It’s the same old Mideast policyThe Palestinians had hoped they would see a new day coming after the Bush administration’s eight-year capitulation to all that Israel wanted. But they were wrong. The Obama administration is moving down the same Bush road — perhaps a little slower, but nonetheless still enabling the Israelis to continue to violate international law and the U.N. Charter by annexing occupied Arab land.
By: Helen Thomas, Hearst Newspapers, The Jamestown Sun
WASHINGTON — The Palestinians had hoped they would see a new day coming after the Bush administration’s eight-year capitulation to all that Israel wanted. But they were wrong.
The Obama administration is moving down the same Bush road — perhaps a little slower, but nonetheless still enabling the Israelis to continue to violate international law and the U.N. Charter by annexing occupied Arab land.
First, the new administration made it clear that U.S. policy opposed new Jewish settlements on the West Bank. This declaration was met with a thumping rejection from the Israeli government, led by Benjamin Netanyahu.
Then, last Saturday in Jerusalem, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised as “unprecedented” a Netanyahu plan to delay for a year the building of new settlements but still permit construction of nearly 3,000 housing units currently on the books, all in the name of “natural growth.”
The ban also would not apply to new building in East Jerusalem, where Arab families are being evicted from their longtime homes.
Her laudatory comments triggered sharp criticism from Arab leaders, who wondered why the Obama administration appeared to be backsliding on the settlements issue.
So on Wednesday, Clinton tilted back toward the Palestinians by saying that the Obama administration does not accept the legitimacy of Israeli settlement enclaves on the West Bank and wants to see their construction halted “forever.” Still, she said an Israeli offer to restrain — but not halt — construction represents “positive movement forward” toward resuming Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.
Talk about threading the needle! Welcome to the Middle East tinderbox, Madame Secretary, where every word counts and tensions always run high.
Have the Israelis forgotten their inherent sense of justice? How long are they going to prey upon Palestinian land and water with impunity?
Why would the United States aid — in terms of billions of dollars annually and its political support — any country that oppresses a helpless people with its military power and daily humiliation at checkpoints and walls? Where are the voices of civil-rights leaders of long ago?
Settlers from all over are laying claim to land by virtue of their religion and inflicting suffering on those who have not harmed them. Simply put, they come from faraway places to take other people’s homes.
What people would tolerate that?
The U.S. didn’t win points with the Palestinians when it rejected — as did Israel — the report of South African Chief Justice Richard Goldstone to the United Nations Human Rights Council, a report that accused both the Israeli Defense Forces and Hamas of war crimes during the siege of Gaza last winter.
But Goldstone’s harshest criticisms were reserved for the Israelis, with allegations that they shot unarmed citizens and destroyed hundreds of homes, leaving them in rubble.
In an interview with Bill Moyers on the Public Broadcasting Service, Goldstone called the actions “outrageous” and said there should have been “outrage.”
The Israeli incursions into Arab land are reminiscent of Russia’s expansionism into Eastern Europe after World War II.
Since 1967, the Israelis have pushed Palestinians out and built homes for thousands of Jews in East Jerusalem -a site where Palestinians hope to make their capital in a future Palestinian state.
When President Barack Obama came into power, both he and Clinton proclaimed that there should be a total freeze on new Israeli settlements. That was the new U.S. policy, we thought. But now with the U.S. flip-flopping under pressure, no one is quite sure where Obama stands on the big divide in the Middle East.
Israel continues to portray itself as the underdog — simply trying to “defend itself” against those “terrorists” who somehow are angry that their homes have been demolished and their olive and orange groves and vineyards plundered and confiscated.
Clearly the Israelis want to expand their holdings. Only Obama can stop them.
(Helen Thomas can be reached at 202-263-6400 or at the e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org).
(c) 2009 Hearst Newspapers
Distributed by King Features Syndicate