Netanyahu Blows off US; Mahmoud Abbas pleads for Settlement Freeze

President Barack Obama has just gotten the Netanyahu treatment. Obama came into office saying that a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside the Israeli one is key to American security.

He had his special envoy cajole Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of the far right Likud Party for over a year, pressuring him to freeze further Israeli theft of Palestinian land so that Mahmoud Abbas, caretaker president of the Palestine Authority, would agree to come to the negotiating table.

Now Netanyahu has reneged on his pledge to negotiate in good faith, and has let the settlement freeze expire while making no effort to extend it. In other words, he humiliated the United States and let them know who is boss.

The Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot is reporting, according to the London daily al-Quds al-`Arabi, that Obama pleaded with Netanyahu to extend the settlement freeze for a month or two. If at the end of that period, Obama is said to have pledged, there had been no progress in the peace talks, then the US would not object to the freeze lapsing. Moreover, he was willing to given written assurances of American commitment to Israeli security. Netanyahu declined to accept Obama’s pleading.

If this story, sourced to a high administration official in Washington who declined to be named, is true, it bespeaks diplomatic amateurism on Obama’s part. Obama should not have put himself in a position where he had to plead with Netanyahu! Now that the United States has been arrogantly blown off by Tel Aviv, it just looks weak and pathetic, a helpless giant — a posture that could well encourage its enemies to attempt to inflict their own humiliations on it.

Netanyahu doesn’t care about US security or US needs. At a time when many Americans have slipped into poverty, we send Netanyahu billions in aid every year, even though Israel is a relatively affluent society.

Netanyahu says most of his cabinet members were against extending the freeze. But obviously he got them to go along with the freeze before, he could have done it again if he wanted to. Besides, the Kadima Party, although in the opposition, has pledged to support the peace talks, so Netanyahu’s hawkish partners likely could not cause the government to collapse through a vote of no confidence. Netanyahu could have done it if he had wanted to.

Abbas called Monday for Netanyahu to again halt settlement expansion in the West Bank for “another three or four months” so that peace talks can continue, according Al-Quds al-`Arabi.

Abbas had only agreed to begin face to face talks with Netanyahu after the settlement freeze was announced. As it was, Israel widely violated its own announced policy in this regard and Abbas held his nose and forged ahead.

Reuters has video on Abbas’s decision and French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s objection to Netanyahu’s attempt to torpedo the peace talks.

Abbas says he will make a decision next week about whether to continue with the talks.

The Guardian has video on how militant Israeli squatters on the Palestinian West Bank immediately began pouring concrete as soon as the 8-month ban on settlement construction ended:

Israel militarily occupied the Palestinian West Bank in 1967 and has been mistreating its residents, cooping them up, stealing their land and resources, controlling their borders, imprisoning them in cantons and generally making their lives miserable ever since. The United Nations Charter, to which Israel is signatory, forbids the annexation of land through warfare. The Geneva Conventions forbid occupying states to settle their own citizens in occupied territory. The West Bank and Gaza were never awarded to Israel by the United Nations and simply don’t belong to it, nor do their 4 million inhabitants, whom Israel has kept as stateless colonial subjects.

Americans, who rebelled against King George for taxing them without representation and for billeting troops in their houses without permission, ought to be able to sympathize with Palestinians, who are being treated by Israel the way King George III treated George Washington and the other Virginians.

Since Israel concluded the Oslo peace accords with the Palestinians in the early 1990s, it has poured hundreds of thousands of squatters into the Palestinian West Bank (which it had pledged to give back) and usurped large amounts of Palestinian land and other resources, which its politicians now say they will never give back.

Abbas had insisted that he wasn’t falling for those sorts of “peace negotiations” again, since likely at the end of them there would be no Palestinian territory left at all. Netanyahu’s insolence toward the United States, whose security depends on a resolution of this issue, has put Abbas in an impossible position.

35 Responses

  1. Ahmadinejad guessed it- last week on American cable TV.

    Well, “guess” is the wrong word. Was there ever any doubt this would happen?

  2. The only question is: What does Obama do now? The Israelis must be made to pay a stiff price for Netanyahoo’s arrogance and defiance, preferably a moratorium on all aid so long as the building continues, as well as an announcement that the US will abstain from all Security Council resolutions against Israel for a start. But so long as campaigns are not publicly financed in the US, Obama will not dare take the actions necessary.

  3. Netanyahu knew that by having the USA exclude Hamas, he’d made certain the talks would go nowhere. Abbas knew he had little chance of wielding influence unless the USA excluded Hamas. Both Netanyahu and Abbas have already achieved the most they could expect to achieve. Kadima knew all this and was willing to play along.

    Obama is more naive than Bush II.

  4. “Abbas held his nose and forged ahead. ….”

    Abbas is a traitor for is people, and of course after his mandate as President has expired, represents nobody but the Israeli colonialists – he is their puppet.

