Thursday, September 23, 2010

Message to Obama on Israel: Cut Off the Money

Israel and Obama

By Bill Fletcher, Jr. Editorial Board

Sept. 23, 2010 - The so-called peace talks between Israel and the Palestine National Authority raise a number of interesting and, in some respects, provocative questions. One concerns whether the Israeli government has any interest in a just peace.  The second is whether the Netanyahu group (in power) wishes to bring down President Obama.

In terms of the first question, that is, of the Israeli government's interest in a just peace, there is, unfortunately, no evidence to believe that such an interest exists.

With regard to the question of President Obama, there is an interesting trail of events.  Since Obama's election the attitude of the Israeli political establishment towards him has been less than enthusiastic.  In fact, it has been nothing short of insulting.  The first responses to the Obama presidency were largely cautious, though in the background there was fear and anger.  Racist remarks began to emerge regarding Obama, with the Israeli right-wing transferring some of its anti-Palestinian racism and Islamophobia onto their attitude towards President Obama.

In the context of President Obama's speech to the Muslim world, the Israeli political establishment was outraged.  At that moment they decided to test--"chump" would probably be a better word--the Obama administration.  While President Obama called for a cessation of new settlements on Palestinian territories, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, et. al., simply said "no."

And the Obama administration did nothing.

Well, not quite nothing.  They backed down, ultimately applauding Israel for Netanyahu's disingenuous and false concessions, making it appear that the Israeli government was truly committed to peace.

Since that time Netanyahu has done nothing to appease, let alone meet President Obama half way. Why should he?  After all, the Republicans and most Democrats in Congress fall all over themselves to prove their uncritical loyalty to Israel.  Added to that is the constituency known as "Christian Zionists," represented by views such as those articulated by Sarah Palin, who believe that Israel serves a role in Christian prophecy.  This latter group has become an important ally for Israel despite their own ambiguous views of Jews.

In effect, Netayahu's contemptuous attitude toward the Obama administration, with numerous examples including the insulting announcement of new settlements on the day that Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Israel, appears to be aimed at demonstrating the impotence of the administration when it comes toward Middle East policy.  Holding off Obama, and not giving an inch, weakens Obama with his other foreign policy objectives, as well as his domestic platform.

The current negotiations between the Netanyahu government and Abbas's Palestine National Authority is reminiscent of a shadow play.  There is little substance; nothing in evidence concerning the plight of the millions of Palestinians living in exile; and little reason for the Israeli government to make any concessions.  There is certainly little international government pressure on the Israelis.  Actually, the rising threat to the Israeli position is coming not from governments but from a people's movement called "Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions," which, like the efforts that had been aimed at South African apartheid decades ago, seeks to use non-violent pressure on the oppressor group to compel the adoption of a new position favorable to the oppressed.

Growing up in the Bronx we used to talk about someone "selling woof tickets." [as in "woof-woof"] Someone could offer all sorts of forceful and, often, threatening language and humiliating taunts at an opponent but if called upon to follow through and they could not deliver, they were not only vulnerable to the person that they threatened, but, indeed, they became vulnerable to all who had been closely watching.

Woof-woof, Mr. President? Editorial Board member, Bill Fletcher, Jr., is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president ofTransAfrica Forum and co-author of, Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice

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