Thursday, September 3, 2009

StandWithUs NW Regional Chair, Nevet Basker in Seattle Times: "Obama Administration's Approach to Israel and its Neighbors is ill-Conceived"

Obama administration's approach to Israel and its neighbors is ill-conceived

Obama administration's approach to Israel and its neighbors is ill-conceived
President Obama is disappointing many American Jews who voted for him, writes guest columnist Nevet Basker. "President Obama is especially misguided in pushing for a ban on Israeli construction in Jerusalem."
By Nevet Basker
Special to The Times

I AM an Israeli-American, a dual citizen, born and raised in Israel and living in the United States On the Israeli political spectrum, I am a moderate, pragmatic dove — and a longtime critic of the settlement movement. Like most American Jews, I voted for Barack Obama. And like many who care about Israel, I am now wondering why the president is embarking on a well-intentioned but ill-conceived effort to advance peace between Israel and its neighbors.
President Obama is especially misguided in pushing for a ban on Israeli construction in Jerusalem. Israelis have already proven their willingness to dismantle and remove settlements in the hope of achieving peace. They uprooted communities in the Sinai Peninsula as part of a peace agreement with Egypt in 1982, and unilaterally withdrew from Gaza four years ago. (The latter concession did not turn out so well; the result was not the desired progress toward peace but the establishment of a violent Islamic regime in Gaza and incessant rocket and mortar fire on cities and towns in southern Israel.)
Besides being on ancient Jewish land going back three millennia, the West Bank settlements are also not an impediment to a potential future two-state solution. There are more than a million Arab citizens of Israel, and there is no reason Israeli Jews cannot live in a future Palestinian state, just like I am an Israeli living in the U.S.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's unequivocal proclamation that all settlement activity must stop is an uncharacteristic display of rigidity from an administration that, on other issues, is sensitive to nuance and advocates for dialogue and accommodation. Expropriating private Palestinian land to build a new settlement is not the same as adding a bedroom for a new baby in an existing community. The administration's absolutist position is a no-win proposition, leaving no room for negotiation.
Secretary Clinton's categorical statements also overlook the political and demographic realities of the region. The French Hill and Gilo neighborhoods of Jerusalem are not the same as Ma'ale Adumim, a city of more than 30,000 east of Jerusalem. Different again are Jewish neighborhoods in predominantly Arab cities like Hebron, frontier villages, and "wildcat" outposts. The U.S. administration is painting them all with the same broad brush stroke, condemning all "settlements" — including legal Jewish construction on Jewish-owned land on sovereign (if disputed) Israeli territory. This is not the kind of political acumen we have come to expect from Obama or his secretary of state.
Most dangerously, the indiscriminate approach ignores previous American commitments. In an April 2004 letter to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, President Bush acknowledged "realities on the ground" regarding the borders of a potential future Palestinian state. He explicitly noted, "It is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final-status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949."
Reneging on this understanding is damaging to America's credibility and moral standing, and may have serious repercussions for broader international relations. Imagine the fallout if the U.S. were to arbitrarily dismiss and absolve itself from its commitments to NATO, Taiwan or NAFTA. Worse, President Obama's policy shift constitutes a double standard, as a key American requirement from any Palestinian government is that it abides by previous agreements.
Israelis are understandably skeptical of quick-fix "solutions" to the 60-year-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A "solution" that is based on disproportionate pressure on one side, views all settlements as similar and wrong, and ignores previous agreements is an obvious non-starter.
Nevet Basker is the Northwest regional chair of StandWithUs, an Israel education organization.

Copyright © The Seattle Times Company


George Jochnowitz said...

All Israeli Jews are critical of Israel to a certain extent, whether from the left or from the right. On the other hand, no Arabs have come out and said that they disapprove of the positions of Hamas and Hezbollah, which have stated they will not accept an independent Jewish state no matter how many concessions it makes. Fatah has ambiguously stated it will live with Israel, maybe, but Israel must concede on all outstanding
disagreements before negotiations can begin. Most citizens of the world have either Christian, Muslim, or Marxist backgrounds, which means that they come from traditions that are historically anti-Semitic. They accept the Fatah position as moderate, since it is more moderate than the Hamas position. They believe it is reasonable for Israel to give up every inch of the land acquired in 1967 as a prerequisite for starting negotiations on whether it should be allowed to exist. And the world looks upon the Israelis who are in favor of giving up most of the West Bank as evidence that that Israeli position is so very wrong that even Israelis oppose it. No matter what Israel does, it remains the most hated country on earth.

George Jochnowitz said...

I wonder whether Preident Obama's position on East Jerusalem reflects the influence of Rashid Khalidi, who has advised the President. In Khalidi's book THE IRON CAGE, on page 333, he writes about the event at Deir Yassin in 1948: "Some of the survivors were paraded through Jerusalem before being taken back to the village and shot." There is no footnote.

George Jochnowitz said...

Continuation on Khalidi:
No review of Khalidi's book has ever referred to this line, to the best of my knowledge. I believe it was a deliberate lie. Khalidi ought to be known as the person who managed to sneak a blood libel into an otherwise scholarly book.