Clash of egos: The autocrat, the president and the future of Palestine

Catherine Shakdam
Catherine Shakdam is a political analyst, writer and commentator for the Middle East with a special focus on radical movements and Yemen. A regular pundit on RT and other networks her work has appeared in major publications: MintPress, the Foreign Policy Journal, Mehr News and many others.Director of Programs at the Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies, Catherine is also the co-founder of Veritas Consulting. She is the author of Arabia’s Rising - Under The Banner Of The First Imam
U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands during their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington November 9, 2015. © Kevin Lamarque
As Netanyahu returns to the US to renegotiate the terms of Israel’s military package deal with US officials, it is really the future of US-Israeli relations which is playing out, at a time when Washington is losing its political clout.

PM Benyamin Netanyahu was back in Washington this week and he had plenty to say about his long standing ally and partner, the United States of America. But this time around, “Bibi” did not come to town to dictate policies to an entranced American public - there was no cartoon and no staring.

This time around Netanyahu was all PR and optics: no insults, no threats, and no patronizing… at least not overtly.

So what does Israel want from its long suffering partner?

To put it simply, Israel wants what Israel always wanted, and what it will likely want for the foreseeable future: Increased US military aid and absolutely unconditional political support - emphasis on absolutely.

Following a rather difficult political year, Israel’s PM returned to shake the hand of the very man he emphatically implied to dislike profusely, all in the name of national security - or is it hegemony? It’s difficult to tell these days since Israel’s territorial expansion in the Levant seems to be tied to its sovereign survival.

While the US-Israel ties are unlikely to disintegrate over a few political upsets, the Obama-Netanyahu dynamic remains an interesting one. If anything the thaw between the US and Israel over Iran, Palestine and more broadly the Middle East underscores a new political reality. In over a decade, ever since it declared war on terror, the US has gone from leading the global narrative to quite literally being told what to do from its so-called partners. Forget leading from behind, Washington is now merely tagging along, following in the footsteps of those powers it helped propped and build up: Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Netanyahu’s demeanor and sense of entitlement in Congress in March 2015, in my mind serve as political benchmarks. Israel’s traction in the US has become so overwhelming that US officials are now de facto catering to Tel Aviv’s interests before considering those of their country.

It is this political paradox which President Obama is likely struggling with. His personal feelings towards Netanyahu are really secondary. The realization that America’s real capital sits now in the Middle East is not exactly endearing, hence Obama’s administration’s struggles with PM Netanyahu.

But again, Democrats’ bruised ego will unlikely lead to any real change, especially not when America is getting ready to elect its next president. Any political disintegration in between Israel and the US would involve the facing to the fury of Israel’s powerful lobby, and THAT no politicians will do - THAT would be political suicide, notwithstanding the public shaming being branded an anti-Semite would carry!

So Netanyahu came to demand its dues, and America was only too happy to deliver. Come hell or high water, regardless of the human cost and legal implications, the “free world” will stand by Israel, feeding its imperial war machine.

Make no mistake here; Israel’s PM did not come to Washington for he fears his people face an existential threat. He came to Washington to further assert his claim on the Levant and see rise Greater Israel.

Behind the smiles and the commitments to peace, PM Netanyahu is really planning an invasion, a grand disappearing of Palestine - the nation he continues to claim never was.

“It’s no secret the security environment in the Middle East has deteriorated in many areas and, as I’ve said repeatedly, the security of Israel is one my top foreign policy priorities and that has expressed itself not only in words but in deeds,” said President Obama during his meeting with the Israeli Premiere on November 9.
He went on: “I want to be very clear that we condemn in the strongest terms Palestinian violence against innocent Israeli citizens and I want to repeat once again that it is my strong belief that Israel has not just the right but an obligation to protect itself.”

Forget military aid and forget the disdain, or even contempt both officials feel towards one another - America just signed off on Israel’s handling of the Palestinian dossier, dehumanizing Palestinians as well as their inherent inalienable right to resist oppression in one smooth statement.

PM Netanyahu’s real goal this November was securing America’s silence and its much needed veto before the UN Security Council as Tel Aviv’s officials march towards yet another military escalation against both Israeli Arabs and Palestinians.

Playing to public opinion Netanyahu conceded he still believes in peace - only really he doesn’t, at least not the kind of peace most people imagine. Netanyahu’s peace with Palestinians implies living under permanent military occupation in a bona fide concentration camp. One look at Gaza should really give you an idea of what peace would look like should Netanyahu gets his way.

“I remain committed to a vision of peace of two states for two peoples: a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state,” the Premiere noted. There you have “a vision” … let’s just say that in this “vision” Palestinians will be denied their humanity, sovereignty and most likely their history.

But who is to stand in Israel’s way when the self-proclaimed leader of the free world defends this one nation’s right to be to the detriment of others? Especially when this one nation happens to be pulling the strings of American power?

I guess the real question I’m asking is how long will it take the American people to realize that if Palestinians are living under military occupation, they, themselves are living under political occupation.

And if one President Obama can tire of one autocrat’s diktat, let’s hope that a nation will see through the smokescreen of Israel’s lobby and recognize that its name is being used and abused to serve an agenda which is not its own, and actually stands against its interests.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.