17 May 2021   Leave a comment

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken gave an interview to a Danish journalist in which he was asked about the current violence between Israel and the Palestinians. His response to the question deserves close examination:

QUESTION:  Let’s turn to the current situation in the Middle East, the deadly violence between Israel and the Palestinians.  In the past few days we’ve seen multiple civilian casualties on both sides, but mostly in Gaza.  You’re Jewish yourself.  Do you think that the Israeli response, their defense, is justified and proportional?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, first, we believe strongly that Israel has a right to defend itself.  And this false equivalence between a terrorist group – Hamas – that is indiscriminately launching rockets at civilians and Israel, which is responding to those attacks, I think we have to be very, very wary of.  That’s – it’s a false equivalence.  And again, I’ll give you another concrete example.  Israel has, I think by last count, launched about 2,000 attacks on terrorist targets in Gaza.  There were more than 3,000 rockets launched by Hamas from Gaza into Israel.

Having said that, I think Israel has an extra burden as a democracy to do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties, especially to look out for children, and of course to make sure that journalists, medical personnel, are not harmed.  And so that’s vital.

And we also want to see this de-escalate.  We want to see the violence stop.  And we want to see the possibility of focusing on improving lives and improving Palestinian lives in a material way.  People have to have hope for a better future, and we all need to work on that.

QUESTION:  And you’re also going to help the Palestinians getting a better life?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yes, absolutely.  This is – I think this is critical.  It is very, very difficult if you see no positive prospects.  And I think we all have an obligation, a responsibility to do that.

I am not sure what Secretary Blinken means by “false equivalence” but there is no equivalence whatsoever between the violence used by Hamas and that used by the Israeli state.

Israel has one of the most powerful militaries in the world and possesses some of the most advanced weaponry of any state in the international system. It has used that military to defend its interests vis-à-vis the Palestinians since its founding in 1948. But the interests of Israel slowly changed from legitimate self-defense to territorial expansion after the war of 1967 and the change has been most apparent during the continued rule of the Netanyahu government since 2009.

It is morally impossible to defend the rocket attacks by Hamas in response to Israeli military action. They are rockets, not missiles, and cannot discriminate between combatant and non-combatant targets. But to suggest that the rocket attacks are comparable in any way to the military power of Israel is delusional. Military superiority has not brought peace to Israel nor does it seem as if peace is any more likely now than at any time since the Oslo Accords of 1993 as described by the Public Broadcasting System:

“Oslo sketched out a peace process with a two-phase timetable. During a five-year interim period, Oslo envisioned a series of step-by-step measures to build trust and partnership. Palestinians would police the territories they controlled, cooperate with Israel in the fight against terrorism, and amend those sections of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) charter that called for Israel’s destruction. Israel would withdraw almost entirely from Gaza, and in stages from parts of the West Bank. An elected Palestinian Authority would take over governance of the territories from which Israel withdrew.

“After this five-year interim period, negotiators then would determine a final peace agreement to resolve the thorniest issues: final borders (see map), security arrangements, Jerusalem, whether the Palestinians would have an independent state, Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, and Palestinian refugees’ claims to land and property left behind when they fled Israel.”

The official policy of the US been to support the Oslo idea of a two-state solution and one would think that as one of Israel’s most important allies it should have been able to move the process forward: “This year America is supplying Israel with $3.9bn in aid, almost all of it military assistance; Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of American aid, at $146bn, since the second world war.” Additionally, the Biden Administration approved $735 million in precision-guided weapons to Israel on 5 May. All that assistance, however, does not seem to have any effect on Israeli policy toward the Occupied Territories. The Israeli government continues to support an active settler movement on the very land it was supposed to return to the Palestinian Authority.

It is long past time for the US to reassess its relationship to Israel. Israel is a sovereign state that can pursue whatever foreign policy it believes serves its interests. But the foreign policy of the Netanyahu government is in no way consistent with the interests of the US (one can also demonstrate that discrepancy in the attitudes toward the reinstatement of the nuclear agreement with Iran which the US supports and Israel opposes). The foreign policy of the Netanyahu government appears to be the full colonization of the West Bank and the complete submission of the Gaza Strip to Israeli military control. Those outcomes are not in the interests of the US nor are they in the interests of a democratic Israel. The US should end all economic and military assistance to Israel until it makes a serious and credible effort to implement a viable two-state solution.

Right now, the US is refusing to demand a cease-fire in the conflict. Instead, it merely suggests that Israel and Hamas should support a cease-fire. Its self-imposed impotence in the face of this humanitarian crisis is pathetic.

Posted May 17, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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