How Neutral is US Neutrality in the Middle East?

By Ershad Abubacker

The recent dueling positions of long time friends and all time allies Israel and America over the construction of 1,600 new apartments in east Jerusalem has obviously hit the headlines worldwide. This has lead to a few high dramatic enactments including the Vice President Joe Biden being reported to be ‘embarrassed;’ Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton calling the Israeli land policy ‘provocative’ and termed it as not in Israel’s long-term interests and undermined U.S. credibility as a neutral mediator. At this juncture it is really worthwhile to examine the claims of America as the neutral broker in the long standing Israeli Palestine conflict.

Israel recently announced new housing plans for east Jerusalem, the part of the city Palestinians want for a future capital, drawing unusually sharp criticism from the Obama administration. The drama reached its high-end when President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met at the White House on 23 March behind closed doors in the midst of a serious dispute that spoiled what might have been a ‘celebration’ of a recent agreement for a new round of peace talks with the Palestinians. Both countries are eager to defuse the tensions and Obama administration appears too keen to let the awkwardly timed visit pass with as little public remark as possible.
 
With the Jerusalem municipality going ahead with the proposed plan and approving 20 new apartments for Jews in an Arab part of East Jerusalem, a new diplomatic crisis is arising between United States and its most trusted Middle East ally, Israel. This project is funded by Jewish American millionaire Irving Moskowitz, a longtime supporter of the Jewish State. Though the Jerusalem municipality authorities tried to play down the project as a zoning issue, the move to grant building permissions to the Shepherd Hotel project in Sheikh Jarrah, the Arab heart of east Jerusalem, could see escalated protests and violence erupting between the Palestinians and Israeli riot police. Though Netanyahu has publicly apologized for the poor timing of the announcement of new apartments in east Jerusalem, he is reluctant to abide by the US call for cancelling the project. Both the White House and its Israeli counterparts are unwilling to disclose the outcome of this week presidential talks hints to a situation where both the leaders have found little breakthrough in their one to one talks.

At a time when the two countries voiced their palpable difference in public, Netanyahu was given a warm welcome in the American Congress. Netanyahu’s whole hearted praise for his congressional hosts for what he called warm, bipartisan support says it all. The Congress, irrespective of being dominated by Democrats or Republicans, stands firmly behind the state of Israel. It’s been no secret that the foreign policies of the Democrats are better implemented by Republicans and vice versa. This being confirmed time and again by top Democrat and Republican leaders and the latest comment came in from the leader of the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi- "In Congress we speak with one voice on the subject of Israel."

A careful analysis will put forth the fact that a credible peace in Middle East will not start just with Israel backing out of its plan to build 1,600 new apartments in east Jerusalem, the largely Arab section of the disputed holy city. It has to start at Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C. This is where the tryst of evils is, this is where the war begins, and this is where the sufferings of Palestinians are given shape and resource. A small peep into the billions of US tax dollars spend on Israel would prove this.

The US has exercised its veto power many times in the UN Security Council, but more devastating than that is, it provides billions of US tax dollars of aid to Israel, a lot of it as military aid and a major chunk of it in the most lethal possible form. The total aid by US to Israel for the period of 1949-2000 comes to over $100 billion making Israel, a country the size of New Jersey, the fourth most powerful military in the world in possession of largest fleet of F-16 fighter planes outside the US. But yet the myth of American neutrality with respect to Middle East conflict is followed throughout the world.

Rather than monitoring the game of power, America is simply part of the game. When it comes to the siege in Gaza, the US government is not part of the solution, but an active part of the problem itself. There is no point denying that the main source of danger to people in Gaza and West Bank is from attacks by Israel using weapons provided by the United States. These are not opinions to be debated, rather, facts to be dealt with.

A sense of historical amnesia has crippled the whole world from remembering the fact that there existed a country named Palestine and a population of 6 million almost 62 years ago that has been systematically wiped out and the land being annexed to what is called Israel in the present day. This is not an issue that should be seen through the narrow mind and fixed views of one’s religion. Palestine is a cry of humanity. Those who claim neutrality amidst this catastrophe must realize that neutrality does not exist at the phase of bulldozed houses, bullet ridden infants and white phosphorus bombs. Doing nothing to prevent it is, in fact, choosing. It’s not being neutral.

– Ershad Abubacker is a Research Analyst based in Chennai. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: ershadna@gmail.com.

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