Henry Siegman writes: With his decision to oppose the U.N. General Assembly’s granting Palestine non-member state observer status, U.S. President Barack Obama leaves no doubt he is not modifying his pre-election position that “There is no daylight between Israel and the United States,” and that no matter how deeply Israeli behavior violates international norms and existing agreements, U.S. support for Israel remains “rock solid.” This continuity of U.S. Middle East peace policy was promptly reinforced by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she assured Israel that despite her condemnation of its decision to proceed with new construction in the E1 corridor of the West Bank that will doom the two-state solution, this administration will continue to “have Israel’s back.”
The decision confirms America’s irrelevance not only to a possible resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict but to the emerging political architecture of the entire region, the shape and direction of which will increasingly be determined by popular Arab opinion, not autocratic regimes dependent on the United States for their survival.
The efforts promised by President Obama to renew Israeli-Palestinian peace talks will be seen universally for the empty and purposeless exercise they will be. To be taken seriously, a new U.S. peace initiative would have to begin with an insistence that Israel’s government accept the pre-1967 border as the starting point of resumed negotiations. Without such a U.S. demand, backed by effective diplomatic pressure, the United States will have no right to ask Palestinians to return to negotiations that have no terms of reference, and therefore no prospect of producing anything other than cover for Israel’s continuing predatory colonial behavior in the West Bank.
The administration’s admonitions to the Palestinians that they find the political courage to return to negotiations with a government whose intention to prevent viable Palestinian statehood has been clearly and repeatedly demonstrated are singularly inappropriate. A U.S. administration that since the third year of its first term has been pandering to the Israel lobby by withdrawing its insistence that Israel’s illegal settlements project must end, followed by a muting of its demand that resumed negotiations be framed by reasonable terms of reference, should exercise considerably greater restraint before presuming to preach to others on the subject of political courage. [Continue reading…]