President Obama’s much-heralded speech outlining his administration’s approach to the so-called “Arab Spring” and the Israeli-Palestinian impasse was generally greeted by yawns from the Arab world and outright hostility from the extremist right-wing government of Israel.
Obama’s promise to aid reformist governments in Egypt and Tunisia with billions of dollars of U.S. assistance during a time when America is going broke and his call for political change in Syria and an end to Bahrain’s crackdown on dissenters was met with indifference in Cairo and Tunisia, continued government repression of dissent in Syria, and a Bahrain government tear gas attack on that nation’s leading human rights activist.
Obama’s call for a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders was met with a chill from Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu rudely rejected Obama’s proposal for a Palestinian state in an Oval Office meeting just days before Netanyahu would speak to his supporters at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington. The president of the Zionist Organization of America called on AIPAC to cancel Obama’s address before the extreme right-wing, but powerful Jewish gathering.
AIPAC delegates greeted Obama’s May 22 speech with periodic polite applause except when Obama vowed to prevent any moves by Palestine to seek recognition by the United Nations General Assembly by invoking “Uniting for Peace” provisions, thus trumping a U.S. veto of such action in the UN Security Council. Obama’s promise to stand up to a majority of members of the UN received thunderous applause from the AIPAC delegates.
Obama, in full back-pedaling mode, also stressed that Israel and Palestine must come up with a new border based on “land swaps” that would see a change in 1967 borders that would recognize new “demographic realities” on the ground: a green light for continued illegal Israeli settlements on the ground, settlements that Israel can be expected to expand in the interim in its policy of continuing the Nazi-like policy of grabbing more “lebensraum” space for “Greater Israel.” Obama made no mention of Israel’s cruel “wall” that separates Palestinians from their rightful grazing lands and olive groves.
Israeli rejection of even-handed U.S. presidential proposals for Middle East peace is a hallmark of American foreign policy during the last four decades, as witnessed by Presidents Nixon, Carter, H.W. Bush, Clinton, and now, Obama. AIPAC understands that all American politicians, including presidents, are vulnerable to the political and financial clout of pro-Israeli American Jews who put the interests of the Jewish state over those of the United States. It is a political reality that has seen the end of the careers of a number of American politicians, Democrats and Republicans alike, who dared to challenge the power of the Israel Lobby. America’s political graveyard is scattered with politicians – J. William Fulbright, William Scranton, Paul Findlay, James Abourezk, James Abdnor, Charles Percy, Roger Jepsen, Paul McCloskey, Cynthia McKinney, Earl Hilliard, and others — who dared to stand up to the Israel Lobby.
Netanyahu, knowing that he and his AIPAC minions control the purse strings of the wealthiest Jewish donors to the Democratic Party, was able to brusquely dismiss Obama’s call for Israel to retreat to 1967 borders, with or without land swap agreements with an independent Palestine. Obama received 78 percent of the Jewish vote but a number of Jewish political leaders were quick to predict that many Jews would desert Obama for a Republican candidate in 2012.
After reports of the tense Oval Office meeting between Obama and Netanyahu, the public relations spokespeople for Netanyahu and Obama began spinning the story that the meeting was not all that rancorous. The stage was being set for Obama to assuage AIPAC and other major Jewish organizations, as well as those within his Democratic Jewish base, to ensure their continued loyalty and cash for the president’s re-election campaign.
After the “Kabuki” dance of Obama, Netanyahu, AIPAC, and other major Jewish organizations is over, Obama cannot and will not pressure Israel to return to its 1967 borders, hence Obama’s stressing “land swaps,” the cession of territory that will favor Israel over Palestine. What Israel, AIPAC, and Obama’s team, which includes the hawkish pro-Israel National Security Council’s top Middle East advisor Dennis Ross, will ultimately agree to is a Palestine that resembles the ink blot black “homeland” Bantustans of apartheid South Africa: non-contiguous Palestinian enclaves surrounded by illegal Jewish settlements that lack their own defense forces, have no common border with Jordan, and remain totally dependent on Israel for everything from transportation, post and communications, commercial aviation, customs, international commerce, banking, electricity, and water. In other words, as Netanyahu has previously stated, “Palestine” will be as independent of Israel as Andorra is of France and Spain.
As far as Obama’s support for the post-revolutionary governments of Egypt and Tunisia, and his strong criticism of Bashar al Assad’s regime in Syria and Ali Abdullah Saleh’s dictatorship in Yemen, there was no commensurate condemnation of the massacre by Bahrain of the mainly Shi’a opposition to the royal regime or the Saudi military intervention in the island nation that also hosts the headquarters for the U.S. Fifth Fleet.
In his speech, Obama also continued to support the rather dodgy Libyan opposition forces even though his speech ignored the fact that America’s military intervention in Libya’s civil war was only hours away from being in total violation of the War Powers Act, which requires a formal notification to the Congress and that body’s authorization for further military action within 60 days from the outset of military operations or cease such actions within 30 days.
Obama claimed in his speech that he had a “mandate for action” in Libya. However, the UN Security Council merely authorized a no-fly zone to prevent further civilian casualties, not regime change and, most definitely, no mandate to kill Qaddafi and members of his family, which is also a violation of successive White House Executive Orders signed by Presidents Ford, Carter, and Reagan.
Obama hypocritically focused on political changes within Egypt and Tunisia without calling for reforms in two other North African countries that are politically, militarily, and economically tied to U.S. interests: Algeria and Morocco. Similarly, Obama refrained from calling for change in countries that host U.S. military installations, including Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates. No mention was made of opposition demands for change in U.S.-occupied Iraq; including in the area controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government; Saudi Arabia; Djibouti, which hosts an important American military base; or Jordan.
The Arab world sees through Obama like a pane glass window. Not only does Obama continue to rely on the pro-israel Ross as his top Middle East policy adviser in the White House, but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton nominated Victoria “Toria” Nuland to succeed P. J. Crowley as State Department chief spokesperson. Nuland, a former top foreign policy adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney and George W. Bush’s ambassador to NATO, is decidedly pro-Israel. Nuland is also married to arch-neocon Robert Kagan, the co-founder of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), the group that conjured up the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq and a major cheerleader for America’s disastrous military interventions in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the continuous U.S. saber-rattling against Iran.
When it comes to Obama and his Middle East policy, actions speak louder than mere words. With committed pro-Israeli operatives in his National Security Council and State Department, Obama’s message of “change” regarding America’s Middle East policy is just more of the same. Obama’s policy is not crafted by him but by Israel, working through its Lobby embedded in the White House, State Department, Pentagon, Congress, and the myriad of Israeli-controlled policy laundries at the Brookings Institution, American Enterprise Institute, Hudson Institute, Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, and Washington Institute for Near East Policy…