Faced with Palestine’s bid for statehood and recognition as an independent state and after decades of an Israeli military occupation force expanding illegal settlement of occupied territory unrecognized as Israeli by every other nation in the world, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu used his address to the United Nations General Assembly as an occasion to insist that the West Bank was historically the Jewish lands of Judea and Samaria. Netanyahu further inflamed passions by insisting that an independent Palestine would be demilitarized and occupied by Israeli military bases.
Netanyahu claimed the right for Israel to maintain “defined military sites” in the West Bank, using as examples U.S. military bases in post-World War II Japan, Germany, and South Korea; a British air base in Cyprus; and French bases in three independent African countries, as a template for a disjointed Palestinian state totally subservient to Israeli control of its territory, air space, and sea coasts. The Israeli leader’s reference to permanent foreign military bases established by colonial and neo-colonial powers in conquered nations and former colonies provides a clue as to what he has in mind for Palestine.
The Israeli government’s idea of an “independent” Palestine is one that would resemble the South African apartheid “bantustan” of Bophuthatswana, an “ink blot” racial-based contrivance, which Israel, incidentally, maintained low-level diplomatic relations in defiance of the world, that would see a weak Palestinian government exercising nominal political control over the unconnected enclaves of Gaza, Ramallah, Nablus, and a few other small parcels of land. Israel would continue to expand Israeli settlements and maintain its ”separation wall” and military bases in what Netanyahu described in his speech as “critical strategic areas” on the West Bank.
Netanyahu’s intransigent speech, emphasizing Israel’s “biblical” rights to the West Bank, which he insisted on calling “Judea and Samaria,” as relevant today as Gaul, Hibernia, the Moghul Empire, or the Kingdom of the Hittites, was full of vitriol against Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. In his earlier speech, Abbas petitioned the UN to recognize the Palestinian Arab state created by the very same UN General Assembly in 1947. Netanyahu’s Foreign Minister, the distastefully anti-Arab racist Avigdor Lieberman, staged a walk-out from the General Assembly before Abbas spoke.
Netanyahu also used his speech to justify the existence of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory, fancifully claiming, “The core of the conflict are not the settlements, the settlements are a result of the conflict. The core of the conflict is the refusal of the Palestinians to recognize a Jewish state in any border.” In one sentence, Netanyahu blamed the Palestinians for the creation and expansion of illegal Israeli settlements on their own Israeli-expropriated lands.
Using the old canard of “militant Islam,” Netanyahu blamed terrorist attacks in Baghdad on Islamist terrorists, not the destabilization of a secular nation under Saddam Hussein as a result of the machinations of American, mostly ardently pro-Israel Jews to engineer the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, with all of its bloody consequences.
Topping off his bellicosity, Netanyahu accused the United Nations of being the “theater of the absurd,” anti-UN rhetoric not heard in a speech before the General Assembly since ex-Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi railed against the UN two years ago. Netanyahu further antagonized the world body by quoting the late Lubavicher Hasidic rabbi Menachem Schneerson, who some Orthodox Jews believe is the messiah and who headed up a global network of dodgy Chabad houses believed to be fronts for Israeli intelligence, as saying the UN was “a house of lies.” Topping off Netanyahu’s polemical speech was his charge that Lebanon, which holds the presidency of the UN Security Council for the month of September, is controlled by Hezbollah, meaning that the UN Security Council was being chaired by a “terrorist organization.” Netanyahu’s charge about Lebanon was, of course, a lie in Schneerson’s so-called “house of many lies.”
Astoundingly, Netanyahu continues to resort to a religious tract, the bible, to justify Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. Netanyahu spoke of a 2700-year old signet ring found to the Western Wall as a reason for continued Israeli occupation of east Jerusalem which Palestine considers its capital city. Netanyahu said the name “Netanyahu” is inscribed on the seal of the ring and boasted that the name somehow justified his nation’s claim to West Bank territory. Netanyahu did not explain that his real name is Benjamin Mileikowsky, the son of Benzion Mileikowsky, a Polish Jew from Warsaw, a long way from the West Bank, who was a close aide to the Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky.
Yet, this was the same Netanyahu that President Obama met and bowed subserviently as the General Assembly convened. Obama a year earlier said he welcomed an independent Palestine joining the UN in 2011. However, Obama reneged on his promise and stated that there could be no independent Palestine in the UN unless there were direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations leading to an agreement. Of course, what Obama did not say was that any such agreement would be one-sided, with Israel exercising a trusteeship-like control over Palestine.
Obama is more concerned about securing American Jewish votes and financial support for his re-election than in seeking any fair agreement on Palestinian independence… It is a political equation that has plagued the Middle East policies of American presidents since Harry S Truman recognized Israel’s independence in 1948, over the objection of Secretary of State George Marshall, and in 1991, when George H W Bush threatened to cut off U.S. loan guarantees for Israel over its continued building of settlements in the West Bank and Gaza only to succumb later to pressure from the heavily Israel Lobby-influenced U.S. Congress.
Obama tossed away any iota of respect he may have earned in the Arab and wider Muslim world as a result of his “outreach” speeches in Cairo and Istanbul by his shameless pandering to Israel in his own speech to the General Assembly. Obama never once mentioned the Israeli settlements in his speech that only stressed the security needs of Israel. Obama was seeking to stall indefinitely Palestine’s membership bid with no guarantee that Israel would cease settlement expansion.
Worse, Obama’s State Department apparatus, heavily penetrated by sympathizers of Israel, applied diplomatic and economic pressure on the nations of the world, large and small, to forego support for Palestine’s statehood bid. For example, after Belize and El Salvador rejected pressure from both Tel Aviv and Washington and announced they would support and recognize Palestine, the U.S. State Department placed both nations on a list of countries that failed to stem the flow of illegal narcotics, leaving them open for sanctions to be applied by the Obama administration. More outrageous than the Obama administration’ actions were calls by the Republican majority in the House of Representatives to cut off aid to both the Palestinians and the UN if the UN opted to recognize Palestine’s legitimate aspirations for sovereignty.
Complementing strong-arm tactics by some American diplomats were Israeli envoys traveling the world, offering carrots and sticks to nations to jettison support for Palestine. Small Caribbean island nations were offered an increase in Israeli tourism if they backhanded Palestine and threatened with a boycott by American and Canadian Jewish tourists if they decided to back the aspirant nation.
However, Palestine may have overcome the many threats and intimidating tactics from Israel and its allies. Abbas received sustained applause from the majority of the General Assembly, while Netanyahu could lonely count on a noisy minority that was concentrated around the desks of the delegations of Israel, the United States, and Canada. The display of support for Abbas resulted in Netanyahu’s school yard bully tactics of calling the UN a “theatre of the absurd” and a “house of many lies.”