A Fake Partisan Fight Over a Fake Palestinian State, Updated

Several months ago, the GOP made a legislative three-ring circus out of the immigration issue. Branding President Barack Obama an addict to extreme leftism, Republicans staged an intervention-performance to prevent him from compulsive granting of amnesty to undocumented immigrants.

The Hinder the Administration’s Legalization Temptation Act—HALT—absurd in both the full and acronym, never went anywhere beyond a comedic set of hearings. There’s a good reason for that; it was clear to everyone involved that nothing like amnesty was planned by Obama, and that even his claim to move more humanitarian cases to the end of the docket had no firm parameters. The HALT act was merely a stage on which to enact anti-Obama theater.

Obama, for his part, told his Latino supporters that immigration reform was impossible, because he lacked a “dance partner” on the Republican side. What the antagonistic spectacle obscured was the reality that the mainstream Republican and Democrat immigration policies have been seamless on the federal level. Unbelievably, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney criticized Obama for un-kept promises in reducing immigration, saying “the truth is, he didn’t even try.” This was a week or so before it was announced that Obama had surpassed the Bush deportation rate by a factor of four [I wrote about some of this on my own blog here].

Democrats and Republicans “hand in glove”

A similar choreography, with familiar personalities, disguises the hand-in-glove approach of Democrats and Republicans to the issue of Palestine and Israel. In this case, the Palestinian Authority’s UN bid for recognition of statehood has provided a useful stage for a partisan battle. Despite the fact that the Obama administration has, at every turn, expressed viral opposition to the statehood bid at the UN, Republican luminaries have still gotten a lot of mileage out of the claim that Obama policies have encouraged the Palestinian Authority’s quest. Texas governor Rick Perry, another Republican presidential hopeful, and pundit-minions such as former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee all blamed the PA statehood bid on Obama. Mitt Romney’s criticism, posted on his website, offers a condensed summary of the Republican line. Obama had:

  • “[distanced] the US from Israel”
  • “thrown” Israel “under the bus” by locking it into the 1967 final state parameters.
  • And, in a comical turn, Romney claimed that Obama’s mention of the words “state” and UN to Palestinians at some point previously had planted some a kind of irresistible suggestion in the mind of Mahmoud Abbas that had led inexorably to the statehood bid.

Romney insisted that

The United States also should communicate that we are prepared to cut foreign assistance to the Palestinians so long as they continue to pursue statehood apart from the negotiating table.

Less than a week later, the Republican controlled Foreign Appropriations Sub-Committee did just that. Under the heading of recommendations for the West Bank and Gaza, the report recommends withholding funding…

[…] until the Secretary of State certifies that the Palestinian Authority is not attempting to seek recognition at the United Nations of a Palestinian state […]

Obama playing both sides

The UN bid has generated the same opportunity for spectacle by Republicans as the “amnesty” scuffle I mentioned above. Obama has played both sides of the field in similar fashion, feigning impotence before the ostensible intransigence of Palestinians and Israelis and sometimes publicly expressing frustration with Israel’s right wing government. Like his predecessors and Republican counterparts, however, Obama accedes to every Israeli desire behind the scenes.

As Eli Lake reported at Newsweek, Obama publicly demanded a settlement freeze with Israel when he took office in 2009, only to be repeatedly rebuffed. There was no delay in the transfer to Israel of bunker buster bombs secured under the Bush administration, however, which were being delivered to Israel even as Obama seemed to be demanding “tough” concessions. Obama added his own stocking-stuffer of billions of dollars worth of fighter jets in return for a meaningless extension to Netanyahu’s subsequent 10 month “settlement freeze” in 2010. Meaningless, because, as Max Blumenthal, Peace Now and other groups documented, construction continued, despite the ‘settlement freeze’.

The fake “settlement freeze” of 2010 was no different than the fake “settlement freeze” of 2008, during which time President George W. Bush promised the bunker busters to Israel, despite then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s indifference to public reproach on the settlement issue. In fact, contrary to Romney’s outlandish assertions about 1967 borders, the parameters were the Republican party’s position on a final negotiation during the Bush years, then known by the first date in the 1949-1967 period both allude to.

US security cooperation with Israel has increased under Obama

The Bush and Obama policies on Israel’s colonial project are the same. But like so much of the pernicious overlap in the administrations, Obama has actually increased the extent and pace. As Elliot Abrams put it, the “trajectory” of security cooperation has strengthened “from Clinton to Bush to Obama…”

As a final note, far from the unhinged cry of statehood decried with varying hysteria by Obama and the Republicans, Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority he leads seem eager to cash in their UN bid for a return to Oslo. The PLO made some heads spin by immediately reacting favorably to a quartet proposal for revived negotiations this week—the equivalent of answering a call from a jilted lover on the first ring.

A seamless bipartisan policy

Despite all the feigned antagonisms, the UN bid is little more than another act in a complicated dance performance that once again hides a seamless, bipartisan policy. Republicans get to pull out their Obama trifecta—secret Muslim/weak on national security/easily hypnotized by swarthy evil leaders.

Obama and Democrats get to floss their never-ending devotion to Israel while they secrete crocodile tears for Palestinians and boast their non-stop commitment to a peace-process, any peace-process. In a sense, Abbas has provided a new script, creating an excuse to bring up negotiations again in a way that all three parties can talk about with a straight face now that the dance number has grown derivative and obviously pointless.

Update:

Its being reported that the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Appropriatons Foreign Operations Sub Committee—both controlled by Republicans—are holding up some level of funding to the PA and, seperately, to USAID programs seperate from the PA. The fact that this consitutes the fake infighting that I was writing about above is illustrated by the reponse of US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta who is in Israel this week. In a photo op with his Israeli counterpart, Ehud Barak, Panetta stated that the Obama administration opposes the block, and by extension, one is to assume, the appropriations committee recommendation to cut funding for 2012. Panetta remarked that funding should continue during this”critical time”. The funding issues are complex, and not being well reported in the press. This post from Americans for Peace Now, does a good job of explaining the congressional committees involved and how funding is allocated and disbursed [h/t Alex Kane at Mondoweiss].