Daniel R. DePetris: The Political Docket

Does the U.S. Even Understand What a Peace Process is?

Posted in Israeli-Palestinian Conflict by Dan on November 22, 2009

Israeli bulldozers destroy another Palestinian home

Check out how ignorant and out of touch the United States is when Israeli-Palestinian peace is discussed during a press conference.

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QUESTION: On the peace process, Israel has approved today the construction of 900 new housing units in East Jerusalem. How do you view this approval at this specific time?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think, Michel, you’ve heard us say many times that we believe that neither party should engage in any kind of actions that could unilaterally preempt or appear to preempt negotiations. And I think that we find the Jerusalem Planning Committee’s decision to move forward on the approval of the — approval process for the expansion of Gilo in Jerusalem as dismaying. This is at a time when we’re working to re-launch negotiations, and we believe that these actions make it more difficult for our efforts to succeed. So we object to this, and we object to other Israeli practices in Jerusalem related to housing, including the continuing pattern of evictions and demolitions of Palestinian homes. And — just to repeat what we’ve said all along, our position on Jerusalem is clear. We believe that the – that Jerusalem is a permanent status issue that must be resolved through negotiations between the two parties.

QUESTION: Can you tell us, did this come up in Ambassador Mitchell’s meetings in London yesterday? Apparently, we were told that he met an advisor to Netanyahu, asked them to not permit these new buildings, and then that request was flatly turned down.

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Andy, I just don’t want to get into the substance of these negotiations. They’re sensitive. I think you’ve seen the Israeli — some Israeli press reports that did report that this was raised in the meetings. … But I don’t want to get into the substance of the discussions yesterday in London. …

QUESTION: How long is the U.S. going to continue to tolerate Israel’s violation of international law? I mean, soon it’s not even going to be possible — there’s not going to be any land left for the Palestinians to establish an independent state.

MR. KELLY: Well, again, this is a — we understand the Israeli point of view about Jerusalem. But we think that all sides right now, at this time when we’re expending such intense efforts to try and get the two sides to sit down, that we should refrain from these actions, like this decision to move forward on an approval process for more housing units in East Jerusalem.

QUESTION: But should U.S. inaction, or in response to Israel’s actions, then be interpreted as some sort of about-face in policy – the President turning his back on the promises he’s made to the Palestinians?

MR. KELLY: You’re — okay, you’re using language that I wouldn’t use. I mean, again, our focus is to get these negotiations started. We’re calling on both parties to refrain from actions, from – and from rhetoric that would impede this process. It’s a challenging time, and we just need to focus on what’s important here, and that’s —

QUESTION: Well, what actions (inaudible) the Palestinians taken recently that would impede progress?

MR. KELLY: Well, as I say, we would discourage all unilateral actions, and I think —

QUESTION: Fair enough. But the Palestinians —

MR. KELLY: We talked yesterday —

QUESTION: — don’t appear to be taking any unilateral actions. It seems to be (inaudible).

MR. KELLY: Well, we did talk yesterday about the – and I want to make sure I get my language right here – about the – discouraging any kind of unilateral appeal for United Nations Security Council recognition of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. That would fall in that category of unilateral actions.

QUESTION: Okay. So the Palestinian call for this, which was rejected by both the EU and yourself yesterday, you’re putting that on the same level as them building — as the Israelis building —

MR. KELLY: No, I’m not saying that. You just said that, Matt. I’m not saying that. I’m just saying that —

QUESTION: Well, you’re saying you’re calling on both sides to stop doing these things.

MR. KELLY: We are.

QUESTION: Yeah. But the rhetoric from the —

MR. KELLY: I’m not saying they’re equivalent.

QUESTION: — Palestinians is not actually constructed in a —

MR. KELLY: I’m not saying they’re equivalent. I’m just saying that we — they — we have to treat these things as sensitive issues.

QUESTION: You said a little bit earlier that we understand the Israeli point of view on Jerusalem. Can you explain what you mean by that?

