Movement for Palestinian State gains International Momentum, to Dismay of US Congress

Palestinian authorities on Thursday protested the resolution passed by the US congress on Wednesday condemning movement toward a unilateral declaration by Palestinians of a Palestinian state. The congressional resolution was actually fairly weak, showing the tensions between the US and the far rightwing government of Binyamin Netanyahu, since it did call for the establishment of a democratic Palestinian state, something Netanyahu privately opposes. Still, as usual, the US Congress is an outlier in world affairs on the Palestine issue, typically adopting stances that are often to the right of Israel’s own more liberal parties. Even Israeli military personnel have complained bitterly about having been dragooned into being a harsh occupying force in the West Bank. And, of course, the US Congress is increasingly irrelevant, since it is implicitly abetting Israeli footdragging and continued illegal colonization of the West Bank.

The Congressional resolution came as a result of lobbying by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, an umbrella group that directs PAC money to congressional campaigns and has been known to viciously punish any congressman who defies it by throwing money instead to his or her opponent in the next election. Since the constituents of most congressmen don’t really care what happens in the Mideast, many just take the money and sign the AIPAC-crafted resolution. This AIPAC move comes in response to the Palestine Authority’s own internationalization of its diplomatic push on the Netanyahu government to move forward in good faith with the implementation of the Oslo peace accords, which were signed by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and which envisaged Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza and the establishment of a Palestinian state. Netanyahu condemned Rabin’s signing of those accords, pledged to derail them, and has spent his political career ever since playing spoiler and ensuring that Palestinians continue to live under occupation or blockade and to have blighted lives. Netanyahu’s constituents include Israelis eager to foster colonies on Palestinian territory, either for religious or economic reasons.

The other side of the coin came Thursday when it was announced that Norway has upgraded the representation of the Palestine Authority in Oslo to that of an embassy, more or less declaring Palestine a state in the eyes of the Norwegian government. That is, the PA representative in Oslo is now categorized as an ambassador. Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere announced at a meeting with Palestine Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayad, “We should all cling to the vision of 2011 being the year when we can see a new state on the world stage: the Palestinian state.” Stoere stressed the need for improvements in Palestine Authority security forces and procedures, educational infrastructure, and in governance: “For that to happen, institutions need to be solid, governance needs to be transparent, security, schools, all these elements need to come in place.”

Norway’s action came after Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay finally joined about 100 other nations that have, over the years, recognized a Palestinian state within 1967 borders. The Palestine Authority is encouraging this move to international recognition, as a bargaining ploy with the Israeli authorities. Recognition by Norway, Brazil and Argentina is practically fairly useless as long as the brutal Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, and the Israeli strangulation of the Gaza economy via illegal blockade, continues.

The goal here may be to have a European Union recognition of the state of Palestine, and then go to the United Nations Security Council with a resolution establishing a Palestinian state by a date certain. Typically the United States has blocked such resolutions in the past (the five permanent members of the Security Council have veto powers). But it is not impossible that the Obama administration, angered by being rebuffed in its diplomacy with Netanyahu, might abstain, allowing the rest of the UNSC to pass the resolution. For the PA to rack up virtual unanimity in the world on this issue would give momentum to a UN resolution. Moreover, Israel would be at risk of financial and legal repercussions if it defied the UNSC (such defiance was after all the legal basis put forward by the Bush administration for its war on Baathist Iraq).

Ultimately, the US Congress is correct that only a bilateral Israel-Palestine agreement is probably viable. But the congressional resolution, having been crafted and supported by Israel nationalists, did not ask the question of what would force the Israelis to the bargaining table. They have refused to stop colonizing the West Bank while negotiating with the Palestinian Authority over the disposition of… the West Bank. It is like you take a friend out and share a piece of cheese cake, and you talk with him about whether to split it in two or to give him a little more, and as you are talking with him you notice that he’s eaten the whole piece. The Palestinians, understandably enough, decline to give Israeli aggressive colonization of their territory the fig leaf of a ‘peace process.’

So the ball is in the court of the international community. The Obama administration tried to do the right thing, but has little leverage with Netanyahu. The US Congress, especially the new Republican-dominated lower house, would pass a resolution allowing Netanyahu to dine on Salam Fayad’s liver if Tel Aviv asked them to. The rest of the world is just not going to put up with century of Apartheid policies in the West Bank and Gaza, and will likely begin applying economic and diplomatic sanctions to Israel reminiscent of those once applied to white South Africa (and it should be remembered that the US, especially southern white congressmen, mostly opposed those pressures on South Africa, as well.)

14 Responses

  1. Israel knows that it cannot steal land that belongs to another country, so an independent Palestinian state will sadly not happen. The Israeli lobby will pounce on any US Congress person who even utters the words of an independent Palestinian state.

