Following Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s speech before the U.S. Congress, it was clear that there will be no peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing, to know where things really stand.
In reality, the die was cast when the Likud government cast its lot with the country’s anti-democratic elements, rather than forming a coalition government with the liberal-centrist Kadima Party. The result is a policy of expanding settlements and forcibly evicting Palestinians from their homes, described by a UN investigator as ethnic cleansing. Israel’s nearly 1.6 million citizens of Arab descent are not truly citizens, as they face racial discrimination, and new laws on the books make sure they are kept down and out. Meanwhile, ultra-orthodox factions in Israel impose litmus tests for the Jewish Diaspora and progressive Jewish-American groups such as J Street. George Mitchell’s resignation as Obama’s Mideast envoy, whether it was due to unwilling partners or missteps by the White House itself, only underscored the seeming intractability of the situation.
For AIPAC, the American neocons, and the Christian evangelical Zionists waiting for the rapture to begin, Netanyahu was a big hit in Congress. But his oratorical victory was a diplomatic failure. The leader of the client state thumbing his nose at the leader of the host state, in the absence of the latter no less, provided a façade of courage and little else. In reality, Bibi backed Israel further into the corner of international isolation, with the Israeli government as a continuing source of embarrassment for liberal Jewish-Americans. And he is relegating himself to the outpost of historical irrelevancy. Dedicating new Jewish housing in Arab East Jerusalem, while dissing Obama in Washington was the easy thing to do. But extending a hand to those who disagree with you and forging a peace agreement that includes a genuine two state solution, now that’s an entirely different matter. That’s courage, which is missing.
According to Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, his country faces a “diplomatic tsunami that the majority of the country is unaware of.” Blaming Netanyahu, Barak said the prime minister’s indecisiveness was “pushing Israel into a corner from which the old South Africa’s deterioration began.” Last year, Barak warned that a failure to make peace with the Palestinians would create an apartheid state or a state without a Jewish majority.
And so, the Palestinians will take their case for statehood to the United Nations in September. And with no viable alternatives, a unilateral declaration of statehood is viewed as the only thing to bring Israel back to the negotiating table. Effectively ignoring the threat of a U.S. veto in the UN Security Council, the Palestinians are expected to call for a vote in the General Assembly under UNGA Resolution 377, known as the “Uniting for Peace” resolution. Resolution 377 allows the General Assembly to step in during a stalemate in the Security Council, when “there appears to be a threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression.” The Palestinians will likely succeed, as surely they know they will be hard to ignore once they have the support of anywhere between 110 and 150 nations, and establish embassies throughout the world.
The larger question is whether all human beings have a right to self-determination and the right to determine their destiny, or whether the democratizing effect of the Arab Spring applies only to Arabs who live outside of the West Bank or Gaza. I am reminded of Malcolm X, who in 1964 appealed to 34 African nations to take the “deteriorating plight” of African-Americans to the UN on the grounds that it was “definitely becoming a threat to world peace.” He added that the “United States government is morally incapable of protecting the lives and property of 22 million Afro-Americans.” That was a different time and place, perhaps, but still the issue of basic human rights remains the same.
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