MR. KELLY: Well, you have to ask — I’m not going to stand up here and characterize the Israeli point of view on —

QUESTION: No. I’m just asking you, if you understand the Israeli point of view on Jerusalem, why are you saying that this is not a good thing?

MR. KELLY: I’m not saying we support the Israeli point of view. We understand it.

QUESTION: Right. And then, last one on this, you characterized this decision by the planning commission as dismaying.

MR. KELLY: Yes.

QUESTION: You can’t come up with anything stronger than “dismaying”? I mean, this flies in the face of everything you’ve been talking about for months and months and months.

MR. KELLY: It’s dismaying.

QUESTION: Yeah, you can’t offer a condemnation of it or anything like that? (Laughter.) I mean, who is in charge of the language here.

MR. KELLY: I have said what I have said, Mr. Lee. . .

QUESTION: Would you say, though, that your own envoy has – does he have any leverage at this point, given the fact that the Israelis not only refuse, but blatantly have ignored his wishes on this?

MR. KELLY: Well, let’s take a step back and let’s also recognize that both sides agree on the goal, and that goal is a comprehensive peace. That goal is two states living side by side in peace and security and cooperation. So that is why we continue to be committed to this. That is why Special Envoy Mitchell meets with both sides at every opportunity, and why we are continuing to expend such efforts on this. So let’s remember that, that we do share a common goal.

QUESTION: Well, where’s Senator Mitchell today?

MR. KELLY: I believe Senator Mitchell is on his way back today.

QUESTION: Could you give us just a brief synopsis of the progress that Senator Mitchell has made in his months on the job?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think we have – we’ve gotten —

QUESTION: Yeah, maybe if the —

MR. KELLY: — both sides to agree on this goal. We have gotten both sides —

QUESTION: Ian, they agreed on the goal years ago. I mean, that’s not —

MR. KELLY: Well, I think that we – this government —

QUESTION: You mean you got the Israel Government to say, yes, we’re willing to accept a Palestinian state? You got Netanyahu to say that, and that’s his big accomplishment?

MR. KELLY: That is an accomplishment.

QUESTION: But previous Israeli administration – previous Israeli governments had agreed to that already.

MR. KELLY: Okay, all right.

QUESTION: So in other words, the bottom line is that, in the list of accomplishments that Mitchell has come up with or established since he started, is zero.

MR. KELLY: I wouldn’t say zero.

QUESTION: Well, then what would you say it is?

MR. KELLY: Well, I would say that we’ve gotten both sides to commit to this goal. They have – we have – we’ve had a intensive round or rounds of negotiations, the President brought the two leaders together in New York. Look —

QUESTION: But wait, hold on. You haven’t had any intense —

MR. KELLY: Obviously —

QUESTION: There haven’t been any negotiations.

MR. KELLY: Obviously, we’re not even in the red zone yet, okay.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. KELLY: I mean, we’re not — but it’s — we are less than a year into this Administration, and I think we’ve accomplished more over the last year than the previous administration did in eight years.

QUESTION: Well, I – really, because the previous administration actually had them sitting down talking to each other. You guys can’t even get that far.

MR. KELLY: All right … Give us a chance …

QUESTION: It seems Senator Mitchell is focusing in his meetings on the Israeli side. Is he — does he have any plans to talk with the Palestinians, or there is no need now for that?

MR. KELLY: Well, he, as I say, he had meetings yesterday with the Israelis. He’s coming back to the U.S. now. He always stands ready to talk to both sides. There are no plans at this moment to meet with the Palestinian side.

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It is easy for me to sit here, type on this blog and say that this exchange was a pathetic excuse for a State Department press conference. But that is exactly what it was. Not one mention of HOW the Israelis are finding room to expand Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem (destroying Palestinian homes). Not one mention of how angry the U.S. Government is over Israeli defiance and their predisposition for intolerant behavior. Not one mention of Palestinian grievances…and, of course, not one mention of what is actually going on between the Israelis and Palestinians. It is hard for me to say- and it will be harder for Obama lovers to accept this fact- but Mr. Kelly deliberately lied to the Press Corps throughout that entire news conference.

