Erdogan: “Israel is the West’s Spoiled Child”

by James M. Wall

On Tuesday, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told an Arab League meeting in Cairo, Egypt, that a vote to accept a Palestinian state in the United Nations “is not a choice but an obligation.”

Later, on a Cairo television program, Erdogan declared: “Israel is the West’s spoiled child. To this day it has never executed a decision by the international community.”

The Turkish leader was on his second day of an “Arab Spring” tour which was obviously designed to gain Arab support for a Palestinian state application before the UN General Assembly, which meets in New York this week.

Both Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will state their positions in back to back addresses before the UN,  Friday, September 23, setting up a confrontation between “the West’s spoiled child” and a captive population fighting to escape from a military occupation.

So desperate was the US to avoid having to cast its usual pro-Israel veto in the Security Council against the Palestinian Authority/PLO application for UN membership, that it has twice dispatched its pro-Israel diplomatic team, David Hale and Dennis Ross, to Tel Aviv and Ramallah to “persuade” Abbas and Netanyahu to agree to return to negotiations.

The Hale-Ross effort was a failure from the start. The two envoys returned to the region two times, knowing full well that Netanyahu would not budge from his rejection of  two Palestinian preconditions for talks: Stop building settlements and start negotiations along the 1967 Green Line border, both positions advocated in previous statements by President Obama.

In his Friday, September 16, televised address from Ramallah, President Abbas ended speculation that the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (both of which he heads) might yield to US-Israeli pressure and go directly to the General Assembly, bypassing the Security Council where the Obama veto was waiting. That will not happen.  Abbas is going for broke.  He will present his request to the UN Security Council, fully aware that the US will veto the request.

Speaking to reporters in Ramallah, Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath said the plan delivered by U.S. envoys Hale and Ross did not meet the two Palestinian demands. This convinced President Abbas that the US was not serious in trying to negotiate peace.

“David Hale and Dennis Ross came with a paper that was the last straw that he [Abbas] could take,” Shaath said. “It seems that it was designed to be rejected.”

One problem the Palestinians had with the American proposal was that it “did not refer to disputed Israeli settlements as illegal, instead attributing their presence to demographic trends since 1967”.

This means that the two most recent Hale-Ross missions have failed, “forcing” President Obama to cast his Israel-lobby dictated, pro-Israel veto. It will not be the first veto President Obama has ordered to reject policies which Obama was on record supporting. The first Obama pro-Israel veto came February 18, blocking a resolution that condemned “Israeli settlements as an illegal obstacle to peace”.

Members of Obama’s own government have tried to alert the President to the danger of giving in to Israel’s every demand. Jeffrey Goldberg wrote recently for the Bloomberg web site that Robert M. Gates, the now-retired secretary of defense, warned Obama, directly, that Netanyahu was “an ungrateful ally”.

In a meeting of the National Security Council Principals Committee held not long before his retirement this summer, Gates coldly laid out the many steps the administration has taken to guarantee Israel’s security — access to top- quality weapons, assistance developing missile-defense systems, high-level intelligence sharing — and then stated bluntly that the U.S. has received nothing in return, particularly with regard to the peace process.

Senior administration officials told me that Gates argued to the president directly that Netanyahu is not only ungrateful, but also endangering his country by refusing to grapple with Israel’s growing isolation and with the demographic challenges it faces if it keeps control of the West Bank. According to these sources, Gates’s analysis met with no resistance from other members of the committee.

When Obama casts his second pro-Israel veto, his action will further damage the President’s standing as an international leader. The glory days of his Cairo speech are over.  The veto will also move the issue to a larger stage, the UN General Assembly, where at last count, there are more than enough voting members who agree with President Erdogan that a vote in favor of admitting Palestine to the UN as a non-voting state “is not a choice but an obligation.”

The veto and the GA vote will guarantee that US prestige in the region, and indeed, around the world, will drop even further. And, what really distresses Israel,  once in possession of a non-voting membership status in the UN, Palestine receives the right to haul Israel and its leaders before the International Court of Justice.

As a result, Israeli officials will be reluctant to travel to any foreign nation, except the US, for fear of finding an ICJ official waiting for them,  subpoenas in hand.

This is not a good time for Obama to alienate an important part of his political “base”, those progressive and liberal voters, already disenchanted by Obama’s Bush-like foreign policy, who will find it difficult to wage a second Obama campaign of “change we can believe in”.

Few from that base are likely to vote for a Republican nominee for president, especially if the nominee is a product of the Christian Right. It is also true that Obama’s liberal/progressive base does not produce anything like the dollars AIPAC generates

When the US casts that veto at the UN, Obama will be rejecting an important segment of those progressive supporters who, in 2008, walked the streets for him and brought voters to the polls because they believed he would be a different kind of president. The PEPs (Progressive except on Palestine) won’t care, but peace and justice volunteers will.

By sticking with his “spoiled child” ally, Obama also further reduces the influence he once coveted in the Middle East. The new power states in the region are Egypt and Turkey, both of which were once Israel’s strongest allies in the Middle East.

