Obama Regrets, Bibi Fights, Fayyad Has a Program

by James M. WallSalam Fayyad Two

Previous U.S. presidents offered “regrets” for Israeli actions so many times the phrase entered the Middle East diplomatic playbook as a signal to Israel: “Build, baby, build”.

A close reading of Spokesman Robert Gibbs’ response to Israel’s decision to start construction on 455 additional housing units in the West Bank suggests this White House follows its “regrets” with sterner language.

In his White House statement Gibbs said:

We regret the reports of Israel’s plans to approve additional settlement construction.  Continued settlement activity is inconsistent with Israel’s commitment under the Roadmap.

As the President has said before, the United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement expansion and we urge that it stop.  We are working to create a climate in which negotiations can take place, and such actions make it harder to create such a climate.

The Israeli statement (which comes from the Defense ministry, not the Housing ministry) is precise as to the housing units in specific settlements.

Translation: “President Obama, you can demand all the freezing you like, but this is an Israeli “security” decision. It has long been on our planning board, down to construction in the individual settlements in Fortress Israel which we have no intention of ever giving up.”

In the Jerusalem Post story, the Defense Ministry makes the Israeli settlements sound like military units, adding strength for future warfare, describing the West Bank as “Judea and Samaria”, names from Israel’s ancient warrior king past.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak approved on Sunday evening the construction of 455 new housing units in Judea and Samaria settlements, a Defense Ministry statement confirmed on Monday morning.

The Gush Etzion settlement of Har Gilo, which is just south of Jerusalem, will receive a major boost to its population with 149 units winning the ministry’s approval.

Ma’aleh Adumim received a boost of 89 new units. The haredi city of Modi’in Illit will see an additional 84 units, the Agan Ha’ayalot neighborhood of Givat Ze’ev is to grow by 76 units, and the small settlement Kedar, which is near Ma’aleh Adumim, has received Barak’s okay for 25 new units.

The defense minister also approved 20 units in Maskiot in the Jordan Valley, and 12 additional units in the veteran Gush Etzion settlement Alon Shvut.

Bibi Netanyahu has his units in place as he gears for his fight with the new American president. Working very much in Bibi’s favor is the pending defeat of Obama’s health care bill. A weakened American president is Bibi’s preferred opponent.

In his confrontation with Obama, Netanyahu will rely on additional backing from his right wing American political allies, supportive units growing in their own arrogance, trained and funded by the Israel Lobby.

What keeps those U.S. units in fighting strength in the battle against the American president? Training trips to Israel, of course.

Philip Giraldi reports in a September 3 posting on the Anti-War site, that 13% of the U.S. House of Representatives spent part of their summer recess in Israel, all expenses paid by AIPAC:

Hoyer croppedMany Americans who thought that the health care debate was important must have wondered where their congressmen were in early August during the first two weeks of the House of Representatives recess.

It turns out they were not hosting town hall meetings or listening to constituents because many of them were in Israel together with their spouses on a trip paid for by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Fully 13% of the entire US House of Representatives, 56 members, traveled to Israel in the largest AIPAC-sponsored fact-finding visit by American politicians ever conducted.

And the leaders of the two congressional groups, 25 Republicans for a week starting on August 2nd followed by 31

House Minority whip Eric Cantor headed the Republican group and House Majority leader Steny Hoyer (pictured at left above) led the Democrats.

All those supportive warriors from the U.S. Congress bolstered Bibi and his Defense Minister in their “build baby, build” fight with the President of the United States.

The presence of such a large army on Israeli soil from the U.S. Congress, provide Bibi and Ehud with false hope. Signs are emerging that “truth crushed to earth” is rising again.

Signs, for example,  like the column in the Washington Post, September 6, which former President Jimmy Carter wrote after he returned from a trip he made to Israel and Palestine.

The column was praised by Philip Weiss on his Mondoweiss blog.

I bash the Washington Post op-ed page all the time. Well today they do an important service, publishing the great Jimmy Carter, summing up his four recent trips to the Middle East, the last as a member of the “Elders,” a group of statesmen who are trying to calm the waters.

