The Hypocrisy of the US on Illegal Israeli Settlements

The US has signalled that it will be vetoing the resolution currently before the UN Security Council against Israeli settlement expansion, despite the resolution’s consistency with existing US policy and previous votes in the UN.

M J Rosenberg considers that this US veto “violates broader US interests”, is a function of US domestic policy and the power of the campaign finance from the ubiquitous Israel lobby is to blame:

This is from AFP’s report on what Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“We have made very clear that we do not think the Security Council is the right place to engage on these issues,” Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg told the House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee.

“We have had some success, at least for the moment, in not having that arise there. And we will continue to employ the tools that we have to make sure that continues to not happen,” said Steinberg.

There is so much wrong with Steinberg’s statement that it is hard to know where to start.

First is the obvious. Opposition to Israeli settlements is perhaps the only issue on which the entire Arab and Muslim world is united. Iraqis and Afghanis, Syrians and Egyptians, Indonesians and Pakistanis don’t agree on much, but they do agree on that. They also agree that the US policy on settlements demonstrates flagrant disregard for human rights in the Muslim world (at least when Israel is the human rights violator).

Accordingly, a US decision to support the condemnation of settlements would send a clear message to the Arab and Muslim world that we understand what is happening in the Middle East and that we share at least some of its peoples’ concerns.

The settlement issue should be an easy one for the United States. Our official policy is the same as that of the Arab world. We oppose settlements. We consider them illegal. We have repeatedly demanded that the Israelis stop expanding them (although the Israeli government repeatedly ignores us). The administration feels so strongly about settlements that it recently offered Israel an extra $3.5bn in US aid to freeze settlements for 90 days.

It is impossible, then, for the United States to pretend that we do not agree with the resolution (especially when its language was carefully drafted to comport with the administration’s official position). So why will we veto a resolution that expresses our own views?

Steinberg says that “We do not think the Security Council is the right place to engage on these issues.”

Why not? It is the Security Council that passed all the major international resolutions (with US support) governing Israel’s role in the occupied territories since the first one, UN Resolution 242 in 1967.

He then adds, with clear pride that:

“We have had some success, at least for the moment, in not having that [the settlements issue] arise there.”

Very impressive. The United States has had no success whatsoever in getting the Netanyahu government to stop expanding settlements — to stop evicting Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem to make way for ultra-Orthodox settlers — and no success in getting Israel to crack down on settler violence, but we have had “some success” in keeping the issue out of the United Nations.

The only way to resolve the settlements issue, according to Steinberg, “is through engagement through the parties, and that is our clear and consistent position”. Clear and consistent it may be. But it hasn’t worked. The bulldozers never stop.

Of course, it is not hard to explain the Obama administration’s decision to veto a resolution embodying positions that we support. It is the power of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which is lobbying furiously for a US veto (actually not so furiously; AIPAC doesn’t waste energy when it knows that its congressional acolytes — and Dennis Ross in the White House itself — will do its work for them).

The power of the lobby is the only reason we will veto the resolution. Try to come up with another one. After all, voting for the resolution (or, at least, abstaining on it) serves US interests in the Middle East at a critical moment and is consistent with US policy.

But it would enrage the lobby and its friends who will threaten retribution in the 2012 election.

Simply put, our Middle East policy is all about domestic politics. And not even the incredible events of the past month will change that.

That is why US standing in the Middle East will continue to deteriorate. We simply cannot deliver. After all, there is always another election on the horizon and that means that it is donors, not diplomats, who determine US policy.

Yet the power of campaign finance and political pressure from the Israel lobby cannot be separated from the skewed system which facilitates corruption of imperial power. Other interests wilfully operate against people’s welfare within and without the empire besides the Israel lobby – big tobacco, big pharma, big banks, big chemicals, big oil and big defence are also empowered disproportionately by the US campaign finance and lobbying system.

A fundamental overhaul of the plutocratic US political system which presently permits the rich to rule courtesy of campaign bribery and extortionist lobbying would assist greatly the reassertion of balanced US foreign and domestic policy.

UPDATE

It seems the US is attempting to head off the UNSC settlements resolution by supplanting a mealy-mouthed statement.

The U.S. informed Arab governments Tuesday that it will support a U.N. Security Council statement reaffirming that the 15-nation body “does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity,” a move aimed at avoiding the prospect of having to veto a stronger Palestinian resolution calling the settlements illegal.

