US, (Pal Telegraph) – On September 23, 2011, President Mahmoud Abbas will approach the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to grant his territory “full statehood” with the 1967 borders and East Jerusalem as its capital, as it did with Israel. If the US vetoes the resolution as declared, Abbas intends to approach the United Nations General Assembly where it might receive support from 150 members for a “non-member state” status. Like the Vatican, Palestine could be an “observer state” with access to international institutions.
The main question that arises from this action is why does Israel object vociferously to this plea, feel isolated, and believe that it is on the road to being de-legitimized? Why does Israel feel that it is “trapped by September”?
Palestine: Gaza, West Bank and E. Jerusalem
Israel and its staunch ally, the US, are trying to postpone or avoid the vote. Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu (Bibi) has offered to meet with Abbas in New York before the vote.
Abbas’ view is that for twenty years they have in vain sought to seek a peaceful settlement. The last straw came when two American agents led by Dennis Ross offered the 1967 borders minus the settlements which Israel built illegally in the West Bank.1 This latest offer showed that the US cannot be an honest broker, nor is Israel willing to meet Abbas’ demands.
In fact Israeli Uri Avnery, whom veteran American reporter Eric Margolis2 claims to be a real sage, said that the ruling party, “Likud not only refuses to define Israel’s borders, it has a powerful faction that wants further territorial expansion into Syria and Lebanon.”
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan sums up Likud’s attitude thus: “While Israel is trying to secure its legitimacy in our region on the one hand, it is taking irresponsible steps which unsettle its legitimacy on the other.”3 A Palestinian state is “not an option but an obligation,” Erdogan affirms.
Israel is using the illegal settlements as a means to squeeze recognition of the state of Israel. The Palestinians, however, say it is not their job to recognize any state. Nor can
they recognize imperialism on their ancestral lands. The Palestinians are unwilling to give up on issues like the return of refugees and the right to administer a state without restrictions. The Palestinians have as much security issues as the Israelis, if not more.
Internally and externally the Israelis have become aggressive. They threaten to withhold $500 million tax transfers which make up 70% of Palestinian revenue,
4 and through influence, cut the $500 million US aid. The Israelites rightly claim that they control the US, which means that they are the real Superpower.
Americans are gradually beginning to recognize this control. In the New York Times September 20, 2011 issue part of this relationship has been admitted:
“Mr. Netanyahu’s intervention with Congress underscored an extraordinary
intersection of American diplomacy and domestic politics, the result of an ever-tightening relationship between the Israeli government and the Republican Party that now control the House.”
Eric Cantor (R, Virginia) goes further and admits a bipartisan relationship:
“What you have on the Hill is a bipartisan demonstration for the U.S./Israeli
Externally, Israel launched a campaign to seek support for the UN vote. Israeli Director General Rafael Barak specially targeted Eastern European countries so that would change their stance in view of the emerging European Common Market.5 Israel feels confident that it has the support of Western Europe even though there are slight nuances in their approach.
The 2011 vote for independence will be different from 1988 Unilateral Declaration of Independence when several countries recognized the Palestinian state. This year the very existence of Israel is at stake, says Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Consider the big picture.
A powerful Muslim state, Turkey, is uniting the Sunni world against Israel. It has signed an alliance with Egypt, the largest and most militarized country in the Middle East. Theoretically, Israeli’s western shores are in danger of being blockaded, just as it is blockading Palestinian shores. On Israel’s eastern front, Iran has an alliance of Iraq, Syria, Hesbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in Gaza. Israel will remember with anguish the July-August 2006 Hesbollah-Israel war. If elections were to take place fairly in the West Bank, Hamas, not the Palestinian Authority led by Abbas, would win. Together,
Erdogan’s and Ahmadinajad’s policies amount to encirclement of Israel, and skirmishes on the horizon.
And, former ambassador and intelligence chief of Saudi Arabia Prince Turki al Faisal warned the Americans in a New York Times article “Veto a state, lose an ally.” The ally would be the Muslim world generally, and Saudi Arabia in particular, that has good relations with the US.6
Secretary for Defense Robert Gates explains Turkey’s new policies towards its eastern neighbors: “EU rejection has pushed Turkey against Israel.”7 It should have been eastwards instead of “Israel.” The Arab world treats Erdogan like a rock star: the Arab League that advised the Palestinians was weak and incapable of successfully backing them financially or militarily; the Arabs saw that the political system from which Erdogan emerged could be a model, as Islam and democracy were compatible; Turkey warned Syria to change its oppressive policies and be a model neighbor; Erdogan did not like Iran’s support of Syria, but agreed to work with it in its common fight against the Kurds in the Arbil Mountains; Turkey successfully urged members of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) to aid impoverished Somalia; most important, Turkey was willing to lead the fight against Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians.
The big picture includes al Qaeda which has a similar goal of uniting the Muslim world under, preferably, a Caliphate. Unfortunately for this organization it has lost support of the street for its reckless use of suicide bombers and irresponsible killing of those who do not submit to its hegemony. But al Qaeda continues to be a global problem.
