الرئيسية » هاني المصري »   31 آذار 2013

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هاني المصري

He expressed total support for Israel and promised not to pressure the Israelis while calling on the Israeli people to urge their leaders to take risks for the sake of peace. For the Palestinians however, he only had words with no practical steps to back them up – save for providing the Palestinian Authority with enough financial aid to help it continue to play its designated role according to the agreements signed with Israel, and to dissuade it from taking unilateral steps.

Obama came to the region with a strong message saying that America stands foursquare behind Israel, and that it can only agree to what the Israelis themselves agree to. This shows that on his second term, Obama is determined to atone for the sin he committed in his first: demanding that Israel freeze all settlement activity and promising the Palestinians their own state by 2011.

In the first foreign trip of his second term in office, Obama wanted to show that neither his black skin nor his Muslim roots nor indeed his past friendship with some Palestinians made him any more sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. In fact, his rhetoric was Zionist to the hilt. Obama appeared more supportive of Israel than any of his predecessors, so much so that he publicly embraced the Zionist myth about the founding of Israel, saying that 'Israel was founded in the promised land as a fulfilment of a divine promise made many thousands of years ago’ – and not, as he said in Cairo in 2009, as a result of the Holocaust.
He went on to say that, 'The United States, as the most powerful country in the world, is committed to Israel's security forever,’ despite the fact that it (Israel) is 'The most powerful state in the region,’ and that Washington is committed to defending Israel and ensuring its superiority over all the Arab countries combined.
Obama came to Israel and told the Israelis that he was with them to the hilt, and that his attempt to strike a limited form of balance was no more. He has apparently learnt his lesson, and would never again try to pressure Israel. One response to Obama came from Israeli writer Gideon Levy, who said that, 'Israeli occupation, like all occupations, will never be reversed unless rivers of blood are shed or unless the U.S. President exerts meaningful pressure on Israel.’ Yet Obama chose to counsel rather than pressure Israel, which puts the Palestinians at the mercy of the most hard-line government in Israel's history should they agree to resume peace talks unconditionally.
While Obama did express some sympathy with the plight of the Palestinian people, he did not back it up with practical measures. When he mentioned Palestinian statehood, he conveniently forgot to say that a future Palestinian state should be viable, should be recognized, and should enjoy sovereignty within the borders of 1967.
In fact, when he called for the establishment of a Palestinian state, he did so not because it is a right of the country's original inhabitants but because it would be in Israel's interests as, 'Continued settlement would eventually lead to an Arab majority in the Jewish state.’ The only way Israel can continue to prosper as a Jewish and democratic state therefore is the establishment of an independent and viable Palestinian state.
But Obama made the establishment of a Palestinian state conditional on the Palestinians' recognizing Israel as the state of the Jewish people – knowing very well that doing so would abrogate the Palestinians' historic rights in their own country, leaving them under threat of discrimination and expulsion at the hands of 'The biblical heroes who made the desert bloom.’
And in a telling sign of the true objectives of his visit, Obama poured oil on the fire of Palestinian divisions by comparing 'The growth and prosperity in the West Bank with the squalor and oppression in Gaza, the result of Hamas' refusal to renounce violence and its stated determination to destroy Israel.’ This shows that the American veto against Palestinian reconciliation still stands.
Obama also called on the Palestinians to resume peace talks with no preconditions – including a settlement freeze. He urged Arab countries to normalize relations with Israel before a peace settlement is reached in order to reassure the Israelis, especially after the advent of the Arab spring. Moreover, he refused to lay a wreath at Yasser Arafat's grave despite his being only meters away – and despite the fact that it was Arafat who signed the Oslo accords on the White House lawn and was rewarded with the Nobel peace prize.
By contrast, Obama placed wreaths on the graves of Theodore Herzl and Yitzhak Rabin (Arafat's partner in the 'Peace of the brave'). So eager was he to kowtow to the Israelis that he refused to receive a letter written by the daughter of a Palestinian prisoner detailing the prisoners' suffering in Israeli jails. Obama met with only eight Palestinian youths, while he made a speech to thousands of Israeli university students.
In addition, Obama agreed with Binyamin Netanyahu on how best to deal with the Iranian nuclear program, and with the potential threats emanating from Syria, including the possibility of chemical weapons falling in the hands of enemies of Israel. Finally, he put the finishing touches on reconciliation between Turkey and Israel, thus ensuring that the Arab spring becomes an American-Israeli spring.
Regarding the Palestinian cause, Obama expended much effort to revive the so-called 'peace process.' He ordered his secretary of state to do what it takes to kick start peace talks with the understanding that negotiations would focus on borders – or, at best, a silent moratorium on settlement expansion that avoids provocative acts especially in [East Jerusalem’s] Area E1 – as well as the release of prisoners and financial support for the PA. In exchange, the Palestinians are expected to continue respecting their commitments especially regarding security cooperation with Israel, stop all forms of 'incitement' against Israel, and abandon their plans to go to the UN Security Council and gain membership of the International Criminal Court 'for whatever reason,’ as Obama made clear to President Abbas.
In order for these American efforts to succeed, Washington is actively urging Arab countries to normalize ties with Israel and encourage the Palestinians to resume peace talks by amending the Arab peace initiative of 2002 to include the principle of land swaps. This would destroy the condition of withdrawal to the lines of 1967. Other amendments the Americans are calling for include regional cooperation with Israel to commence before peace is established, as well as alterations to provisions regarding Jerusalem and refugees.
In short, the Arab peace initiative is to be turned into an Israeli initiative with Arab cover designed to give the impression of solving the Palestinian cause – but in fact dissolving it. What the Palestinians must beware of is that Obama and his secretary of state might try to exploit the current upheaval in the Arab world to liquidate the Palestinian cause under the guise of establishing 'a non-state' according to Israel's conditions.
Do the Palestinians understand what is in store for them and refuse to participate yet again in a futile round of talks, which Israel would use to gain time to complete its colonialist and racist plans?
Twenty years after the catastrophic Oslo agreements were signed, the Palestinians would be insane, not to mention defeatist, if they agree to take part in any form of bilateral talks again.