But the Palestinians rejected the American offer following a meeting late Wednesday of Arab representatives and said it is planning to press for a vote on its resolution on Friday, according to officials familar with the issue. The decision to reject the American offer raised the prospect that the Obama adminstration will cast its first ever veto in the U.N. Security Council.

Still, the U.S. offer signaled a renewed willingness to seek a way out of the current impasse, even if it requires breaking with Israel and joining others in the council in sending a strong message to its key ally to stop its construction of new settlements. The Palestinian delegation, along with Lebanon, the Security Council’s only Arab member state, have asked the council’s president this evening to schedule a meeting for Friday. But it remained unclear whether the Palestinian move today to reject the U.S. offer is simply a negotiating tactic aimed at extracting a better deal from Washington.

Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, outlined the new U.S. offer in a closed door meeting on Tuesday with the Arab Group, a bloc of Arab countries from North Africa and the Middle East. In exchange for scuttling the Palestinian resolution, the United States would support the council statement, consider supporting a U.N. Security Council visit to the Middle East, the first since 1979, and commit to supporting strong language criticizing Israel’s settlement policies in a future statement by the Middle East Quartet.

. @PJCrowley for goodness sake, just support the UNSC resolution against Israeli settlements – mealy-mouthed statements aren’t sufficient! #

UPDATE 2

Obama calls Abbas in bid to prevent UN vote on settlements
Hey Conservatives! You’ll never guess who else rebuked Israel for its settlement policy at the UN. John Bolton
Reading beyond the headlines
Missing the resolution, not missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity

UPDATE 3

U.S. Blocks Security Council Censure of Israeli Settlements
Israel: US Veto on Settlements Undermines International Law

The guests: Rashid Khalidi, JPS editor and a professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University; Clovis Maksoud, the director of the Center for the Global South; and Samer Shehata, a professor of Arab Studies at Georgetown University, and Seymour Hersh.

The interviewees are: Mehran Kamrava, the interim dean of Georgetown University, Qatar; and Bernard Haykel, a professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University.

Palestine / Israel Links

UN eyes vote on resolution against Israel
The Eleventh Annual Herzliya Conference: The Balance of Israel’s National Security
A House Surrounded on all Sides
Ashton urges FM to come up with proposals
The New York Times Shows Its Poor Journalistic Standards
Illegal for Israelis to support BDS?
Im Tirzu’s Iranian Connection
Israeli Academics Call Poland to Boycott Israeli-Made Weapons
Education Minister proposes student trip to Hebron holy site
How Israel lost its soul during Gaza, and how Egypt has restored a vital principle of resistance
The Imperialistic Israeli Economy
Empire – Pax Americana
120 New Settlement Homes Approved In East Jerusalem
Overcoming Israel’s attempts to discredit protest
Ashton urges FM to come up with proposals
Thomas Friedman’s latest column drove the Israeli media into a frenzy
From Tunis to Cairo to Riyadh?

While a radical regime in Egypt would threaten Israel directly but not America, a radical anti-Western regime in Saudi Arabia—which produces one of every four barrels of oil world-wide—clearly would endanger America as leader of the world economy.

Escape from Gaza
Israeli anti-boycott bill approved for vote by Knesset plenary
Ilan Pappé Interview: There is no end to the dispossession
Serious doubt cast on FBI’s anthrax case against Bruce Ivins
Flashback to 2002: While Media Spotlights One Anthrax Suspect, Another Is Too Hot to Touch

‘Soon after the 9/11 attack, a long, typed anonymous letter was sent to Quantico Marine Base accusing the long-suffering Assaad, Zack’s victim in 1991, of plotting terrori…sm. This letter was received before the anthrax letters or disease were reported. The timing of the note makes its author a serious suspect in the anthrax attacks. The sender also displayed considerable knowledge of Dr. Assaad, his work, his personal life and a remarkable premonition of the upcoming bioterrorism attack.

After interviewing Assaad on Oct. 2, 2001, the FBI decided the letter was a hoax. While major newspapers noted that an anonymous letter had accused Dr. Assaad of bioterrorism, none followed up on it after his innocence was established. Zack’s name never surfaced again as one of the 30 suspects.

