Saturday, February 19, 2011

Waffling on Israeli Settlements - The Establishment Wins Again

From the outset of his administration, President Obama has clearly and forcefully stood against Israel’s settlement policy.  In his Cairo speech he said, “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.  This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace.”

Yesterday though the United States vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution calling the settlements illegal … basically saying what the President said in his Cairo speech.  As a matter of fact, the Palestinians were very careful to craft the language of the resolution to match language that the Obama administration has used on this issue.

Ambassador Rice said that the veto should not be misconstrued as our now approving of the settlements.  This statement misses the point.  It isn’t a question of whether we approve or not … clearly the Obama administration doesn’t.  It’s a question of whether the President will stand up for what he believes when the going gets tough.

How this action will be construed by Israel and the rest of the world is that regardless what the President thinks or feels, the United States will not stand with others to stop Israel when push comes to shove.   This will leave the Israeli’s feeling that they are free to do whatever they want and the Arab world feeling that the United States still can’t be an honest broker for peace. 

Contrary to Ambassador Rice’s statements, this action is a setback for peace.  And it is a setback to the President’s overtures to the Muslim world.

I have no way of knowing, of course, but I have the feeling that the President wanted to hang tough on this issue and at least abstain from voting.  But once again, as in case of Afghanistan and in Egypt, the foreign policy and military establishments have held sway and forced him to submit.   

The same thing is happening with Bahrain … I cannot believe that the President doesn’t want to say something forceful against the deplorable use of force to crush the protestors.  But that would be “against our strategic interests.”

The foreign policy and military establishments are stuck in the mindset of the past and their view of strategic interest is very short term.  Our autocratic allies in the Middle East will all be gone in the next few years.  In their place will be countries that will more likely be anti-American because of America’s historic support for those autocrats and its failure to get ahead of the curve on this issue and support the revolution that is occurring in an appropriate way. 

It doesn’t have to be this way.  But history will undoubtedly repeat itself and the United States, as it has often in the past, will lose the opportunity to be the beacon of freedom it should be and instead will be viewed as the front man for the military/industrial establishment.