By Joharah Baker
The UN Conference on Racism which just closed in Geneva was one of the many instances that Israel was able to enforce its dictates on the United States (and others, obviously). After tremendous pressure from Israel, the US backed down from attending the conference even though the opening declaration might as well have been tailor-made for Israel.
In any case, one would think Israel would be satisfied with the United States’ obvious alliance with it, especially given the latter’s superior position as the only "superpower" today. This is not the case, however, and even Palestinians – accustomed to Israel’s arrogance, are slightly shocked at its effrontery.
The instance in question revolves around US President Barack Obama’s newest proposal to revive the bedridden peace process, not only between the Palestinians and Israel but with the Arabs as well. On April 21, Obama met with Jordanian King Abdullah II and outlined his "gesture plan" to jumpstart the process in the region, which includes a "series of confidence-building gestures" between Palestinians, Israel and the Arab world. One of these gestures is a freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank in exchange for normalization steps by the Arabs.
In any case, the news of the plan had barely broken before new Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman put in his two-cents worth on the subject.
"The Obama Administration will put forth new peace initiatives only if Israel wants it to," Lieberman told a Russian daily. "Believe me, America accepts all our decisions,"
Let’s go out on a limb here and say such brazen statements cannot possibly be well received by Washington, even if it is Israel’s biggest and most loyal ally. Which begs another question – why does the US stand for it?
The closest analogy to best describing the US-Israel relationship is one of a parent and an extremely spoiled child. The parent, out of guilt, obligation or just poor parenting skills, gives this child whatever it wants. It lavishes it with gifts, reinforces its negative behavior and looks the other way when it misbehaves. It makes excuses for it, justifies its bullying and always defends it to others, no matter how disrespectful it becomes.
As a result, this "parent" has created a monster. The unruly child cannot be controlled, thinks it is the center of the universe and ultimately controls its parent even if it is the weaker party and depends heavily on it financially. The child – or Israel – understandably thinks it can call all the shots and that its parent, the US, will not reject it. Why should it? It never has before.
Hence, we have the Lieberman situation. With the gall of a playground bully, he is basically spitting in Obama’s eye, telling him that all of his peace efforts will be for naught if they do not suit Israel’s fancy. It’s not like he hasn’t done this before. Less than a day after taking office, Lieberman confirmed that Israel was not bound by the Annapolis understandings of November, 2007. Also on April 21, Lieberman added that he would rule out an Arab peace initiative as well. "This is a dangerous proposal, intending on the destruction of Israel," he said, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz.
Never mind that neither the Annapolis understandings nor the Arab peace initiative propose anything of the sort. At most, the latter proposal calls for an Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian and Arab lands occupied in 1967 in exchange for full normalization with Arab countries. There is no mention of Israel proper, which 61 years after its creation has unfortunately become an undisputed fact on the ground, even if the circumstances surrounding its establishment are marred with injustices for the indigenous Palestinian population. Injustices, it should be added, that until today have not been rectified.
The fact that Israel can remain so insolent in the face of international law, which clearly defines its settlement of occupied Palestinian land illegal, leaves little room for optimism. When the United States backed out of the Durban II Conference on Racism in Geneva, much to the chagrin of many, it became clear that Israel really does carry tremendous clout.
This is not a reassuring concept. As the most influential country on earth, the United States obviously plays a major role in foreign policies everywhere, Israel in particular. The fact that it is so flagrantly biased towards Israel means the Palestinians will be handed the short end of the stick more times than not.
Our only hope is that President Obama and his administration are not always intimidated by Israel’s self-righteousness and audacity. For the new US President, this will certainly be a challenge given Israel’s new leaders. The Netanyahu/Lieberman partnership is an unpleasant union for the Palestinians, for sure. But we are, without a doubt, the underdog in this mix. The United States is not. It could reign in Israel’s arrogance, call it out on its transgressions and like a responsible parent, discipline it when necessary. Unfortunately, while the United States has the ability and the know-how to do this, it has so far lacked the will.
Unlike his predecessor, President Obama seems to be trying. Perhaps he will be the first US president to cut the umbilical cord with Israel. Let’s hope for all our sakes that the US will finally say, "Enough is enough."
– Joharah Baker is a Writer for the Media and Information Program at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Published in MIFTAH – www.miftah.org)