    Separately, “Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, reminded Israel on Monday that the building of settlements on occupied territory was illegal, and said he was “disappointed” by the government’s failure to extend its partial ban on further West Bank construction.”
    link to

    Why is he (and the Western leaders) just disappointed? And yet, when Iraq had supposedly violated UN resolutions, the country was attacked.

    Hypocrite, hypocrisy….

  5. The picture of Israelis with balloons and countdown clock is just heartbreaking. I wonder what the percentage of Israelis that want these settlements to continue is.
    I honestly don’t understand why Abbas is waiting till after the Arab League meeting before walking out. Didn’t the settlements quadrupled over the 17 year peace talks? Peace talks are not substitute for peace. Would an American President ever pressure Israel, blows it’s lobby off and stop aiding an apartheid state for the sake of peace?

  6. Was this ever not a foregone conclusion? It is perfectly obvious now in any case: Israel will continue to steal Palestinian land and to imprison and impoverish the Palestinian people, with the impossible hope that they can ultimately simply push the Palestinians into Jordan or Egypt (the hysterical lines about Israel’s enemies wanting to push them into the sea have a biting irony for this reason). But Egypt and Jordan will never take the millions of refugees Israel wants to force onto them. So the ultimate outcome will be the so called bi-national state, and Israel will in effect transform itself.

    In a way, it is even possible to feel something like hope and optimism about this conflict, because a single state with equal rights would be vastly more just than any arrangement for two states could possibly be at this point. But the amount of pointless, needless suffering that will result from Israel’s poisonous racism is a terrible down-payment on a still distant and uncertain future.

  7. If at the end of that period, Obama is said to have pledged, there had been no progress in the peace talks, then the US would not object to the freeze lapsing.

    So, all Netanyahu had to do was continue saying “no!” for a couple of months and he’d win the Obama’s blessing to continue plundering with impunity? Please, someone tell me this is not true!

    Moreover, he was willing to given written assurances of American commitment to Israeli security.

    For the nth time but fine. What about the aggrieved party?

  8. A Complete Farce from all involved.

    Abbas is a joke of a man. Hasn’t been the legitimate President of Palestine since his term ended on Jan 09. Yet he still gets to walk around the White House with all parties involved pretending he is President because the truth is to hard to face.

    Netanyahu is a typical racist in the Colonialist sense of the word and has no desire for peace. Obama is either a fool, for thinking that the puppet and the extremist can deliver peace, or a coward for not standing up for what he knows is right and what his generals also say is necessary.

    Shouldn’t have even got into this whole “settlement freeze” game. All of the settlements are illegal under the UN Charter but also under the International Court of Justice and Security Council Resolution 242.

    The second the US stopped insisting on the disbanding of all settlements and instead focusing on settlement freezes they had walked straight into the thieves trap. Now Netanyahu won’t even give Obama this small concession.

    This is by far the biggest spit in the face of Obama that Netanyahu has given him.

  9. This is shameful for the Israeli government, but this Israeli government is always shameful and worse. Also Natanyahu apparently has the support of most Israelis so the problem is more than Netanyahu, much more.

  10. We have to remember that Abbas’ mandate comes from Washington and Tel Aviv. His presidential term, where he ran essentially unopposed, ended years ago and he remains in power at the insistence of Israel and the United States with his political rivals in Israeli prisons.

    Abbas is going to eventually do whatever the US tells him to including going back to the negotiating table. But when he claims to surrender in the name of the Palestinians in the struggle against Zionism – including accepting the kind of Bantustans Mandela rejected in South Africa or native American reservations except that the Palestinians would not the rights Native Americans have with respect to the United States – there will be no legitimacy to that acceptance and it will not impact the conflict.

  11. The Israeli government (often by its settler proxies) will continue to extend and muddle the ‘peace’ negotiations until it takes every bit of land and resources from Palestinians (the West Bank and East Jerusalem, for example) and destroys the viability of any Palestinian state.

    Once this is achieved to their satisfaction, then they will recognize an ‘independent’ Palestinian state, be done with them, claim alongside the US and UK a huge ‘success’ and historic advance, and the Palestinians will be left to rot in their collapsed pseudo-state and they will not be assisted seriously by any other government since their utility as a piece in international and politico-religious disputes will have been lost.

  12. Dear Professor Cole

    One of Bill Clinton’s best decisions was to bomb Belgrade and deploy a few divisions in response to the Serbian attempts at Ethnic Cleansing of Kosovo in 1999.

    link to

    Following Clinton’s precedent, it must be time for someone to tell Mr Lieberman that anyone attempting to implement his “to Hell or to Connaght” scheme will provoke the bombing of Tel Aviv, Haifa, Ashdod, Eilat and Atlit, by EU air power, followed by deployment of EU forces.