“We’ve gotten both sides to commit to this goal.” I beg to differ. Can you honestly say that the Israeli Government is serious about a “comprehensive peace?” This is a laughable statement, and some reporters in the press corps actually did laugh. The Israelis have been extraordinarily difficult to deal with, and there is no evidence that they are willing to change their behavior for the good of a comprehensive peace plan. The Palestinians have shown the Israelis good faith consistently over the past two years, namely by significantly cracking-down on militant activity within the West Bank. The Israelis have not returned the favor in any substantial way. Settlement construction continues, and hundreds upon hundreds of roadblocks are still prevalent throughout the Palestinian Territories; a perfect microcosm of the humiliation surrounding the occupation.

Plus, it seems that Mr. Kelly has failed to recognize the motives behind the newly-approved settlement plan. It should be rather obvious that this action is direct retaliation for the Palestinian attempt of unilateral statehood. Mr. Netanyahu said so much himself, saying that the Israeli Government would respond with equal force in the event of a unilaterally-declared Palestinian state. Or perhaps this is Israel’s way of preventing the Palestinians from appealing to the U.N. Security Council in the first place. Either way, the United States has not publicly understood the full extent of the Israeli decision.

-Daniel R. DePetris

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20 Responses

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  1. Zathras said, on November 22, 2009 at 2:33 am

    Let me say up front that I have no great sympathy for the Palestinians, or at least for their political leadership, and even less for their patrons in other Arab states. Iran, making trouble in the area for no good reason at all, is beyond the pale altogether. I am also well aware that a great deal of the objection to Israeli policy, and more generally to Israel, in this country is basically the same objection to Jews that has been around for centuries. This fact has undermined the arguments of those who object to the American government being so reflexively supportive of anything the Israeli government chooses to do.

    Having said all that, the appearance presented in this briefing is one of weakness that borders on pathetic. Fundamentally, the issue is the Obama administration’s having allowed itself to be completely intimidated by the domestic political implications of challenging those aspects of Israeli policy that serve no American interest and complicate our relations with many foreign countries. The administration appears to accept the logic that any disagreement with Israel will be interpreted in the United States as the administration’s fault, and will put its foreign and domestic priorities at risk.

    It is hard to imagine a more persuasive explanation for following the President’s speech in Cairo with a performance like the one quoted here. On top of that, the political calculation is wrong. American supporters of Israel who feel strongly enough about expanding Jewish settlements on the West Bank and in disputed areas of Jerusalem mostly view President Obama with the same contemptuous disregard the Netanyahu government does now, and most of those who don’t are unlikely to object so strongly to a firmer policy that they will withhold support for other administration policies.

    At worst, some Obama supporters who support Israel might be uncomfortable and even disappointed if the administration showed a less obsequious public face to the Netanyau government. That is no great danger. In fact, this administration will be forced to run much larger domestic political risks on other issues before Obama’s first term is out. If it is willing to accept this level of indignity on this issue, how will it stand up to the much more difficult challenges in its near future?

  2. WigWag said, on November 22, 2009 at 2:34 am

    Bibi must just love Barack; after all, he couldn’t ask for a better political ally. Bibi came into office after his party placed second in Israel’s recent elections. His coalition was bickering and shaky and pundits were taking bets on how long it would last. Now, after just a few short months of “change we can believe in,” Bibi is more popular than ever in Israel, Barack Obama is so unpopular that he can’t bring his approval numbers out of the single digits and Obama’s “Cairo Speech” looks like the pandering that it actually was. The pies de resistance is that Obama’s approval numbers in the Arab world are beginning to decline and are surely about to fall off a cliff.