When the Washington Report asked Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, Ph.D., a biological arms control expert at the State University of New York, if the allegations regarding Dr. David Hatfill now took the heat off Lt. Col. Philip Zack, she replied, “Zack has NEVER been under suspicion as perpetrator of the anthrax attack.”

It is hard to believe that, with his connection to Fort Detrick, Dr. Zack is not one of the 20 to 50 scientists under intense investigation.

When asked if Hatfill was part of the group that ganged up on Dr. Ayaad Assaad, Dr. Rosenberg answered, “Hatfill was NOT one of the persecutors of Assaad.”

She is convinced that the FBI knows who sent the anthrax letters but isn’t arresting him because he knows too much about U.S. secret biological weapons research and production. But she isn’t naming names. Neither is Dr. Assaad, who did not return calls from the Washington Report.’

Egypt Links

Restoring Egypt’s regional role

Egypt will almost certainly return to its Arab base, liberate its foreign policy and restore its leadership role. That means a liberated Arab League and a constructive restoration of the Arab political structures that have deteriorated for the last four decades to the point of irrelevance.

The new Egypt will be a much-needed catalyst for change.

Alarming as it may sound for Israel and its Western backers (those who keep lecturing us about democracy but are the first to resist our struggle to achieve it), it actually is the right, peaceful and accurate course for stability and better relations of cooperation within and beyond the region.

Democracies in Tunisia and Egypt – and perhaps elsewhere – would be more likely to build relations with the US and the rest of the world on the basis of mutual respect and equality, not hegemony and exploitation in favour of Israel.

Israel would never choose to enter into serious negotiations with its Arab neighbours while they are weak, disunited and powerless. If we are at the beginning of a process that will reverse the situation that has existed until now, we have every reason to be optimistic about the region’s future.

Rashid Khalidi, Prof. of Modern Arab Studies, Columbia University, and Michael Vlahos, Prof. of Strategy, U.S. Naval War College, discuss the spread of Mideast protests from Egypt to Iran, Bahrain, Yemen and Algiers
Mubarak has given up and wants to die, says Saudi official
The influence of German intel on the Egyptian military – two links, here and here.
Revolutionary Prospects After Mubarak : Richard Falk
Robert Fisk: Three weeks in Egypt show the power of brutality – and its limits
The promise of real democracy in Egypt by Rashid Khalidi

In effect, the Obama administration was seeking to keep Mubarak in office as long as possible, and to keep his police state alive thereafter. For all the recent talk about supporting Egyptian democracy, what is ultimately vital to American policymakers is Egypt’s geopolitical alignment with the United States and its acquiescence in Israel’s regional hegemony — a policy Mubarak, and under him Suleiman, have long facilitated. These core interests could well be affected by a fully democratic Egypt that sought to play a role commensurate with its size and history in regional politics and that represented faithfully the wishes of its people (as the current democratic Turkish government does).

A democratic Egypt might challenge American support of Israel’s Middle Eastern nuclear monopoly, refuse to collude in Israel’s illegal and immoral siege of Gaza, actively back a genuine inter-Palestinian reconciliation, or otherwise assert its independence from American and Israeli policies. It might do so even while respecting the letter of the (highly unequal) peace treaty with Israel and existing accords with the U.S. Given the blinders worn by American policymakers, such an Egypt would be a policy headache in Washington on the level of that caused by all three major regional powers, Israel, Turkey and Iran.

Why Egypt’s Military Cares About Home Appliances
What not to say about Lara Logan
Egypt labor not resting after Mubarak’s ouster

Wikileaks Links

Washington loathes Wikileaks; Arabs love it
Is anybody in Australia being targeted for backing Wikileaks?

Other Links

Bin-Ali and Mubarak Are Waiting For You (on the King of Jordan)
Bahrain in turmoil as second protester is killed
DN! EXCLUSIVE: Authorities Search and Copy U.S. Journalist’s Notes, Computer and Cameras After Returning from Haiti
Young Iranians are looking for a new revolution?
Bahrain: Stop using excessive force against public demonstrations and respect the rule of law, says Pillay
Bahrain Rising
Cameron’s scapegoating will have a chilling, toxic impact
Exclusive: New National Intelligence Estimate on Iran complete

2 comments to The Hypocrisy of the US on Illegal Israeli Settlements