In the latest Palestinian-Israeli peace talks the USA is serious about talking, but not about peace. Israel is serious about peace and talking, but not the kind that will benefit Palestinians, only the kind that will buy them more time to build more illegal settlements. Where does this leaves us who advocate for a just peace?
John Kerry looks on as Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat shake hands. (Photo: CNN)
The USA’s carefully honed public image is that of a wise, morally sound brother who wants to make the world a better place. Like a business with a branding strategy, they are methodical and deliberate in managing these perceptions. To mind comes the vibrant, attractive man who recently inspired audiences in South Africa with his insistence on human rights and self-determination. I am talking about US President Obama on his recent visit to my country.
Photo: The Guardian)
I really wanted to like Obama and in fact initially I did ….. until I realised the discrepancy between what he says and what he does.
When Obama talks about “human rights”, he does not refer to these rights as defined in international law. The US administration does not insist that these laws apply to all countries and all people. In fact, the USA consistently vetoes those UN resolutions that aim to hold Israel accountable to international human rights and humanitarian laws (there are many of them – see the list on Wikipedia). In addition, the USA administration sponsors Israel annually with billions of US dollars.
Article 49 of the Geneva Convention specifies that an oppressor (in this case Israel) may not transfer its civilians to the occupied territory. Phyllis Bennis (Institute for Policy Studies, USA) who also recently visited South Africa, explained as follows:
If the USA were serious about peace, Bennis said, they would tell Israel: Stop building your settlements on Palestinian land (granted, the USA has done it many times).
When Israel then responds by refusing (like they have been doing all along) a serious USA would then stop (1) their funding of the State of Israel and (2) their protection of Israel in the United Nations.
But the USA says and does none of this. Instead they continue to fund and protect Israel. It makes one think, doesn’t it? What’s in it for the USA?
When the peace talks fail (because chances are good that Israel’s “peace proposal” will not take cognisance of applicable international law) the United States Congress will shrug their shoulders and the world will continue to think that it is impossible to get peace in the Middle East even with the gracious help of the US. This will then clear the way for both Israel and the USA to continue to get what they want: grab land (Israel) and gain power and resources (the USA).
The US does not care what happens to Palestine as there is simply “nothing in it” for them – no oil, no gold, no diamonds. This big brother is only interested in its own agenda. They care for Israel as they value what Israel can do for them (their dirty work) whilst the Americans maintain a nice image and expand their power and financial foothold worldwide.
Bennis remarked that Kerry once more prefers the usual formulation as the US position…
…always formed as one word, “atwostatesolutionwithswaps”. Right. A two-state solution with “swaps” means Israel gets to permanently annex its city-sized settlement blocs in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, keep most of the 600,000 or so illegal settlers there, and maintain control of virtually all of Palestine’s water sources, while “swapping” some non-arable desert land probably abutting the Gaza Strip. And of course Kerry forgot to mention that the Arab peace plan also required a “just” solution of the refugee problem based on UN resolution 194 insuring Palestinian refugees the right to return and compensation. And a few other things Kerry probably just forgot. Great deal…
Why would Israel want to talk? Because it wins more time for them to demolish Palestinian houses, to confiscate Palestinian land and to build illegal Israeli settlements.
As for the US, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports:
Fears of fierce battle within the UN General Assembly between Israelis and Palestinians in September was one of the primary reasons for the sense of urgency to renew negotiations between the two sides, a senior White House official said during a press briefing on Wednesday.
I guess the US does not want to enter into yet another round of discussions in the UN now that the EU clearly stated their position on the illegality of the Israeli settlements.
Where does this leaves us?
With regard to Israel, we need to strengthen our Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions initiatives against Israel’s systemic violations of international law…..and we are….
With regard to the United States….I simply don’t know. The picture of a planet where a world leader’s president (awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace) talks selectively about human rights and dignity as it suits his administration… AND gets away with it…. is bleak.
We cannot, and should not, remain quiet.