    The most interesting part of the interview is where the questioner says. “…the previous administration actually had them sitting down talking to each other. You guys can’t even get that far.” The best Kelly can say is “all right…give us a chance.”

    Maybe its time for President Obama to get Dubya on the phone, apologize for all of those nasty things he said about the Bush foreign policy and beg Bush for some advice. Maybe Clinton and Mitchell can get Condi Rice and Elliot Abrams on the phone and ask them for some pointers too. After all, even Steve Walt has commented recently that the Obama policy on the Middle East just might look even worse than the Bush policy.

    Of course, Steve Walt is just as deluded as the Obama Administration is. In this post he ridicules the Obama Administration for not standing up to the Israelis. What Walt neglects to tell us is exactly how he expects the Administration to do that.

    After all, Israel is fervently supported by millions of American Jews and Christian Zionists. American polls consistently show that approval rates for Israel inevitably hover in the 50-60 percent range regardless of what Israel does or doesn’t do. Congress is overwhelmingly supportive of Israel as the recent House vote on the Goldstone Report shows. If AIPAC pushed for a vote on the Goldstone Report in the Senate (which supposedly it isn’t doing at the request of Senators Kerry and Lugar) the vote to condemn Goldstone would have been even more overwhelming. While the vast majority of Americans don’t care about the Israel-Palestine dispute one way or the other, those that do, vote. And those votes are crucial in swing states like Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio and in big states like New York and California.

    Contrast this to the way Americans react to the Palestinians. The American view of Palestinians is overwhelmingly negative. To the extent that Americans think about Palestinian aspirations at all (and the vast majority never think about it) they view Palestinians through the lens of airplanes crashing into the Twin Towers and Nidal Malik Hasan’s terrorist act at Fort Hood.

    What Walt can’t seem to fathom is that Obama can’t do anything but complain about Israeli behavior he doesn’t like not because he doesn’t want to, but because he doesn’t have the political support to act. In case Walt and his fellow travelers don’t realize it; the United States is a democracy; there is a large, energized base of Israel supporters who vote, contribute to political campaigns and otherwise avail themselves of their First Amendment rights. Whether you denigrate them as being a member of some nefarious “lobby” as Walt does or whether you think that they are operating in the finest traditions of American Democracy doesn’t matter.

    Conversely, supporters of the Palestinians, to the extent they exist at all, couldn’t organize themselves out of a paper bag.

    In light of the political realities, Walt would be far more productive if instead of ridiculing Obama for doing what he isn’t able to do, he made practical and realistic recommendations for how progress could actually be made in the real world; not the fantasy world that pundits and Harvard professors typically inhabit.

    • arvay said, on November 22, 2009 at 2:35 am

      You’ve just written the epitaph for 60 years of misguided American Mideast policy, and an outline for how future history books will recount the collapse of that policy and the disasters that followed.

      It must be very fulfilling to realize that the American people can be flummoxed constantly because of our bad educational system, distorted news reportage and mis-characterization of entire peoples by our “entertainment” industry.

      Plus, the artificial and corrupt influence of a lobby, which operates in the same fine tradition as the health industry, gun, auto industry, financial system, drug company and other fine examples of — democracy?

      If that’s democracy, the world’s oldest profession is a sacrament.

      The supporters of the Palestinians and the Palestinians themselves are organizing themselves quite well. You may have heard of Hezbollah and Hamas, and whatever aid we give Israel in its scorched earth responses will end up uniting eve more people against us, with success to match our great victories in Iran and Afghanistan.

      Good job!

  3. Nur al-Cubicle said, on November 22, 2009 at 2:36 am

    One would hope that after being sucker-punched twice and taking a blow to his reputation that cannot be repaired, Ambassador Mitchell would resign in protest.

    I did note that shortly after seeing the dispatch that Mitchell had been ordered back by the President to the area, presumably to specifically address the planned Gilo extension, Mrs. Clinton immediately humiliated him.