    Enter Baroness Ashton stage left.

    Is anyone using Miloshevich old cell at the Hague these days?

    • “Is anyone using Milosevic cell at the Hauge these days?”, unknown. If it’s vacant then it should be reserved for Bush and Blair.

    • Except the bombing accelerated the ethnic cleansing, caused massive civilian casualties in Serbia, destroyed much infrastructure (largely to destroy state run industry to punish them for the refusal to allow neoliberal privatization restructuring to run rampant). Surely war crimes don’t rank among Clinton’s best decisions, dismal as many of his other domestic and foreign decisions were.
      Also, not all the blowback from Western backed mujahdeen originates from Afghanistan.
      I’d agree that if the EU and UN, et al can get on board with elevating an ethnic enclave in the middle of another sovereign nation to national status that it ought to be a no brainer to recognize a Palestinian state and back it up with some firepower. Which isn’t to say that I think the former was a particularly wise decision.

  13. Worried about Iran obtaining nuclear weapons? Could a country be any more arrogant, belligerent, or dangerous to U.S. national security than Israel?

    • Well, if you don’t want to sleep particulary well tonight, google “jericho III” (if I’m not misspelling it). In short, Israel has apparently just fielded a full-fledged ICBM that covers the the east coast of the US. It is said these missiles are needed to hit Iran because the extra power can be used for speed and a lower trajectory, to defeat a new generation of air defense missile that may be deployed at some point (if it performs as advertised, the S-300 the Russians just 86ed). Due to their size these missiles are also “mirv-able” meaning they can put multiple warheads on them.

      For many years Israel has had multi-stage thermonuclear bombs, which are the genuine city/civilization busters. Nukes get a bad rap, since smaller ones can be used (putting aside the radiation issue) to annihilate an air base, armor column, etc. MacArthur wanted to use a series of, I think it was 26, to stop the chinese from over-running our troops in a tactical setting back in Korea. These big guys, however, are sheer weapons of terror.

      Sweet dreams.

  14. We need to have the US and the international community impose “crippling economic sanctions” against the state of Israel until they cease all colonization activities and prepare to vacate those settlements already in place. That should begin with the immediate discontinuation of any and all “foreign aid” from the US to Israel. The imposition of economic sanctions against Iran to impact their nuclear R&D seems to be an accepted practice; is not the annexation of Palestinian territory an equally serious roadblock to global peace and prosperity? Have the Israelis not done the very same thing to the people of Gaza?

    Meanwhile, all Americans and concerned citizens of every nation should boycott the state of Israel and all Israeli corporations, and proceed to divest from Israeli enterprises at every level. Boycotts and divestment brought pressure to bear against South African apartheid – it might do the same for Israel.

  15. The Yediot story in the alQuds abridgment is not sourced to American officials, but to unnamed Israeli officials.

    Moreover, it includes a remark to the effect that sources close to Netanyahu said the proposals were made in meetings between Peres and Ehud Barak and American officials, “in a clear insinuation that the proposals were made by the Israeli officials and not by the Americans.”

  16. link to

    September 28, 2010

    As Settlement Construction Begins Again in the West Bank, Israel Blocks Jewish Activists on Aid Boat Headed to Gaza

    Israeli commandos have boarded and seized a Gaza-bound aid ship of Jewish activists just miles off the Gaza coast. The activists were attempting to deliver a symbolic load of medicine, a water-purifying kit and other humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. The Jewish Boat to Gaza was the latest attempt to break the blockade since Israel’s deadly attack on an aid flotilla in May. In the West Bank, Jewish settlers resumed building settlements on Monday one day after Israel refused to extend its partial freeze on settlement expansion.

  17. I think there may be a problem with how democracies operate .
    Israel has a democratic system which elects many parties to the Knesset –
    if 10 % of the votes are for the Monster Raving Looney Party , they will have 10 % of the votes in parliament .
    This almost guarantees a minority government , dependent on votes from the fringe .
    The USA is almost a mirror image .
    Ridiculously expensive election campaigns deliver the best government that money can buy . The USA is now a one-party state .
    Foreign relations are controlled by the military industrial complex which President Eisenhower warned about .
    Domestic policies – from endless warrantless spying on citizens to crimes like Gitmo do not change with a change in parties .
    Private businesses – the various Tea Parties- do not even register as political parties.
    I won’t presume to suggest solutions – that’s up to citizens of other countries .
    All I’m saying is that democracies have more problems than the bankruptcy of our economic system .

  18. sad. It’s going to take years to detangle ourselves from this network of Israel and their supporters. But it has to happen.

  19. Is what we caused in Iraq so much different than the Palestinian misery inflicted by Israel. This testimony by Refugees International is a depiction of the of the plight of the Iraqi population that is eerily similar to the plight of the Palestinians. Although the raise and burn politics are quite different in each case, the human miseries are very much alike.

