and then look further into it. But we will not withdraw the letter.”

    • Shirin March 7, 2010, 8:34 AM

      Yeah, well, the Simon Wiesenthal Center are the ones who are building a “Museum of Tolerance” by demolishing a major historic Muslim cemetery. What more do you need to know about the Simon Wiesenthal Center?

  • Maarten March 6, 2010, 6:27 AM

    The letter from the Wiesenthal center to the PKN can be viewed here: http://www.trouw.nl/redactie/pdf/Scan0013.PDF

  • Maarten March 6, 2010, 7:15 AM

    Yet another comment by me.
    The letter sent by the PKN to the Wiesenthal center can be viewed here in dutch: http://www.kerknieuws.nl/debat.asp?oId=50

    I’m sorry I haven’t been able to find the english translation but I used google translate to translate the text and made some changes myself.

    Below the letter of the moderamen of the Protestant Church (in the person of president and Verhoeff scriba Plaisier) to the Israeli ambassador in the Netherlands.

    Sir,

    It is not customary for us as our Protestant Church in the Netherlands to write a letter addressed to the Government of Israel. Yet we take the boldness(freeness) for this unusual step and we hope that the contents of this letter makes clear the reason.

    As the Protestant Church in the Netherlands we feel committed to the Jewish people. In our church order, we even talk about a “onopgeefbare relationship ‘. For us it has everything to do with our belief that a specific God with Israel went away from the calling of Abraham.

    In the 2nd World War, the anti-Semitism led to unspeakable consequences. Many of your people after the 2nd World War and the Holocaust returned to the land of their ancestors. This return and the establishment of the State of Israel has been for us a special sign of God’s faithfulness. Since the creation of Israel many in our church are so closely connected with your people. We have sympathized, especially at times when your very existence was threatened. To this day there is a high degree of solidarity with and love for Israel.

    We believe that the State of Israel is a state whose existence should not be called into question. This right is also based on international law. We recognize that the Jewish people throughout history have experienced many threats and forms of antisemitism. As a responsible government is is your job, to ensure the safety of your citizens where possible. This security requires defensible borders.

    Precisely because of this, we focus to you, to call attention to the plight(fate) of the Palestinian people. The security of one should not adversely affect the rights of others. We are here, as a church, approached by Palestinian Christians. We understand their call, as recently done in the document “Hour of Truth” not as a negative call, which turns against Israel, but as a cry for justice and peace.

    We would therefore urge you to use your power so that you create a positive breakthrough in the relationship between the Jewish and the Palestinian people. We assume that you want to live in peace with this people. That you do everything in your power to achieve this.

    One of the main tools for this is the international law of nations. That law has played a role in the creation of Israel. This law recognizes your right to exist. This right should therefore also lead us to believe that you treat you neighbouring people/countries in the same way.

    Specifically, we want you please to the following calls.

    - The separation barrier built by you is running largely on field proven to be Palestinian property. As a result, many countries(pastures) are no longer free to be used by Palestinians and many Palestinian lands, water and sometimes whole villages are cut off from the rest of the West Bank. We call on you to recognise the various rulings of international courts that have spoken out about this and review the process and and reimburse the affected farmers and others.

    - The settlements located on the West Bank, despite calls from the international community to stop, you still extended, or not dismantled. From the Palestinian side, these settlements are experienced as very threatening, and they are again violating the basic rights of Palestinian civilians. The settlements have, including its road network and safetymeasures, an adverse impact on the life and economy of the local population. Also on this issue we encourage you to recognize international law.

    -In areas on the West Bank in areas B and C and in East Jerusalem
    is a strict policy when it comes to renovating and building houses by Palestinian civilians. While settlements around them, with the roads, grow, it is (except in areas that have the status A) by the strict policy de facto impossible for Palestinians to improve or expand their homes, while in many cases this would have no negative effect on the security situation. We ask you to leave this restrictive policy and refrain from forced expropriation and “housedemolitions” and also at this point to obey international law.

    Each party in the conflict in the Middle East is concerned, has its own responsibility for words and actions to pursue peace and justice. In this letter, we appeal to pursue yours. We urge you to take your responsibility in ways that law and justice will prevail, for Jew and Palestinian. That is the only real legitimacy of a government. We are confident that we will call with many of your own people.

    You have for the peace and welfare of your region an important key in hand. This is also a key in hand when it comes to international relations between countries, peoples and states. Peace in the Middle East is crucial for peace in the world.

    Our call is not independent of the effort that we do on our own: where possible we support the dialogue between Jews and Palestinians and help to build bridges. Moreover, this call must be read as an appeal to our Palestinian partners, to recognise Israels existence.

    We hope you will take this letter seriously and take it as a sign of compassion and solidarity. We will not stop to continue praying for peace in the Middle East, the Jewish and the Palestinian people, and for you as state of Israel.