    It is a shame that the President cannot fire Mrs. Clinton but when your government is actually directory of Democrat Senators with big egos and conflicting agendas, such is life.

  4. janbekster said, on November 22, 2009 at 2:37 am

    I know I am repeating myself, but right from the start, President Obama told the Arabs what they wanted to hear, so that they can feel reassured enough, to push Mr. Abbas to the table of negotiations; becoming thus a “bete noire” for the Israelis, while Sec. Clinton told the Israelis what they wanted to hear in turn, so that Bibi can feel reassured enough to return to the table of negotiations; becoming thus a “bete noire” for the Arabs. In a sense [good cop-bad cop scenario].

    The only one whom felt totally cheated and without assurances is Mr. Abbas, so he refused to play ball. Mind you, he might surprise everyone yet, and return to the negotiations.

    • seanmcbride said, on November 22, 2009 at 2:37 am

      I think you are reading too much calculation and cleverness into the Obama administration on Mideast policy. My take is that this is an administration coming apart at the seams because of its inability to handle the Israeli government and the Israel lobby. The lobby is systematically undercutting, ridiculing and dismantling Obama. Netanyahu is treating Obama as a waiter, a person of no consequence.

      • janbekster said, on November 22, 2009 at 2:38 am

        I neither think Mr. Obama is that naive, nor Sec. Clinton is that much of a novice to underestimate the power of the Jewish Lobby in the US, or the way the government of Israel; especially under Bibi and his current coalition partners will react. What they did is the only straightforward thing to do in the hope of starting the peace process.

        All the “moderate” Arab leaders whom had met President Obama in Washington, pledged their support publicly for his peace plans in the Middle East. I doubt they would have come out publicly as such, to support plans they were unaware of.

        khairi janbek.paris/france

    • Nur al-Cubicle said, on November 22, 2009 at 2:38 am

      I do believe that Mr. Abbas requires no pushing whatsoever as he is willing in mind and body. It is the Palestinian people who required pushing to a conference table where their aspirations will be deceived and they will be asked to cheerfully consume whatever crumbs drop to the floor giving thanks for the generous banquet laid before them.

      • janbekster said, on November 22, 2009 at 2:39 am

        I feel Mr. Abbas does need pushing to the table, becaue he realises he is in the situation of damned if he does, and doomed if he doesn’t. So he opted for retirement rather than, negotiating while knowing beforehand, that what he has now is what he will get even if he negotiates.

        Alas, the tragdy of the palestinian people has constantly been propounded by their leadership.

        khairi janbek.paris/france

  5. Brett said, on November 22, 2009 at 2:40 am

    Hats off to the press questioners in that Kelly interview – they really held his balls to the fire. This type of thing just makes the Obama Administration look like feckless cowards, promising big things but being too cowardly to actually act on them.

    “In light of the political realities, Walt would be far more productive if instead of ridiculing Obama for doing what he isn’t able to do, he made practical and realistic recommendations for how progress could actually be made in the real world”

    Walt actually has made recommendations. If I remember right, he actually supports the Palestinian attempt at unilateral state declaration in the UN (which pisses off the Israelis, because then they can’t use the possibility of negotiations as a means to buy time to conduct more land invasions in the West Bank).

    “Congress is overwhelmingly supportive of Israel as the recent House vote on the Goldstone Report shows”

    We’ll see. The vote on Goldstone was a non-binding resolution. But suppose Obama were to threaten to block any aid without requirements that it not be used for settlement construction, and until the Israelis halt settlement construction period? Congress could try to pass it over his head, but it would be an ugly fight, and it would be easy for people to attack Congress openly for supporting Israeli land invasions.

    “Whether you denigrate them as being a member of some nefarious “lobby” as Walt does or whether you think that they are operating in the finest traditions of American Democracy doesn’t matter.”

