Nov 16th 2010

Netanyahu's Defiance and U.S. Timidity Makes Mockery of Peace Drive

by James J. Zogby

Dr. James J. Zogby is the President of Arab American Institute

Israel's announcement, last week, of a radical expansion of Har Homa (an already massive settlement community between Jerusalem and Bethlehem) makes a mockery of the so-called "peace process".

The episode has further served to reinforce the belief that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has no interest in reaching a just peace with the Palestinians. This leopard has not changed his spots. Netanyahu remains a wily (and not always honest) manipulator, who at his core is a hard-line ideologue. At the same time, the Har Homa announcement serves as an uncomfortable reminder of U.S. impotence and the role this weakness has historically played in enabling Israel's bad behavior.

I remember all too well a decade and a half ago when Jabal Abul Ghnaim was a lovely green hill on the northern outskirts of Bethlehem. It was Arab land, seized by Israel in 1967 and then annexed to what the Israelis refer to as Greater Jerusalem. After becoming Prime Minister in 1996, as part of a series of provocative acts designed to, in his words, "make a clean break" ending the Oslo peace process, thereby showing the Americans and Palestinians who was in charge, Netanyahu announced plans to construct "Har Homa" on that Arab hill. The intent of this new settlement was to continue the process of building an Israeli housing ring around Jerusalem that would assert their control while denying Palestinians access to the Holy City.

The Clinton Administration opposed the Israeli plan, expressing concern that this new settlement was "unhelpful" and "counterproductive", etc. But words alone would not stop Netanyahu. Bulldozers came and raped and scarred Jabal Abul Ghnaim, leaving it barren with deep gouges where roads and houses would soon be built.

The Palestinians went to the United Nation's Security Council only to see a resolution of condemnation vetoed by the U.S. A General Assembly resolution of condemnation passed by a 134 to 3 (with Micronesia joining the U.S. and Israel in opposition). But such resolutions have no authority. The Clinton Administration continued to object and Israelis continued to plan and then to build.

That was then. Today, Har Homa is home to 17,000 Israeli settlers. The recently announced Israeli plan to build 1,000 new units will not only add thousands more settlers, it will also greatly expand the settlement's footprint by 50 percent, extending it to the south and east.

On one level, what was especially disturbing about this Israeli announcement was its timing and apparent intent. Coming as it did while Netanyahu was in the U.S., having just shared a podium with Vice-President Joseph Biden, it could only be seen as yet another direct challenge both to the Obama Administration, itself, as well as to U.S. efforts to restart peace talks. The announcement was also aimed at the Palestinians telling them, in effect, what they, the Israelis, thought of the Palestinian insistence on a settlement freeze. In addition, the Israelis appear to be making it clear to the Palestinians, that it was Israel who would define and control the terms of any final peace arrangement - as they stake claim to more and more of the occupied territories.

Given Netanyahu's history in this regard, both in the '90's and his more recent behavior, the Obama Administration's response has been more than disappointing. Echoing the timid and failed rebukes of the past, President Obama termed the Israeli plan "unhelpful" and left it Secretary of state Clinton to call it "counterproductive".

More disturbing still were Clinton's words upon ending a seven hour discussion with the Israeli Prime Minister in which she reiterated the U.S.'s "unshakable" commitment to Israel's security, and went on to describe the peace agreement the U.S. seeks as one that "reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state, based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements". In that last statement the Secretary ratified the infamous 2004 Bush letter of assurances to then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. This has placed the U.S. in the role of negotiating away fundamental Palestinian rights, and, on the issue of settlements, of "giving away the store" to the Israelis.

The only conclusion that one can make from all of this is that those settlements that Israel built over the last 43 years, in defiance of international law - which have been described by successive American administrations as "illegal", "an obstacle to peace", "unhelpful", "counterproductive" and more recently as "illegitimate"- have now become "subsequent developments" that will be accommodated by "agreed land swaps".

So Jabal Abul Ghnaim is no more, and will be no more, despite international condemnation and U.S. "regrets". The once green Arab hill has been replaced by "subsequent developments". Given of the timidity of the U.S. response to the extension of Har Homa, in all likelihood, that too will be built, and some day soon be a reality that Palestinians will be told they must accept.