    Obama, the political animal, knows that when the votes are counted, remorse and empathy for the downtrodden are not advantageous attributes for a candidate. If the people, the congress, and the political parties lose little sleep over the destruction of Iraq, why should the President fall on his sword defending the Palestinians and the UN resolutions.

    Obama’s position on Israel has always been “my ally right or wrong, nevertheless my ally”, and “till death do us part”. This incident will pass, and as the saying goes “when you have egg on your face, make an omelet”.

  20. Netanyahu did generously offer to continue the quasi-settlement freeze if the U.S. released convicted spy Jonathan Pollard.

  21. It is time to realize that Israel will never agree to a settlement without it being forced on them. This has been true for at least the last 40 years and continues to be true. It would also be suicidal for any US administration to force a settlement on Israel.

  22. Lily Tomlin was right

    “No matter how cynical I get, I can’t keep up.”

    But seriously, what are some actions that Americans can take? Write/call our elected representatives? Write letters to the editor, hoping they’ll be published? Leave a note on the White House and Department of State websites? March (so sixties!) in the streets?

    Hand-wringing over our keyboards and competing for the coveted “most cynical” award are both fun and strangely satisfying, but don’t seem to have much impact in the real world.

  23. If as you say, “The West Bank and Gaza were never awarded to Israel by the United Nations and simply don’t belong to it”, then who does it belong to? Jordan’s occupation for a shorter period of time (1948-1967) was no different than Israel’s.
    The “West Bank” and “Gaza” were unallocated portions of the British mandate which were, in fact, “stateless” when Britain evacuated in 1947-1948. Jordan (itself part of the original Palestine Mandate awarded to Britain after WWI) never made a move to create an independent Palestine or even a confederation when it occupied the territory. Israel won the territory in a defensive war.

    Yes, we need a peaceful partition and equitable solution to the West Bank. But let’s stop pretending that a nation of “Palestine” ever existed or that there is a defined “Palestinian” ethno-political grouping of people anytime prior to the 1960’s. The disposition of the West Bank should have been decided as part of the Israel-Jordan peace treaty.

    • Your account is ahistorical and illogical.

      The League of Nations scheduled Palestine as a Class A Mandate at Versailles and after, and intended that it become an independent nation. The Palestinians are not slaves that they “belong” to anybody, and they certainly don’t belong to militant Poles and Moldavians who flooded into their homes via British perfidy and stole their country from them. That the League of Nations’ intent (and that of the British White Paper of 1939) of creating a Palestinian state was forestalled by the Zionists’ 1947-48 ethnic cleansing campaign and that Egypt and Jordan became caretakers of the Palestinian fate in the aftermath does not bestow ownership of Palestinians on Israel! The League of Nations was far more insistent on a Palestinian state than on a ‘Jewish homeland,’ whatever that even meant, and the Palestinians have as much right to statehood in a nation as Syrians, Iraqis and other inhabitants of Class A Mandates do. The only difference between Palestinians and Israelis in this regard is that the Israelis were stronger and had British imperial and then American backing, and Palestinians were weak and dispersed and forgotten in their refugee camps after their lives had been stolen from them.

      I would love to have more sane interventions from a pro-Israeli view in the comments, but all I seem to get is false propaganda. Why is it necessary to say things like ‘let’s not pretend that…’ It is insulting and patronizing, and the point it is making is frankly dishonest. I can’t understand why I should have to put up with that kind of thing or pay to have my server carry it.

  24. Same shit, different decade. Its interesting how news organizations translate “Eretz Israel” into merely “Israel,” thus conveniently ignoring the expansive colonial ambitions implied by the phrase…

  25. Obama is either a fool, for thinking that the puppet and the extremist can deliver peace, or a coward for not standing up for what he knows is right and what his generals also say is necessary.

    Nah, Obama is cynically playing to his base. This is the “bone” we get if we continue to take his shit and vote for his party! That and Warren as the head of a completely detoothed financial regulatory agency!

  26. Israel is simply a giant military base or if you prefer, local policeman that the US uses to protect it’s economic interests in the Middle East. The US has always managed to overlook the shortcomings (and atrocities) of governments that are able to sustain a climate that is favorable to US business interests. Israel is a case in point. Just look at the number of UN resolutions put forward over the years to sanction Israel that have been vetoed by the US. If Sadaam had hewed to the line, he would still be the good guy and the Gulf wars would never have happened. There is clearly no intent on the part of the US Government that a peace between Israel and the Palestinians should actually result from the so-called “Peace Process”. Although the descriptor sounds noble and plays well with the American public, it is deeply cynical.

  27. I believe that the way to force the Israeli government to the table for a settlement
    based on the pre-1967 war borders is boycott, divestment and sanctions.
    Search “boycott, divestment, sanctions, Israel” for information.

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