US Israel-Palestine policy fails to deliver
At least sixteen were killed and hundreds were injured, as shots were fired from security guards in Israel. It was a scene all too familiar, for both sides.
For Israel it was a matter of security, according to Dan Pollak – Co- Director of the Zionist Organization of America.
“I don’t know what any country would do when people gather on your border and come across it in violation of the law,” Pollak said.
But for Palestinians, it is the continuation of a seemingly endless fight for an independent, Palestinian state, a fight in which US leaders try time and time again to play chief negotiator, led by every President for the last 30 years, and mentioned Thursday in a speech by President Obama.
“The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine.We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states,” Obama said.
It was an unusually blunt endorsement of an end to Israeli occupation of Arab land by a US President.It was immediately rejected by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israel argues that peace cannot come at the cost of its security, and had dealt with continued Palestinian rocket attacks.
Both sides do agree that when it comes to the US role as mediator, its approach is all wrong.
“American policy is built on misconceptions, a wrong view on the causes of the conflict and a prescription that doesn’t stand up even to the most casual scrutiny,” Pollak said.
Yousef Munayyer, with the Jerusalem Fund, says talk is cheap, when the US says it’s engaged in the process of a two-state solution, but is funding and supporting behavior by Israel that’s simultaneously working against that.
“Paying somebody, bribing somebody to change their behavior doesn’t work when you’ve spoiled them rotten,” he said.
A recent example – in November, the US offered several billion dollars in military assistance to Israel if it put off the construction of Jewish settlements for three months.
Author and Filmmaker Tariq Ali, said the Americans were incorrect in their assumption that President Obama’s policies would be different from his predecessor.
“Regardless of what Obama says or how he says it, and he says it better than Bush, what he does it the same,” Ali said.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Pro-Israel money accounts for between one quarter and one third of all donations to the major political parties…a concern for many including former US Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney.
“They bought the executive branch, they bought the legislative branch,” McKinney said.
Pro-Israel campaign contributions totaled nearly 12 million dollars in 2010, far higher than other major donors.
It is a fact that has made increasing the pressure on Israel a politically daunting prospect especially with elections 18 months away.
But with the need to show support for the Arab spring and reconciliation between the two Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah, U.S. leaders may be feeling the pressure to make a push – yet again.
Former US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Chas Freeman explained the US is involved in the process because they continue to provide Israel with aid and support. The involvement however has created instability for the US and Israel regionally and through global terrorism.
“Israel suffers from moral hazard,” he said. “Thereby making it almost physically impossible to have a two state solution.
He explained Israel’s actions and continued settlement expansions are carried out without regard to consequences or the future. This tactic makes a two state solution challenging and leads more towards an apartheid type regime.
Netanyahu and many American presidents have often supported a more apartheid type region where Palestinians have their own community, but not full statehood.
“There’s nothing new about this at all,” Freeman noted.
The power of the pro-Israel lobby is important in US politics. This presses candidates to bend towards Israel’s will. Obama is no exception.
While in Washington Netanyahu directly undermined Obama’s statements; this is how the relationship operates.
“Israeli leaders don’t feel any obligation to listen to the President, whoever he or she may be in the future, because they are always confident they can go to Capitol Hill and have the President overruled by Congress,” Freeman explained.
The pro-Israel lobby, Freeman argued rules by fear and uses their power to influence politics and defeat those in US politics who oppose their views.
“The rate of success in punishing candidates or politicians who take positions they don’t like is high enough it is very intimidating to people,” he added.