Saudi officials have brought to trial 41 suspected al Qaeda members for planning attacks on US forces in Qatar and Kuwait. Among the suspects were a Qatari, Yemeni and Afghani.8 On the same day, Britain arrested six al Qaeda suspects. These incidents show that foreign bases and militarized embassies are targets and host countries are vulnerable to attacks.
Al Qaeda is reinforced by the rise of pro-Islamic factions like the Muslim Brotherhood, Wahhabis, and in Egypt, the April Sixth Movement, Freedom and Justice Party, and Salafists. These groups including those that launched the Arab Spring want sharia law to be entrenched. A PEW survey showed that 95% of the population in Jordan, 89% in Egypt, 60% in Palestine, and 56% in Lebanon want sharia law.9 In the case of Libya, al Qaeda has achieved one of its objectives, control of a country. It remains to be seen whether the Turkish model of government will supersede the fundamentalist type in Afrabia.
To counter the rising tide of Islamic democracy, “the arc of instability,” the monarchies of the Middle East formed the Gulf Counter-Revolutionary Club from Jordan to Morocco. The street must not be allowed to overthrow monarchs.
What makes the Eastern Mediterranean interesting is that the “Levant Basin Province’ has the prospects of more than 122 trillion c.f. of gas and 1.7 barrels of recoverable oil. Turkey is trying to dominate this development off the shores of Cyprus and Gaza.10 Turkey’s aggressive foreign policy that outsmarts Israel’s is referred to as “neo-Ottomanism.”
Israel’s position in 2011 is also weakened by the fact that Americans are in favor of being isolationists, for the moment. The rate of change is more dramatic for the Republicans than for the Democrats: in 2004 only 9% of Republicans favored being isolationists, while in 2011 PEW survey showed that 65% wanted reduced military commitments, and 72% wanted foreign aid to be cut drastically. The swing is not so big, but the figures are still large for other political groups: 70% of Democrats and 66% of Independents are isolationists.11 Thomas Jefferson had warned that “entangling alliances” are costly.
While Bibi is facing the heat abroad, he is learning that his economic strategy is not working at home. On September 3, 2011, the young and middle class, 450,000 strong, complained about the cost of living. A few superrich families were controlling the economy. The “trickle-down” market philosophy was not working and the protests were spreading to other cities from Tel Aviv.12 The Arab Spring had spread to Israel where it was called, to be different, the “Israeli summer.”
With the September 23 vote in the UN, Israel is approaching another round in its relations with the Palestinians. The American view as expressed by the Washington Post’s editorial board is that Israel is being made a scapegoat. It asserted that, “Scapegoating Israel will not satisfy the imperative of change.”13
Another more realistic view is that propounded by Israeli Opposition leader and Kadima chairperson Tzip Livni: “The most right-wing government in Israel’s history has led to the worst possible situation.” The government cannot protect the country from missiles and “Israeli ambassadors are being forced to flee countries in the middle of the night wearing kaffiyehs.”14 This is a reference to the escape of 80 Israeli diplomats with Egyptian help, when the street attacked the embassy in Cairo. Iran likened this raid to its 1979 raid on the American embassy in Tehran.15
1. “Turkey: we don’t need US mediation to end the crisis with Israel,” haaretz.com, September 17, 2011.
2. Eric Margolis, “On the wrong side of history,” khaleejtimes.com, September 18, 2011.
3. Reuters, “Turk PM champions recognition of Palestinian state,” dawn.com, September 13, 2011.
4. Peter Goodspeed, “Palestinian bid at UN could plunge middle east into new crisis,” full comment, ndmlpost.com, September 17, 2011.
5. Harriet Sherwood, “Israel launches campaign before Palestinian statehood vote,” guardian.co.uk, June 10, 2011.
6. Jim Lobe, “Strains steadily fray US, Saudi ties,” atimes.com, September 16, 2011.
7. bbc.wordpress.com, June 14, 2010.
8. AP, “Saudi court tries al Qaida suspects,” metronews, September 19, 2011.
9. Dr. Hussein Tahiri, Monash University, “Arab Spring may prove a dawn of false hope,” smh.com.au, September 14, 2011.
10. Cecily Hilleary, “Turkey asserts itself as bold regional power,” voanews.com, September 14, 2011.
11. Bruce Stokes, researcher at the German Marshall Fund of the US, “Disengagement is the way,” khaleejtimes.com, September 16, 2011.
12. “An Israel’s Spring,” economist.com, September 8, 2011.
13. Editorial Board Opinion, “Once Again Israel is scapegoated,” washingtonpost.com, September 12, 2011.
14. Natasha Mozgovaya, “Netanyahu has led Israel to ‘worst possible diplomatic situation’” haaretz.com, September 14, 2011.
15. “Attack on Egypt embassy marks beginning of Israel’s end,” haaretz.com, September 17. 2011.
(networkedblogs.com / 28.09.2011)