In this piece, Carter acknowledges a reality that Barack Obama, Rahm Emanuel and progressive Zionists too are resisting, but that Netanyahu/Sharon/Olmert/Barak have established, a single state between the river and the sea and, yes, a struggle for democracy and an end to the dream of a Jewish state.

Is Israel ready to deal with the long range implications of the One State Solution?

A Palestinian population rapidly approaching equality in numbers with Israeli Jewish citizens will not accept second-class status in a One State of Israel.

Traveling with Jimmy Carter on his trip with the Elders, Bishop Desmond Tutu was a living testimony that a democratic State can only succeed if all its citizens receive equal treatment.

Tutu’s presence on the Elders trip was also a vivid reminder that a world economic boycott and divestment campaign does work. Even Bibi and Ehud know what happened to the white minority South African government.

The anger the word “apartheid” stirs in right wing U.S. and Israeli circles testifies to nothing less than fear of the truth.

Another encouraging sign is the program Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad (pictured above) has developed, a lengthy document describing a future Palestinian state alongside Israel, with borders along the 1967 Green Line.

In his Post column, President Carter referred to the Fayyad program. Javier Solana, secretary general of the Council of the European Union, for the United Nations is a strong supporter of the two-state solution:

. . . Solana proposes that the United Nations recognize the pre-1967 border between Israel and Palestine, and deal with the fate of Palestinian refugees and how Jerusalem would be shared.

Palestine would become a full U.N. member and enjoy diplomatic relations with other nations, many of which would be eager to respond. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad described to us [the Elders traveling with Carter] his unilateral plan for Palestine to become an independent state.

Fayyad’s program was published under the optimistic title, “Palestine: Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State.” It was described in the Huffington Post by Palestinian Journalist Daoud Kuttub, as “brilliant”:

Palestinians have finally started to act in a different way. Instead of cursing the occupation, the new strategy is aimed at building up the desired Palestinian state.

The idea is to force the Israelis to the negotiating table rather than beg them to come. The way to do that is to work for a state as if there were negotiations. This idea has been brilliantly developed by the Palestinian prime minister.

Salam Fayyad proposal for the de facto creation of a Palestinian state within two years is a brilliant idea that is hard to ignore or oppose it.

Fayyad’s blueprint includes plans to end the Palestinian economy’s dependence on Israel, unify the legal system and downsize the government. The idea, submitted by him after weeks of meetings with his ministers and staff, also involves building infrastructure, harnessing natural energy sources and water, and improving housing, education and agriculture.

As a recent London Guardian column puts it: “If you build it, the state will come”.

An established Palestinian state would force Israel to give up the settlements it has established as a “security” barrier, but which, in fact, is nothing less than forced Palestinian ethnic cleansing.

Israel’s right wing politicians are engaging in a security-obsessed death dance which the nation’s economic stability cannot survive. It needs a stable Palestine as a neighbor.

The Court of World Opinion has turned against Israel, a reality Israel’s politicians ignore. A state initially built on religious principles has became so obsessed with security and ethnic cleansing, that its ethical idealism has been replaced by nation state arrogance.

Israel’s right wing politicians do not seem to care, but more pragmatic Israeli economic leaders recognize this erosion of national ethical standards as a serious threat to Israel’s future.

Richard Silverstein, writing in his blog Tikun Olam, calls attention to the impact economic divestment has in Israel.

Silverstein points to an Ha’aretz story, in which Dov Weissglas, former advisor and bureau chief to prime minister Ariel Sharon claims that Sharon, before his career ended,  had recognized the power of the European Union to enforce divestment.

In a September 6 speech. reported in Ha’aretz, Weissglas said:

Israel had been ignoring the European Union and European Economic Area (EEA) demand that it mark such products out of “national pride, and based on the position that all our producers are citizens of Israel, and we must not yield to the political discrimination Europe was demanding.”

“This pride evaporated when Sharon learned that millions of dollars worth of goods had been returned by Marks & Spencer.

Divestment is working. Are you paying attention, you American denominations, with your own obsession with “relationships” over justice?

Ilan Pappe reports in the Electronic Intafada, on a second major divestment blow that has shaken Israeli’s economic community.