    Personally, I think people who lobby for another state’s interest in the United States should be looked down upon more, and that’s not just with regards to Israel. But that’s just me – I despise having the US drawn into a bunch of long-standing ethnic bullshit because some group has their panties in a knot over something happening on the other side of world.

    “But Mr. Kelly deliberately lied to the Press Corps throughout that entire news conference.”

    I’m sympathetic to Kelly (although not his positions), since he’s stuck arguing whatever his boss propounds, no matter how ridiculous or stupid it sounds. Personally, I’d much prefer that Obama had been forced to answer those questions.

    This, by the way, is why the US really needs a Question Time equivalent like what the Brits have.

    • Jacob Blues said, on November 22, 2009 at 2:41 am

      “Personally, I think people who lobby for another state’s interest in the United States should be looked down upon more”

      Thankfully, extremists like you don’t run the country.

      • A balanced view said, on November 22, 2009 at 2:41 am

        I don’t think he is suggesting that People should not be able to speak their mind freely. But, no one is openly saying that they would like the US to help pay to ethnically cleanse the occupied territories and create an apartheid state over the remaining Palestinian population, even though that is what they are interested in doing.

        The Israeli SETTLERS say that and even worse, but no on in the US who is working to assist them ever says it quite that way, or even says that much at all about it. In fact, most people who support this cause spend most of their time smearing Critics of US-Israeli policy. They almost NEVER initiate discussion of it. That’s the way it goes on the internet and in the media.

        Rather, AIPAC and other ultra right wing supporters of the settlements seem to work most effectively behind the scenes, like the two top AIPAC representatives who were indicted on espionage charges for illegally receiving classified intel on Iran and passing to the Israeli government for the purpose of fomenting war between the US and Iran.

        The FBI was wiretapping another Israeli spy at the time and heard him offer Jane Harman a shot at a key intelligence chair if she agreed to interfere in the espionage trial of the two AIPAC operatives.

        He said that he would get Haim Saban to blackmail Nancy pelosi (by threatening to withhold millions of Dollars of contributions to the democratic party) unless she made Harman the chair of that committee. Harman agreed (and ended the call by saying “this conversation never happened”)
        and so did Saban.

        Now, no one is attempting to use their “1st amendment rights” in this case; in fact, quite the opposite, they are trying to avoid detection and prosecution for illegal acts that they use to force their agenda upon the rest of us through espionage, graft and blackmail.

        For the amount of money that we spend propping up the occupation and settlements, you could give free dental to the entire U.S.

        Instead, we get 9/11. If you take the cost of 9/11 and it’s aftermath, you could have paid for free health care for every American for decades to come.

  6. Brett said, on November 22, 2009 at 2:42 am

    “Thankfully, extremists like you don’t run the country.”

    I didn’t say “ban”, I said “looked down upon more”. There’s a large dose of hypocrisy involved with it, too – if there were a large Iranian contingent openly lobbying on behalf of better relations with the Iranian theocratic government, do you think anybody would think highly of them? They’d be regarded as a virtual fifth-column, particularly by the people busy lobbying for Israel.

    I know many of these people think they are helping both the US and their country of interest, but I think we need some pushback against that position. While it shouldn’t be illegal for them to lobby for their country, they shouldn’t exactly be beaming with pride over it.

  7. A balanced view said, on November 22, 2009 at 2:43 am

    An important point to consider is that the US appears to be actually supporting the status quo of settlement EXPANSION, while quelling any possible avenue that the Palestinians might engage in to put an end to it. We are “dismayed” (wink wink). They are being “unhelpful”. (wink wink). The Israelis are taking “unprecedented”actions toward peace (almost unbridled , barely stifled laughter)

    We have are soon going to be a world laughing stock and in even GREATER danger of middle eastern terrorist blow back after the Cairo speech. It’s flowery rhetoric can now be described as a series of out and out lies, which were either premeditated, or became lies due to a complete collapse of will in the face of what appears to be no pressure at all. It really doesn’t matter which.