  2. “The Obama administration tried to do the right thing, but has little leverage with Netanyahu”. No it has not tried to do the right thing. I agree that it has little leverage with Netanyahu because it has never tried to leverage Netanyahu. The Obama administration has lain prostrate on the floor so Natanyahy can walk all over it and kissed Netanayahu’s rectum and repeatedly since elected.
    “only a bilateral Israel-Palestine agreement is probably viable”. Nonsense. Israel does not want an agreement as it is not in it’s interests to have one and the occupier is supported to the tune of billions of dollars by the US who does nothing but support what ever Israel wants to do to the occupied and surrouding countries. The end of the occupation of the Occupied Territories by Israel needs a peace process forced on it by the UN and monitored by UN troops in Israel with rules of engagement orders allowing them to controll the Israel armed forces.

    • “The Obama administration tried to do the right thing, ….”

      I wonder when people will finally recognize that what Obama and the Dems do is a show. It was so with the tax cut bill, with the so called health care reform bill (they never even tried to get a real competition, be it public option or medicare-like), with the bank bailout bill…. Just a show an bluster…. People will disagree with me but I see no real difference between the two parties. Actually the Dems have a harder job because they have to do the same thing as the Repubs but have to put up a front that they are different.

  3. JJ I agree but it is nice other countries are tired of waiting and will move on without us. Israel will not change it’s way until Amerika cuts the flow of $$$$$$$$$$$

  4. “The rest of the world is just not going to put up with century of Apartheid policies in the West Bank and Gaza, and will likely begin applying economic and diplomatic sanctions to Israel.”

    I so hope you are right…and soon.

    And to JJ above….so jump on your congresperps..the fax and phone are your friend…let them have it.

    • I hope more people do share their opinion with their elected reps. I have had no success with both of my Senators Klobuchar and Al Franken. Neither of them would even acknowledge my hand written letters, when the topic is Israeli policy. I have had better luck with my House member Betty McCollum though. Good luck.

  5. “Typically the United States has blocked such resolutions in the past (the five permanent members of the Security Council have veto powers). But it is not impossible that the Obama administration, angered by being rebuffed in its diplomacy with Netanyahu, might abstain, allowing the rest of the UNSC to pass the resolution.”

    It is not impossible, true. It is also not impossible that I’ll win the lottery and be a millionaire in the morning.

    I think the prospect of winning the lottery is more likely. When has the Obama administration shown any real backbone in dealing with Israel?

  6. Quote for the day –

    “The US Congress, especially the new Republican-dominated lower house, would pass a resolution allowing Netanyahu to dine on Salam Fayad’s liver if Tel Aviv asked them to.”

  7. “But it is not impossible that the Obama administration, angered by being rebuffed in its diplomacy with Netanyahu, might abstain [on a UN vote].”

    Perhaps not impossible, but seemingly very unlikely. In this matter Democrats can be expected to join Republicans and put a lot of pressure on Obama to veto. And Obama The Capitulator will do what comes naturally and give in. Really on this issue (and not just this one) the administration is a write-off.

  8. Interesting and timely commentary.

    But when you look at things like this

    link to youtube.com

    Where the hypocrisy of the US Government concerning human rights in Israel is laid bare.

    And then this interview on the BBC with Barak:

    link to news.bbc.co.uk

    One wonders what is the real charade going on with the USA and Israel? As Barak says:

    “America keeps giving military aid to Israel…making sure there is a qualitative edge for our defense forces….we represent the west surrounded by an ocean of different kinds of systems….I don’t think it (the money flow from the USA) is going to disappear….”

    Could it be that it is more than effective lobbying and message control in a ignorant and once rich country? Could there be things we simply do not understand that explain why the US will lay prostrate against its own interest?

    Are there interest here at stake we are not aware of?

  9. Obama is POTUS. He has more power than any other person on earth. He could have Bibi captured, drawn, quartered and water boarded and no one would be able to prevent it. At best, there might be a mild protest from a few places on earth. I suspect that for most people on earth, there would be loud cheering.

    In other words, Obama could fix this whole problem overnight, BUT he has chosen to just let it fester.

    Unfortunately, because of the lack of will by all the POTUS for the last 65+ years, the US will pay a terrible price when the ME explodes, which it will withing the next 15 years.

    Israel was a really, really bad “solution” to a very real refugee problem at the end of WW2 and that mistake is going to eventually hurt the US a lot.

  10. Is Israel really calling the shots? It seems to me the biggest factor is American domestic politicking without regard to Israeli interests. Decades of American interference have coarsened and brutalized Israeli politics.

  11. While there may be increasing international momentum in support of the PA, Israel will continue to “occupy” the West Bank until the general direction of U.S. policy toward Israel (overwhelming support) shifts. That doesn’t appear likely, considering a U.S.-Israel alliance is in its personal, as well as regional and global, security interests.

    “Netanyahu’s constituents include Israelis eager to foster colonies on Palestinian territory, either for religious or economic reasons.” More centrist Israelis, and there is a burgeoning core of younger, college-educated ones, believe in a two-state policy. For that to ever happen, though, the a strong PA leader must be willing to make compromise on the intractable issues, namely Jerusalem, weapons, and the “right of return” for refugees.

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