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Jun 19th 2021
EXTRACT: "Xi Jinping’s call for friendship gives us an opportunity to examine Chinese politics on both the domestic and international stage. On the face of it, it suggests the possibility of rapprochement between the rich liberal democracies represented by the G7 and the authoritarian Chinese state. However, despite appearances of a call for a closer relationship, there is more than one way of being friends – and Xi’s idea might be somewhat different to what many in countries attending the G7 might expect."
Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "China’s recently published census, showing that its population has almost stopped growing, brought warnings of severe problems for the country. “Such numbers make grim reading for the party,” reported The Economist. This “could have a disastrous impact on the country,” wrote Huang Wenzheng, a fellow at the Center for China and Globalization in Beijing, in the Financial Times. But a comment posted on China’s Weibo was more insightful. “The declining fertility rate actually reflects the progress in the thinking of Chinese people – women are no longer a fertility tool.” "
Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: " I remember recounting fellow leaders of the story of a Rwanda schoolboy caught up in the genocide of the 1990s and now immortalized in the Kigali Genocide Memorial museum, where, in a section devoted to children, one can find his photograph and a plaque that reads: ----- David, age 11 ...... Ambition: to be a doctor ...... Favorite sport: football ...... Favorite hobby: making people laugh ...... Death: by mutilation ...... Last words: the UN are coming to save us ----- In his idealism and innocence, David believed the international community would save him and his mother. We didn’t. "
Jun 8th 2021
EXTRACT: " While many conservative Republicans opposed Trump and saw that he posed a danger to their party and democracy itself, they were hesitant to buck the mass movement they had created, fearing that it would turn against them. Some of these same conservatives assumed that with Trump's defeat, the horror of January 6th, and the former president's banishment from social media, the time had come to restore sanity to their party. But the GOP leadership’s continued cowering in the face of what they now call "Trump's base" has caused them to circle the wagons and purge their ranks of those who call for sanity. "
May 26th 2021
Editor's Note: This article is about the Federal Reserve, inflation in the 1970's, and possible similarities to today.
May 25th 2021
EXTRACT: "Netanyahu claims to be acting in the name of the Jewish people. He certainly is not. Many Jews around the world, including me, despise Netanyahu’s racist politics. As an American, I am also deeply troubled by the US government’s knee-jerk support of Israel. Fortunately, I am not alone in this view. A growing number of Democratic Congressmen, Jews and non-Jews alike, have called on the United States to stop supporting Israel’s lawlessness. The truth is that the US government’s uncritical support for Israel has come to depend more on evangelical Christians, such as former US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, than on American Jews, who are deeply divided by Netanyahu’s actions. And the evangelicals’ real interest in Zionism is not Jews’ security, but Armageddon, the end of the world, which they believe will come only when all Jews are in Israel."
May 18th 2021
EXTRACT: "This period in US history could go down as the moment when America’s democratic system for electing a president – the most consequential duty of US citizens – was broken, perhaps for good."
May 16th 2021
EXTRACT: "While reading Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) monumental report “A Threshold Crossed,” I felt a range of emotions. It also left me with one big question. I was deeply impressed by the report’s rigorous scholarship. At the same time, it brought to the surface feelings of anger and profound sadness. It’s an extraordinarily complete study detailing not only the many ways Israel has violated a broad range of Palestinian human rights, but the ideology of racial superiority and entitlement that Israel has used to justify its repression." ..... "My advice to both Israel’s defenders and weak-kneed liberals is​, “Read the damn report.” "
May 16th 2021
EXTRACTS: .... "He transformed a transitioning market economy into a stable statist project that rests on an alliance of his inner circle," ..... "He transformed Russia from a respected member of the international community into a rogue state" .... ". He energized NATO by providing it with the adversary it lacked after the end of the cold war," ..... "He befriended hopelessly corrupt, dysfunctional, and unstable dictatorships..." ..... "He forged a quasi-alliance with China, thereby enhancing Russia’s dependence on the one country that might have reason to appropriate those Russian territories inhabited by Chinese."
May 15th 2021