The Norwegian government has withdrawn its investments in the Israeli hi-tech company Elbit (due to the latter’s involvement in the construction and maintenance of the apartheid wall). Pappe writes:

We have to keep a proportional view on this: only one section of Elbit, Elbit Systems, was affected. But the significance is not about who was targeted, but rather who took the decision: the Norwegian ministry of finance through its ethical council.

No less important was the manner in which it was taken: the minister herself announced the move in a press conference.

A major British company, and the Norwegian ministry of finance, are hitting Israel where it hurts, in its world image as a democracy and in its economic dealings with the world.

Does Bibi Netanyahu care? We do not know.  But we do know he is still acting as a politician following a decades-old ethnic cleansing plan.

The question Americans must raise is whether or not Barack Obama is prepared to make bold moves toward forcing Israel to halt its rapid spiral into world isolation.

Obama did not handle health care with anything like the skill he demonstrated in his campaign for the presidency. As a result he is facing a disastrous defeat by Republican senators and Blue Dog Democrats in Congress.

If Obama follows his same path of health care caution in dealing with Israel, he will lose his fight with Bibi.

Now is the time for Barack Obama to stand up to Bibi Netanyahu and his right wing American congressional and media allies.

He must confront them with the harsh truth that Israel can no longer count on Obama administration support for Israeli actions that destroy a peaceful, secure future for both Palestinians and Israelis.

Time is running out, Mr. President.

About wallwritings

James M. Wall is currently a Contributing Editor of The Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, Illinois. From 1972 through 1999, he was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine. Jim launched this new personal blog April 24, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to jameswall8@gmail.com Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years.
This entry was posted in Middle East. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Obama Regrets, Bibi Fights, Fayyad Has a Program

  1. Bill Gepford says:

    AS has been known for decades, the state of Israel has been only able to exist by the American tax-payer largess. It is past the time when our government should tell Israel that the billions of dollars we send to Israel every year (largely with no conditions) is going to stop until Israel starts taking responsibility for its share of the chaos we call the Israel/Palestinian problem. During the last months of the Bush administration, a “Memorandum of Understanding was agreed to with Israel in which Israel would receive 30 billion dollars, parceled out over the next ten years. What was in that MOU? Israel needs to become a mature adult in the international halls of governance and stop its childish rages every time some one doesn’t agree with it. I believe that there are Israeli Jews who are ready to move in that direction.

  2. Sam Jones says:

    The point and following question, “Divestment is working. Are you paying attention, you American denominations, with your own obsession with ‘relationships’ over justice?,” should be repeating itself in the minds of the leadership of every U.S. Christian denonimation that claims to “seek peace and pursue it.”

  3. In 2002, Archbishop Tutu referred to Americans when he stated: “People are scared in this country to say wrong is wrong because the Jewish lobby is powerful—very powerful. Well, so what? The apartheid government was very powerful, but today it no longer exists.”

    Israel is the largest recipient of USA military aid, and it uses it to enforce its ILLEGAL occupation and commit human rights abuses against the indigenous people of the so called holy land-which is in pieces: bantustans!

    In 2002 White House Spokesperson Ari Fleischer described Israel’s missile strikes in Gaza City using U.S.A F-16 fighter jets as “a deliberate attack against a building in which civilians were known to be located” and that it was done with the knowledge “that innocents would be lost.”

    The U.S. Arms Export Control Act (U.S. Public Law 90-829) prohibits the use of U.S. weapons against civilian targets and although Palestinians have attacked Israeli civilians with their dirty bombs, those weapons were not provided by the USA.

    $$$ talks louder than words and the time is NOW for Uncle Sam to STOP sending our $$$ to the Jewish State.

    IMAGINE how many USA citizens could receive health care with the $3.4 BILLION that has gone to Israel annually; and btw-in 2007 the US and Israel signed a “Memorandum of Understanding” to increase military aid by 25% over the next decade!

  4. Margaret Johnston says:

    I urge the progressive and enlightened Obama administration to withhold the massive American taxpayer dollars we are sending to the Israeli government until the wall comes down and the building of illegal settlements is stopped.

  5. Pingback: Mired in Political Purgatory, PA Delays Elections « Wallwritings

  6. Pingback: Mired in Political Purgatory, Abbas Will Delay Elections « Wallwritings

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s