By Abdul-Majid Jaffry
President Obama in his recent speech embraced the Palestinians’ demand to draw the boundary of their aspiring state along the 1967 border. This is not the first time a U.S. President has called on Israel to withdraw from the territory it occupied in 1967 for a sovereign and viable Palestinian State to emerge. In a question-and-answer session at a town meeting in Clinton, Massachusetts in 1977, President Jimmy Carter advocated the same, "there must be a resolution of the Palestine problem and a homeland for the Palestinians." President Carter’s envisioned plan also required Israeli withdrawal to roughly the 1967 boundaries.
Since the U.S. first called Israel 34 years ago to disengage from the occupied territories, Israel not only not ceded an inch of the occupied territory, rather steadily and systematically expanded its encroachment into the occupied Palestinian territories. Israel did so with complete impunity and without any fear of retaliation from any quarter.
“The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.” This was President Obama outlining his vision last month for the most contentious and violent problem the world is facing for the last many decades. When defiant Netanyahu in his address to the joint session of Congress rejected President Obama’s 1967 border proposal, the bipartisan Congress accorded him several standing ovations. This was, on the one hand, Congress’ unmistakable message to Obama to back off from his proposed plan and, on the other, a show of spirited support for Netanyahu’s stubborn and recalcitrant stance on Palestinian issue.
In March 2010, Vice President Joe Biden visited Tel Aviv to restore the peace talk, Netanyahu took the occasion to challenge and mock USA by promptly announcing the construction of another 1,600 homes for Israeli Jews in occupied East Jerusalem. Similarly, last month after the Obama’s peace proposal, Netanyahu not only bluntly rejected U.S. call for settlement freeze, but also right after President Obama’s speech and just before he embarked on his trip to Washington, in an arrogant and contemptuous way authorized the building of over 1,500 new settlements in occupied East Jerusalem. It is Netanyahu’s way of showing as to who is in the driver’s seat.
Israel’s recalcitrance and revolt against the President of the United States is warmly received and applauded by the movers and shakers of American politics. The Congress was enthusiastically supportive to Netanyahu in his nose thumbing at Obama. The presidential hopefuls also lend their unequivocal support to Israeli Prime Minister. Mitt Romney said in a statement, "President Obama has thrown Israel under the bus”, he further said of Obama, “He has disrespected Israel and undermined its ability to negotiate peace". Tim Pawlenty, another Republican presidential contender, called a return to 1967 borders "a mistaken and very dangerous demand." He called President Obama’s criteria for restarting peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians as a "disaster waiting to happen”. Mike Huckabee, a former presidential candidate, declared President Obama had “betrayed Israel.”
Senator Orrin Hatch went one-step further; he not only condemned Obama for “undermining” Israel but also stated his intention to introduce a resolution disapproving Obama’s “dangerous” policy concerning Israel.
With the open ridicule and contempt for Obama’s peace proposal, the Israeli Prime Minister has sent out a forceful message against the establishment of a viable and sovereign Palestine side by side with the Jewish state. The U.S. Congress with its standing ovations and lavish praise on Netanyahu showed its solidarity with Netanyahu and conveyed to the U.S. administration that Israeli withdrawal to 1967 borders does not fit into U.S. policy toward the Mideast peace process.
With Netanyahu’s categorical refusal to withdraw to 1967 border and Congress’s unanimous and unwavering support for Netanyahu’s position, Obama saw the reading on the wall and backed off from his proposal faster than a rabbit with a fox on his tail. Although, many a U.N. resolution called for the same – Israel to relinquish the territories occupied in 1967 war.
President Obama in his much-celebrated Cairo speech of June 2009 made the lofty statement, "The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop." However, when the time came to walk the talk, Obama became lame under the Israeli pressure; his administration submissively vetoed the UN Security Council resolution condemning the Israeli settlements as "illegal" and seeking their immediate freeze. The U.S. argument, "Our judgment was this resolution wouldn’t have advanced the goal to get the parties closer to an agreement" was in mirror image of Israeli position. The other 14 members of the Security Council voted in favor of the resolution.
The Security Council resolution would have had absolutely zero effect on Israeli policy of building illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian territory; After all Israel is not Afghanistan, Iraq or Libya, that an international coalition force would have been put together and NATO forces would have been invited to punish Israel for not complying with the U.N. resolution. Such even-handedness and fair play from the historically biased and undemocratic United Nation Security Council is not expected.
Interestingly, despite the Israel’s continuous nose thumbing at the U.S, the U.S. has promised Israel the $30 billion aid over the next decade; like a betrayed but loyal political wife who stands by her man, the U.S., remains steadfastly committed to its “perfect” marriage with Israel.
The U.S. president is politically impotent to challenge Jewish power. In the presence of the powerful political cabal that jealously guards the Israeli interests and exercises a stranglehold on American Mideast foreign policy, any White House attempt to formulate Mideast policy independent of Israel’s will not succeed. No Congressman is brave enough, or foolish enough, to take on to AIPAC. American President and Congress are irrelevant, they do not possess the mettle to resist or influence Israel. However, there is every evidence that resistance and influence goes in the other direction.
The Palestinians should wake up to the fact that the U.S. has neither the will nor the capacity to separate its Mideast policy from Israel’s, and that it can never be taken as a serious and honest arbitrator in the Arab Israeli conflict, and that it hold them in contempt and is complicit in their perpetual subjugation and sufferings. They should come out of the state of deep trance and smell the coffee; they have been taken for ride once and again for decades.
Make no mistake, Israel has no intention of making peace with Palestine and allowing a sovereign, viable, and armed Palestinian state to emerge next to its border, and that no concession the Palestinians might reasonably offer that could possibly change the Israeli position. Israeli will never pull the half million Jewish settlers from the West Bank and East Jerusalem to make room for a distinct state of Palestine. On the contrary, it will keep populating the seized Palestinian land with Israeli Jews to make a stronger claim of the area in future negotiation. Israel will never allow the uprooted Palestinian refuges to return to their homes. Israel will never let go the control of water supplies in the West Bank. To think otherwise is a wishful thinking, if not delusion.
What have the Palestinians got from the Madrid Conference of 1991, Oslo Accord of 1993, and Camp David Summit of 2000, and many talks and agreements in between? The answer is that not only they got zilch but much has been taken away from them in this period; Palestinian homes were continued to be demolished, Jewish settlers kept building homes on confiscated Palestinian land, West Bank divided into areas "A", "B" and "C", and each area separated from the other by settlements and bypass roads.
Palestinians can talk and negotiate with Israel till the second coming of the Christ, but it would be absurd and politically naïve to expect that through diplomacy and negotiation, Israel will agree to withdraw from all of the occupied territories and would accept the existence of a free, armed, and sovereign Palestine, as it should and must.
To say that negotiation is the way to unshackle Palestinians would be foolish to believe. Just as foolish would be to believe that the U.S. would be a fair and impartial mediator. “When U.S. plays the role of a mediator, everybody knows there’s a big fat thumb on the scales in favor of Israel.”
Palestinians must end in-house fighting, revive unity and integrity among their ranks, and resume their Intifada against the cruel Israeli oppression and occupation. It is time the farce of negotiation should be put to bed.
– Abdul-Majid Jaffry is retired engineer from aircraft industry and a freelance columnist. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.