If enough voting UN members yield to the US-Israel pressure and delay or prevent a Palestinian entry into its UN non-voting state status at the General Assembly, Turkey’s President Erdogan has already indicated that Turkey will refer the legality of Israel’s Gaza blockade to The Hague. According to Ha’aretz:

Edogan’s comments came a week after Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu first indicated that Turkey was to appeal the International Court of Justice in The Hague as soon as next week in order to probe the legality of Israel’s naval blockade on the Gaza Strip, saying that Turkey could not “accept the blockade on Gaza.”

“We cannot say that the blockade aligns with international law,” he said, adding that the stance taken by the Palmer Commission Report was the author’s “personal opinion, one which does not correspond with Turkey’s position.”

There are dissenting voices within Israeli society that support the Palestinians on this issue. Gideon Levy, veteran Israeli moderate and Haaretz columnist, asked in a recent column:

What will we tell the world next week at the UN? What could we say? Whether in the General Assembly or the Security Council, we will be exposed in all our nakedness: Israel does not want a Palestinian state. Period. And it doesn’t have a single persuasive argument against the establishment and the international recognition of such a state.

So what will we say, that we’re opposed? Four prime ministers, Benjamin Netanyahu among them, have said that they’re in favor, that it must be accomplished through negotiations, so why haven’t we done it yet? Is our argument that we object to it’s being a unilateral measure? What’s more unilateral than the settlements that we insist on continuing to build?

Paul Woodward asks in a posting on his blog, War in Context, “How Can Israel Survive Without Growing Up?” His conclusion:

And thus we see the contradiction which is Israel — forever pumping itself up, flexing its muscles and showing its neighbors that no one should risk messing with the mighty Zionist state, yet all the while knowing that without the protection of the United States, Israel’s survival would depend on a revolutionary transformation.

Absent American protection, Israel, for the first time, would have to seriously take on the challenge of getting along with its neighbors and not, as it has for the last two decades, simply use diplomacy as a facade behind which it can pursue its policies of territorial expansion.

Is the “West’s spoiled child” ready to grow up? And is the United States ready to see that its own patronage is what has allowed the Jewish state to trap itself in such a prolonged adolescence?

There is no way that a Republican president would do anything other than continue to enable Israel in its behavior as the “spoiled child of the West”. It therefore, remains for our incumbent Democratic president to put a stop to this knee-jerk Israel indulgence, either in this term, or in his second term.

The president should start by, first, firing those members of his White House team who have consistently favored Israel in his current and in previous administrations. He must fire the team that put him in the position of contradicting himself not once, but twice in seven months, by vetoing resolutions he supports.

In the city of  Washington, the President will have no problem finding experienced and able replacements who not only understand the difference between “illegal Israeli settlements” and “demographic trends since 1967”, but who grasp that difference both intellectually and existentially.

The picture of Turkey’s President Recip Tahyyip Erdogan is from the Associated Press.

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall, since it was launched April 27, 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 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. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
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18 Responses to Erdogan: “Israel is the West’s Spoiled Child”

  1. Noushin Framke says:

    If nothing else, this UN bid for statehood will wrest this out of US/Israeli hands and place it where it belongs: real diplomacy in the UN arena. For this reason alone, the Palestinians can’t lose.

  2. judy neunuebel says:

    There’s no chance Obama will take the wise advice of firing members of his team who favor Israel with an election coming up so soon.

  3. Roy Hayes says:

    President Obama is an advocate for change. Let’s pray for a miracle. Perhaps at the last minute he will change his mind about using the veto.

  4. Exceptionally clear and rightfully tough! What do you think about Cynthia Tucker’s clear and tough analysis of the 9th district vote in New York City?

    She made it verbally as part of an MSNBC panel last week, namely, that the surprise of a Republican victory in the special election has everything to do with the Jewish “gotcha” response to the uncharacteristically tepid support of Israel’s settlement policy by the Obama administration. What more is to come, thanks to the Zionists? A Tea Party president next time around?

    Maybe Tucker has written more in The Atlanta Constitution, but chances are she was silenced. Along with any similarly frank analysis.

    Janet V. Gunn

  5. Sam Jennings says:

    Americans need to sign a petition for Palestinian statehood.

  6. Florence Steichen says:

    Yes, indeed, let’s pray that Obama willl change his mind and see that an abstention is probably his best choice now IF he cannot bring himself to vote FOR the resolution..

    Remember Shakespeare: ” more things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.”

    Florence Steichen

  7. UmerSultan says:

    I feel no need to write on this topic, you have addressed it very well. So, I will share it everywhere now. Thanks James.

    Peace be on you.

  8. Kathy Matsushima says:

    A few years back as a candidate for president, Mr. Obama carefully explained why he abstained (or refused to vote) in the IL Senate several times, even when the majority voted in favor of something. I pray that he will find the courage to remember and do that again. Prayer is powerful.

  9. Bob Reynolds says:

    It’s long past time for the Palestinians to have their chance to lead a peaceful normal lives without checkpoints or being locked up in an open air prision as in Gaza. America professes to be for peace, freedom and democracy: Now is the time to prove we realy practice what we say we believe. Or will the percieved need to placate the Israelis override what is fair and just. I love the line by Rabbi Hillel, where in answer to a questioner asking him to sum up the meaning of the Torah, the Rabbi replies, “What is hurtful to you do not do unto your neighbor, now go and study.”