    I have to say that my support and respect for the Obama administration and the entire democratic party is eroding by the day.

    We will continue to be screwed by the insurance companies with no viable, strong public option and legislation that forces the entire nation to buy insurance from these crooks or face legal consequences. They are going to sell out to the insurance lobby completely and call it progress.

    Meanwhile, our middle eastern policy has just become, officially, all Israel, all the time, regardless of what they do, and regardless of whether it leads directly to terrorist actions on US soil or not. Whether it costs up trillions in war expenses and tens of thousands of lives or not. They have sold out to the Israel lobby completely. They obviously could care LESS about the health or safety of their constituents as long as the cash and support keeps coming in.

    • Yesh Prabhu said, on November 22, 2009 at 2:44 am

      An important point to consider is that the US appears to be actually supporting the status quo of settlement EXPANSION, while quelling any possible avenue that the Palestinians might engage in to put an end to it. We are “dismayed” (wink wink). They are being “unhelpful”. (wink wink). The Israelis are taking “unprecedented”actions toward peace (almost unbridled , barely stifled laughter)

      We have are soon going to be a world laughing stock and in even GREATER danger of middle eastern terrorist blow back after the Cairo speech. It’s flowery rhetoric can now be described as a series of out and out lies, which were either premeditated, or became lies due to a complete collapse of will in the face of what appears to be no pressure at all. It really doesn’t matter which.

      I have to say that my support and respect for the Obama administration and the entire democratic party is eroding by the day.

      We will continue to be screwed by the insurance companies with no viable, strong public option and legislation that forces the entire nation to buy insurance from these crooks or face legal consequences. They are going to sell out to the insurance lobby completely and call it progress.

      Meanwhile, our middle eastern policy has just become, officially, all Israel, all the time, regardless of what they do, and regardless of whether it leads directly to terrorist actions on US soil or not. Whether it costs up trillions in war expenses and tens of thousands of lives or not. They have sold out to the Israel lobby completely. They obviously could care LESS about the health or safety of their constituents as long as the cash and support keeps coming in.

  8. Dave123 said, on November 22, 2009 at 2:45 am

    “Yesterday Israel approved the construction of 900 new housing units in East Jerusalem.”

    Professor Walt, Gilo is a SOUTH WEST Jerusalem suburb not East Jerusalem. Why don’t you start a blog on Quantum Mechanics. You would probably know as much about that as you do about the Middle East.

    I could not have said it any better than this poster on Andrew Sullivan’s blog:
    http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/11/dissents-of-the-day.html#more

    You’ve shown a stunning lack of understanding of fundamental middle east basics in your most recent post. which is ironic, because theres nothing more Palin-esque than shooting your mouth off about an area in which you know very little.

    No one is being evicted from their homes to build apartments in Gilo. Land isnt being “seized” to make it harder to create a Palestinian state. in fact, Gilo is not in Eastern Jerusalem at all, but rather sits on the ring of Jerusalem suburbs to the West of the city. What you perceive as rebellion towards Obama (as if Netanyahu somehow works for him, and is not a sovereign elected leader of another country…) is actually a sort-of accommodation: this is “settlement expansion” that is NOT a provocation to anyone seriously looking at the conflict and trying to figure out solutions. It does NOT infringe on Palestinian ability to govern or create a contiguous state, and it doesn’t even force the government to pave roads that restrict Palestinian freedom of movement. It is not a ridiculous town on a hill somewhere meant to make it harder for Palestinians to farm. Bitch about the Israeli government’s inability/unwillingness to really tackle those crazies, and I am right behind you. But Gilo actually sits across the way from the road to Bethlehem and for years was the target of non-stop Palestinian gunfire, into civilian homes. (The current expansion is in the general direction AWAY from Bethlehem as a result). I don’t support the need to constantly be expanding these areas- why not get a peace agreement moving forward to save the hassle of dealing with the fallout from this crap- but the idea that expanding Gilo is in ANY way going to ruin the life of a single Palestinian is utter bullshit.

