Europe Raising Its Ire

By George S. Hishmeh – Washington

Some key European governments, unlike the Obama administration, have now come up with some tangible steps to start the ball rolling towards a peace settlement between an anxious Palestinian Authority and a right-wing Israeli government which seems to be reluctant to reach a two-state solution.

Javier Solana, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, has unexpectedly advocated a process whereby the UN Security Council would set a deadline for the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Speaking in London last Saturday, he said the council would “proclaim the adoption of a two-state solution” whenever the deadline is reached. “[The council] would accept the Palestinian state as a full member of the UN, and set a calendar for implementation. It would mandate the resolution of other remaining territorial disputes and legitimize the end of claims.”

However, he explained, that should the parties be unable “to stick to [the timetable], then a solution backed by the international community should be put on the table”.

Meantime, the British government has revoked five export licenses for military equipment to the Israeli navy because of its drastic actions during the 23-day Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip earlier this year when about 1,400 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed. The exports were said to be now in violation of British criteria that prohibit the sale of weapons which might be used for “external aggression or internal repression”.

The embargo was prompted after a government review of all British defense exports to Israel. It followed protestations by various human rights organizations and British parliamentarians.

In contrast, the Obama administration has yet to take similar action although, over the past decade, the United States has reportedly transferred more than $17 billion in military aid to Israel, one of America’s largest arms importers.

Although these latest European actions coming on the heels of French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s recent criticism of Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who lives in an Israeli colony and who has lately been sidelined in dealing with the peace issues, may not amount to arm-twisting tools, they signal growing dissatisfaction with Israeli policies. Some also believe they prompted the first invitation earlier this week by President Barack Obama to leaders of 15 American Jewish organizations to a private meeting at the White House. Interestingly, it was also attended by the president’s two American-Jewish aides, Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff who Netanyahu reportedly blames for bad-mouthing him to Obama, and senior political adviser David Axelrod.

The gist of the meeting, according to participants, was the ongoing “war of words” that has developed over Israel’s refusal to abide by the US demand to freeze all settlement expansion in the West Bank. This session came in the wake of the “sharp criticism from Jewish conservatives in the media” against Obama, according to a Jewish news agency, JTA, “who claim the president is bent on scaling back US support for Israel”. But “liberal groups are rejecting such claims, saying that the president and his approach to advancing Israeli-Palestinian talks enjoy the support of most American Jews,” JTA added.

Obama was said to have told the assembled Jewish leaders that Israel needs “to engage in serious reflection” in order to overcome its demographic problem if it wants to reach a two-state solution. Debra DeLee, president of Americans for Peace Now said in a statement after the meeting: “I know that I speak for most American Jews when I wholeheartedly embrace President Obama’s clear position on settlements.” She went on to reveal that none of the participants expressed objection to the Obama’s “resolute position that settlement construction must stop.”

No one, on the other hand, has touched on the all-important need for Israel to dismantle all these settlements which are a violation of international law, especially the UN resolutions adopted after the Israeli occupation of these Palestinian lands in 1967.

However, Israel and its proxies are not standing still. A former legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) has revealed that the best advice given lately to pro-Israel activists has been to change the subject. That is: “If you can’t convince ‘em, accuse ‘em.”

This advice, according to a column published by Douglas M. Bloomfield, came from The Israeli Project (TIP), a Washington-based group, offering “the best settlement argument” in its Global Language Dictionary, a 140-page primer on how to talk to journalists and decision-makers about the Arab-Israeli conflict. “Rather than try to defend Israeli settlements, change the subject,” the primer intoned. “If that doesn’t work, try accusing those who advocate removing Jewish settlements ‘a kind of ethnic cleansing to move all Jews’ from the West Bank.”

Of course TIP did not mention that Palestinian leaders, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and head of the Palestinian negotiating team Ahmed Qureia have publicly said Jews can live within a Palestinian state with full rights.

How long can Obama tolerate this meddling from the Israeli lobby is anyone’s guess. But obviously he cannot continue to mark time since some voices in the Arab world are now being heard saying that the young American president has “deluded Arabs and Muslims into believing it would tread a path different to that of the previous administration”.

– George S. Hishmeh is a Washington-based columnist. He contributed this article to Contact him at:

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