  10. Martin Bailey says:

    Thanks for highlighting Erdogan’s “spoiled child” theme. Indeed! We’ve prevented Israel from growing up. And what do we have for our millions of dollars–billions by this time? Netanyahu is nothing if not a “spoiled brat.”

    The United States, also, needs to grow up in the global arena. We can’t always demand to have our way. Hard as it will be on us, we need to face the music and see that world public opinion can’t be bought or sweet talked. It requires consistency in speech and making a strong position clear to friends and foe alike.

    We do Israel no favor with this veto.

  11. Awad Paul Sifri says:

    Thank you, Jim. Notice how mainstream US media keeps on referring, in unison (by AIPAC design), to President Obama’s “V-O-W” to veto a Palestinian State application. But the same media does not refer to Obama’s speach advocating a Palestinian State, in 2011, and based on the 1967 borders, as a “Vow”.
    The fake rationale, imposed by Israel on the US superpower, is that “only direct negotiations” can lead to a Palestinian State.
    Palestinian President Abbas has already refuted Israel’s fakery, by stating that negotiations will be the first priority of a Palestinian State.
    Netanyahu wants “negotiations” for only one purpose: To build more illegal Israeli settlements and import more illegal and violent American and Russian settlers in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
    Abbas is right to go to the UN Security Council, no matter what happens. Any results will be better than the stagnant slavery Palestinians are enduring

    President Obama has the choice of upholding US interests, to which he is sworn, or supporting tyrannical Israeli Apartheid in the Holy Land.

  12. MIchael Spath says:

    As usual, James is right on the money. Our Indiana Center for Middle East Peace hosted Stephen Zunes in Fort Wayne awhile back and as critical as he was of Obama’s tepid, at best, support of Palestinian aspirations, he laid part of the blame on us, rightly so, I believe, when he said that “there needs to be a critical mass of the population to give President Obama ‘permission’ to do what he believes in his heart is right but that he can’t politically afford.” I believe that this is sage advice; hence, those of us in the just peace network need to continually step up our game, especially in the progressive churches (a good example of this is the recent Presbyterian decision on divestment – thanks to Noushin Framke and others).

    Michael Spath

  13. Lucy Janjigian says:

    I believe the Palestinians should be treated with respect. They deserve to have their place at the UN and to have a voice in their future. They need to have their country, their human rights, and their freedom. They have been living in an Apartheid State under military occupation for far too long with illegal settlements, house eviction and house demolition surrounding them. It is high time he world sees their tragic plight and nations support their request to implement Justice for Peace to reign. Lucy janjigian

  14. Harris Fawell says:

    Jim: Unfortunately, President Obama does not have the political courage to do anything but buckle under to the to policies of Benjamin Natenyahu. He is so fearful of Israel and the political consequences.of standing up to Israel. It is a very sad story. Harris Fawell, Member of Congress (retired in 19998).

  15. Fadwa says:

    Thanks James for your analysis, and thanks to all who responded positively to the plight of the Palestinian Nation to a democratic state on their own land. President Obama or any of his advisors should go as disguised tourists to occupied Palestine and see the difference in life human beings living under the Zionist occupation, and visit the other side
    of West Palestine where the other human beings are living in a mighty heaven. Let that tourist cross the bridge westward and watch the human saga, and let the tourist wait at the check points for the flash light of a young Isreali soldier to control masses of human being from going to where they want to with humiliation, no water, no WC at the check point, and who dares to leave his car to ask for mercy on the suffering children, the sick and eldery to relieve them or to let them go to the nearest hospital.

    Let the tourist go to Al Aqsa Mosque and see how people are forbidden from praying for Peace, and finally let that tourist show his American pasport and say “We Americans support you , and he will be met with an ungrateful answer like that of the Ungraetful Nat. Hu. This should happen before the Palestinians submit their application for their rightful right. By the way was not Israel created by the UN? If the trip happens then Presiden Obama or his disguised advisor should ask not only for Mercy on the Palestinians but VOTE For a Palestinian State. One hopes that these posted messages and worold opinions reach to Mr. President.

  16. Bill Gepford says:

    Very well stated Jim. As I have always said, What are we (President Obama) afraid of? If we can get an answer to that question,maybe, just maybe, the Palestinian people will finally get their just due!

  17. yvonne Turner says:

    I feel betrayed by Obama’s unwillingness to stand up to PM Natenyahu.
    What have we accomplished by supporting Israel? The wrath of the Arab world and a low standing among many nations. How can such a small country have us by the tail? Our voices for freedom for Palestinians must become louder.

  18. Likud’s own platform, easily accessible on their webpage, will not recognize a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River. Which means the nation, Jordan is the Palestinian state as far as Likud is concerned. To continue the tired old saw of continuing negotiations is to continue settlement expansion. What we are witnessing is analogous to the settlement of the US by the Europeans who simply shoved the native indigenous peoples onto reservations.

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