    Thats why the French foreign minister was unperturbed by this non-news. It doesnt change anything on the ground, and allows Netanyahu to appeal to his right-wing coalition members. I think this was exactly Jeffrey Goldberg’s point, which you railroaded right past so you could rant about your two favorite problems in the world- Palin and Israel- without the inconvenient facts getting in the way.

    • seanmcbride said, on November 22, 2009 at 2:46 am

      Dave123: Three points: 1. The appropriate response of the Israeli government to the request by the American government to stop *all* settlement activity would be to stop *all* settlement activity. 2. Why are so many pro-Israel activists so verbally abusive and insulting in trying to argue their case? Don’t they realize that their style of communication is alienating much of the world and undermining their cause? 3. Isn’t the project of constructing Jewish-only settlements a racist enterprise by any reasonable definition of racism in the modern Western democratic world? What modern Western democracy is engaging in such activities?

    • janbekster said, on November 22, 2009 at 2:46 am

      Just to clarify matters, although some Jewish institutions claimed some lands in the area prior to the 1948 war, the fact remains that the neighbourhood of Gilo was captured with East Jerusalem in the 1967 war. Consequently, it is considered as a settlement under international law. Mind you I do agree that the talks between the Palesitnians and the Israelis should start post haste.

      khairi janbek.paris/france

    • A balanced view said, on November 22, 2009 at 2:47 am

      Dave123,

      I have to agree with the President of the United States when he says of Gilo;

      Israel’s decision to build in Jerusalem’s Gilo neighborhood could be “very dangerous” because it increases “bitterness amongst Palestinians”.

      Obama said that continued “settlement” construction does not contribute to the security of Israel and will make it more difficult for her to achieve peace with her neighbors.”

      So, beat up on Walt all you like about things that really don’t matter to anyone in the US except you and the other Hasbara.

      I’m sure he is reasonably at peace with the idea that he is making people such as yourselves unhappy. We (and I mean the US government, many people in Israel, Most people in the US and almost every single other nation on earth) all are, and in much the same way that good people the world over understood that they were pissing off the Afrikaners when they insisted Apartheid in south Africa must end, as it must end in the occupied territories (including Gilo).

      Honestly, your faux outrage is becoming more amusing as the weeks pass.

  9. mstr said, on November 22, 2009 at 2:48 am

    When you say Gilo is in a Jewish neighborhoud, you fail to mention that the construction of the 900 apartments is on the border of Gilo, cutting off the Arab neighbourhoos, making life and expansion impossible for the Arab neighbourhood. As with every thing else Israel does, it chooses very carefully where it builds and what it builds. After all, the Israili Generals and political elite promised ‘a greater Israel’ and there are many ways this can be achieved besides war.

    To me the more interesting and telling issue is this. In the short run Israel and its supporters in England and USA can lobby, bribe and stage manage events. But in the long term, people are not blind and no amount of stage manament, lobbying and bribing will hide the apartheid practices of Israel. We are seeing now, as it is, in Europe and across the world an outright hostility and rejection towards Israel. Why? One would normally expect Europe and the rest of the world to side with the under dog, Israel, which is surrounded by hostile Arabs. But no, thats not the case. Israel is being rejected as the bully, bull doser and the fanatic.

    The USA is in a difficult and dangerous position. Its having to sacrifice national security and economic interests for the sake of Israel. Its politicians and statesmen, although the leaders of the world’s most powerful country, take their orders and guidance from Israel and Israel supporters. It is my firm belief that the day will come when America will realise the great damage thats been done to her in the name of Zionism. BUt I am affraid it may be too late by then.

    Finally, when you hear and Israeli right wing politician ala Netanyahu and Likud folks and a right wink Jewish AIPAC supportor, what impression do you get. Personally, I get the impression of the Israeli reprimanding and lecturing the American BOY who is not doing every thing its told to do.


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