EXTRACT: "On the face of it, the latest escalation of violence is following the template of all inter-ethnic wars. Muslims observing Ramadan shouted nationalist slogans and clashed with Israeli right-wing groups chanting “Death to the Arabs.” The Israelis haughtily marched with their national flag on Jerusalem Day, marking Israel’s capture in 1967 of East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, the site of the biblical Second Temple, and of Al-Aqsa, completed in the year 705. Battles in and around the Al-Aqsa compound erupted, with worshipers inside throwing stones at the Israeli police, who responded by firing rubber-tipped bullets and other projectiles, wounding hundreds."
May 13th 2021
"Regardless of how the current and future violent conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians in Jerusalem will end, there will be no Israeli-Palestinian peace unless East Jerusalem becomes the capital of a Palestinian state while the city remains united."
May 7th 2021
EXTRACT: " Would the United States be prepared to risk a catastrophic war with the People’s Republic of China to protect the Republic of China, better known as Taiwan? "
May 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "Human history, ancient and contemporary, is replete with instances of genocide – that is, the effort to eradicate a people, erase their history, denigrate their culture, and destroy their physical presence. Many of these atrocities have been recognized by the victims and other nations who support them. But, with the notable exception of the German acknowledgment of the Holocaust, rarely have the perpetrators of these crimes accepted responsibility and offer recompense "
May 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "The best way to defend liberal democracy is to practice it at home and abroad with the “courage and self-confidence” that Kennan touted at the dawn of the Cold War. This is also the best way to ensure the survival of our own conception of human freedom. And survive it will."
May 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Sammy Roth at the LA Times/ Boiling Point Newsletter reports that California’s main power grid was powered for several hours last Saturday by 90% renewables. For just four seconds that day, the grid, which covers 4/5s of the state, reached 94.5% generation by green energy. California is the world’s fifth largest economy. The main grid does not cover Los Angeles County. On the other hand, these figures do not include the electricity generated by the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, which is not counted as renewable but which is also very low-carbon."
Apr 23rd 2021
EXTRACT: "It is no accident that there has been an economic divergence in Central and Eastern Europe. Those countries that have joined the European Union have improved their economic governance, and GDP has begun to converge with Western Europe. Between 2014 and 2019, Hungary, Poland, and Romania grew at an annual average rate of 3.9%, 4.1%, and 4.7%, respectively. Meanwhile, Belarus and Ukraine experienced minimal growth during this period, and Russia’s economy expanded at an average annual rate of just 0.7%. Though Russia had a higher per capita GDP (in terms of purchasing power parity) than Croatia, Poland, Romania, and Turkey as recently as 2009, all of these countries have since overtaken it. Russians today are shocked to learn that they are worse off than Romanians and Turks. Among EU member states, only Bulgaria is still poorer than Russia. With its close proximity to the EU single market, Russia could have had higher growth if it had pursued sound economic policies. Instead,..... "
Apr 22nd 2021
EXTRACT: "As far as anyone can tell, the US military is not on the verge of an internal breakdown, let alone primed to stage a coup d’état. But few predicted anything like the US Capitol riot before protesters equipped with body armor, stun guns, and zip-ties breached the building. Before the US is blindsided again, its leaders must act resolutely to root out extremism in the military."
Apr 17th 2021
EXTRACT: "The new report on 2020 by the International Renewable Energy Agency reveals that the world’s renewable energy generation capacity increased by an astonishing 10.3% in 2020 despite the global economic slowdown during the coronavirus pandemic." .... "In 2020, the global net increase in renewables was 261 gigawatts (GW). That is the nameplate capacity of some 300 nuclear power plants! There are actually only 440 nuclear power plants in the whole world, with a generation capacity of 390 gigwatts. So let’s just underline this point. The world put in 2/3s as much renewable energy in one year as is produced by all the existing nuclear plants!"
Apr 16th 2021
EXTRACT: "When we examined the development of nations worldwide since 1820, we found that among rich Western countries like the United States, the Netherlands and France, improvements in income, education, safety and health tracked or even outpaced rising gross domestic product for over a century. But in the 1950s, even as economic growth accelerated after World War II, well-being in these countries lagged.
Apr 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Some presidents indulge in the “Mount Rushmore syndrome” making an obvious effort to achieve greatness. Normally soft-spoken and apparently modest Biden is making his own bid for immortality."