Israel’s Illegal Settlements: The US Goes Rogue At The UN

On Friday, the United States stood alone and vetoed an Arab resolution at the United Nations Security Council. The resolution strongly condemned Israeli illegal settlements in the Palestinian occupied territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem as a “major obstacle to peace”. All 14 other members of the UN Security Council voted in favor of the resolution.

The United States veto at the UN was the first one exercised by the Obama administration. The decision will unquestionably anger Arab peoples across the Middle-East at a time of deep and rapid political changes in the region. It could have disastrous consequences for America’s credibility in the Arab world, and will further increase Israel’s isolation in the international community. The resolution, sponsored by more than 130 countries, declared that “Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories were illegal and a major obstacle to the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace”.

The veto vote is a proof that the Obama administration, despite its claims of the contrary, doesn’t understand the geopolitical tectonic shift at play in what will soon be the new reality of the Middle-East. As free Arab nations emerge from dictatorship, they will work together and put all their weight behind the legitimate claims of the oppressed  Palestinian people. Needless to say, the Obama administration was under pressure from Israel and the US Congress where the hard-line pro-Israel lobby AIPAC acts as a king-maker and calls the shots on America’s Middle-East policy. Of course, prime minister Netanyahu welcomed the US veto.

US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, couldn’t really argue the US veto vote in a rational way. In a blatant contradiction, while stating it opposed new settlements, the Obama administration argued that taking the issue to the UN would only complicate efforts to resume stalled negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians on a two state peace solution. Rice explained the decision of the veto vote by stating that the decision should not be misunderstood as support for settlements activity.

“We reject in the strongest terms the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity. Continued settlement activity violates Israel’s international commitments, devastates trust between the parties, and threatens the prospects for peace. Every potential action must be measured against one overriding standard: Will it moves the parties closer to negotiations and an agreement? Unfortunately, this draft resolution risks hardening the positions on both sides,” stated US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice.

Meanwhile, in President Obama’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2012, the US military aid for Israel will increase by $75 million compared to fiscal year 2011. Despite deep budget cuts for social and education programs for domestic policy, the 2012 budget will allocate $3.075 billion in military aid for Israel. The military aid allocation is expected to reach $3.1 billion for fiscal year 2013. According to AIPAC, President Obama, in reference to the “special relationship” between Israel and the US, said: “The bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable. It encompasses our national interests, our strategic interests, but most importantly, the bond of two democracies who share a common set of values.”

But what are the national and strategic US interests in this new Middle-East getting reshaped by the Arab revolution? It is certainly not to antagonize what could quickly become a pan-Arabic group of nations. However, it is exactly what the Obama administration did by casting this veto vote. Further, what are the “common set of values” defined by President Obama’s pledge of allegiance to Israel and  the dysfunctional “special relationship”? Is it an unconditional support of the policy of apartheid and ethnic cleansing perpetrated by Israel in the West Bank or Israel’s war crimes in Gaza? The policies in question are certainly not “common democratic values” unless one view segregation, such as the one practiced in the US before the civil rights movement, as democratic. The Arab world doesn’t view the United States as a legitimate arbitrator in the Middle-East peace negotiation process for one reason alone: How can you pretend to be a referee while  proudly wearing the jersey of one of the team?


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