    With high esteem,
    Ds. P. Verhoeff, president of the General Synod of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands
    Dr. A.J. Plaisier, scriba of the General Synod of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands

    • fiddler March 7, 2010, 7:23 AM

      onopgeefbar = indissoluble

      What are “moderamen”? Funnily enough, Babelfish translates it as “vogue windows” (“mode-ramen”) :-D

      Is this really the response to the Wiesenthal Center’s insolent letter or rather the PKN’s original letter to the ambassador?

      • Maarten March 7, 2010, 11:39 AM

        Yes it’s the original letter to the ambassador.
        Moderamen are the church directors.

        • Gert March 7, 2010, 12:04 PM

          Thanks for that aside. Very interesting information. I might blog this.

      • Gert March 7, 2010, 12:07 PM

        ‘opgeven’: to surrender, to give up.

        ‘onopgeefbaar’: the opposite: non-surrenderable.

  • Gert March 6, 2010, 8:43 AM

    You hadn’t given up on Obama’s ME policies yet? Still under the spell of couple of high powered speeches?

    Obama went to AIPAC. He pledged. It’s one of the few pledges he seems religiously to abide by.

    Unless Christians, Muslims and Jews alike in the grassroots of America unite and let their voices be heard (very, very) loudly the Israel Lobby will continue to ‘control’ US FP vis-à-vis I/P. Only if electoral numbers warrant Congressmen to kick their Ziocaine habit and see the reality of I/P for what it is will meaningful change be possible.

    I’ll be taking my Hope/Change button down any day now…

  • Donald March 6, 2010, 11:32 AM

    I think the only hope there ever was with Obama on this subject was that he might have listened to people like Rashid Khalidi even if he distanced himself in public. Then he picked George Mitchell, which seemed like a good sign. But all along Obama has framed the issue the way most US politicians frame it–as a case of Israeli settlements on the one hand vs. Palestinian terrorism on the other. To the average person not obsessed with the subject, how could anyone compare building homes in the wrong place to the crime of blowing up innocent civilians?

    Obama also repeated the canard that civilian casualties in Lebanon in 2006 were due to Hezbollah using civilians as human shields. So there’s never been too much reason to expect much from him. He doesn’t push the envelope–he doesn’t even come close to the edge of the envelope.

    • Gert March 6, 2010, 2:26 PM

      Donald wrote:

      To the average person not obsessed with the subject, how could anyone compare building homes in the wrong place to the crime of blowing up innocent civilians?

      I’m guessing you’re ‘not obsessed with the subject’. ‘Building homes in the wrong place’ is an incredible euphemism: this isn’t about a bit of urban planning gone wrong, you know…

      Oh, you were being ironic…

      • Donald March 6, 2010, 7:39 PM

        Gert, it shouldn’t have been too hard to tell I was being ironic. Though I wasn’t just being ironic–I’m pointing out that the way the issue is framed is inherently misleading to the average American who doesn’t pay close attention to the subject. That person will hear talk about settlements on the one hand and terrorism on the other. I know perfectly well that Israel has killed far more civilians than the Palestinian terror groups have, but most people don’t know that.

        Back in the 90′s Hamas had started its suicide bombing campaign and I remember the phrase (it might have been started by Madelaine Albright) “bulldozing houses is not the moral equivalent of suicide terrorism.” I even heard a friend repeating this. He was under the impression that Israel was engaged in building homes where they shouldn’t, and in blowing up a few homes of terrorists and that was the full extent of their crimes. That’s the natural result of how the issue is discussed here. Israel engages in shady real estate practices–Palestinians murder children. Gaza may have changed this framing to some extent, but the change was long overdue.

        • Gert March 7, 2010, 8:43 AM

          Hi Donald,

          I got your irony alright, just took me couple of reads (slow day!)

          The general ignorance (broadly speaking, of course) of the American public with regards to the I/P conflict is stunning. Or perhaps not, considering the sort of press Americans have to rely on for information on FP: in the ‘leader of the Free World’, when it comes to Foreign Policy freedom of press seems more or less at the level of Iran. And among the younger generation of American ‘Israel Firsters’ there seems to exist the belief that US support for Israel dates back to The Old Testament…

          Gaza and the ‘New Media’ are slowly changing things, it would appear…

  • Shirin March 6, 2010, 11:36 AM

    One of the first things Obama did as soon as he had the nomination was to make a headlong dash to AIPAC to grovel publicly at their feet in a more embarrassing way than any other presidential candidate has. He got so carried away he even made a couple of promises he had to back away from. That should have told us everything we needed to know about what his policy was going to be like when it comes to Israel.

  • DICKERSON3870 March 6, 2010, 4:18 PM

    RE: “I’m well on my way to entirely giving up on the Obama Middle East policy.” – R.S.
    NEW FACEBOOK GROUP: So ‘Over’ Obama!
    Category: Common Interest – Beliefs & Causes
    Description: A “support group” for disillusioned, erstwhile supporters of President Barack Obama.
    Privacy Type: Open – All content is public.

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