For Palestinians, there is no Obama-Netanyahu rift

Palestinians do not see any substantive Obama-Netanyahu rift on life and death matters for them. But there urgently needs to be one.

Chuck Kennedy White House Photo

Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned speech to the United States Congress next week has led to much talk of a rift between the Israeli prime minister and the US president, and even between their two countries.

Tuesday, national security adviser Susan E. Rice said the growing partisanship regarding Israel is “destructive of the fabric of the relationship.”

Citing protocol of not meeting foreign leaders too close to an election, President Barack Obama will shun his Israeli counterpart in Washington, and Vice President Joe Biden will stay away from the joint session of Congress when Netanyahu appears.

The dispute has taken on rancorous partisan tones with more than two dozen Democratic lawmakers vowing to boycott the speech. They charge that Netanyahu’s goal is to undermine the president’s diplomacy with Iran, and that Republican House Speaker John Boehner invited the Israeli leader to defy and humiliate the White House.

Yet all those objecting to the speech, whether in the United States, or Netanyahu’s rivals at home, where he faces an election next month, protest that their concern is to guarantee US-Israeli relations on whose strength the very future of Israel is said to hang.

But what all this sound and fury misses is that for the Palestinians, there is no meaningful Obama-Netanyahu rift. Indeed US-Israeli relations have never been stronger, nor more damaging to the prospects for peace and justice and for the very survival of the Palestinian people.

Just look at the recent record. Last December, the Palestinian Authority put forward a tepid resolution in the UN Security Council that did little more than repeat long-standing US policy on the outlines of a two-state solution. Obama’s UN ambassador Samantha Power marshaled all her resources to defeat it.

She claimed that the resolution was “deeply imbalanced” and took “no account of Israel’s legitimate security concerns.”

The next day, after disappointed Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas signed the treaty acceding to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Obama’s State Department declared itself “deeply troubled,” accusing Palestinians of an “escalatory step” that “badly damages the atmosphere with the very people with whom they ultimately need to make peace.”

Power said the Palestinian move “really poses a profound threat to Israel.”

These words are perverse. Israel’s 51-day long attack on Gaza that left more than 2,200 people dead didn’t “damage the atmosphere” as far as the Obama administration was concerned, but any Palestinian effort to use international bodies in pursuit of justice and accountability is tantamount to an act of war.

I challenge Power to go and repeat her words to any of the 100,000 Palestinians in Gaza still living in the damp and freezing rubble of their homes, to the surviving parents of more than 500 children killed in the Israeli attack, or to the thousands who will live with lifelong injuries.

Neither the ambassador nor her president has commented on the findings of Amnesty International, which said that Israel “brazenly flouted the laws of war by carrying out a series of attacks on civilian homes, displaying callous indifference to the carnage caused.”

Few Palestinians will forget that when Israeli fire was raining down on them, the Obama administration authorized the transfer of grenades and mortar rounds to resupply the Israeli army.

Last summer’s war was something even Hamas leaders tried to avoid. After it began, armed Palestinian groups declared that their goal was a ceasefire accompanied by a lifting of the eight-year siege that has devastated Gaza’s economy and isolated its 1.8 million people from the rest of humanity.

Since the war, promises that the siege would be lifted have been broken. Billions pledged in reconstruction aid have failed to materialize. As a result, cash-strapped UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, has suspended repairs on Gaza homes.

Israel’s view tends to be unquestioningly echoed by US officials and media: that Palestinians are at fault for the repeated surges of violence.

Yet even senior Israeli leaders and officers have often acknowledged that Palestinian armed groups, especially Hamas, have meticulously stuck to ceasefire agreements, as they are doing currently.

Despite this, the US put no pressure on Israel to end the years-long blockade.

As a result, the lesson Palestinians have repeatedly learned is that whether they fight or stay quiet, Israel will be allowed to do as it pleases. It can besiege and slaughter them in Gaza, seize and colonize their land in the West Bank, deprive them of their most fundamental rights, and Obama will have Israel’s back.

Just because Obama, Netanyahu and their partisan followers may be peeved at each other does not change the basic dynamic of full US support for Israel’s occupation of millions of Palestinians, the continuation of which guarantees ongoing suffering with regional repercussions.

Sure enough, despite the supposed rift, the US is proceeding with the sale of more of the most advanced F-35 fighter jets to Israel.

That’s why Palestinians do not see any substantive Obama-Netanyahu rift on life and death matters for them. But there urgently needs to be one.

It is long past time for the American people and their representatives to challenge Israel on its seemingly permanent subjugation of the Palestinians.

This post was first published by The Huffington Post.

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Thank you, Ali, for this piece. Supposed critics such as Robert Parry (who has long been an Obama apologist and in denial about the extremism of the current administration) and the writers at ConsortiumNews have promoted confusion. The question is WHY is it necessary for these journalists and commentators to promote the idea of a nonexistent rift, what purpose does it serve, and who benefits? Note as well the anti-Netanyahu memes on social media, originating in Democratic party boosting pages, which reinforce loyalty to Brand Obama and indoctrinate nationalism instead of solidarity with our brothers and sisters of Palestine.

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I disagree. There is no question that this rift has put before the American people more information about the cost of the US support of Israel in both taxpayer dollars and in lives lost than every before. Most Americans knew little about Palestine beyond what the lopsided press reporting offered them and that always favored Israel as the victim. No more. Ordinary Americans are insulted and dismayed at this insult to our nation's sovereignty and to our President by Netanyahu. And the American people are now much more aware of the ramifications of our unbridled governmental support for Israel. I believe we are seeing a sea change in the attitude of formerly naive Americans to the situation.

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maggie,
I think that you are right, but it was the slaughter of Gaza that crept into the consciousness of Americans watching the news. The "rift" between the Democrats/Republicans/MIC/AIPAC is actually turning a real issue into a "wedge" issue because the parties will still get what they want for their benefactors, but they are only playing on a Democrat vs Republican meme for the voters.

I agree with you that we are seeing a sea change with American attitudes!! The more they see, the more obvious the issue is. I have faith in our folks! As for Netanyahu, he is a product of the Israeli system which will continue to elect a monster and that continues to spend every dime and every waking moment trying to coerce us to do the same.

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The dominant narrative on the left is that peace can come through Israeli concessions alone. But this isn't true, both Israeli and Palestinian society are on a war footing. In order to have peace and a real Palestinian state, both the Israelis and the Palestinians are going to have to make compromises, and painful ones. Concessions that the collective Palestinian leadership has never been able to make. There's a lot of talk about the One State solution, and the right of return of Palestinian refugees from the '48 war, but I think by and large the two peoples don't want to live together, at least not right now.
Israel is not going to just disappear, it's been 67 years of attempting to destroy Israel and it hasn't worked. It didn't work when Israel when in it's infancy and poor and it isn't close to working now.
If Israel forced all of the settlers out of the West Bank, pulled back behind their wall, kept Jerusalem (it's not like Saudi Arabia is going to allow a Jewish statelet in Medina, it's obvious that the Israelis will not give up Jerusalem), compensated monetarily the '48 refugees with the help of other countries, lifted the blockade of Gaza, there would still be war. Palestinian society is still trying to take the whole land.
So yes there must be pressure on Israel to give up expansionist plans and to respect human rights, but to end this 67 year old war there needs to be pressure on the Palestinian leadership and their patron states to make concessions too. The pro-Palestinian movement appears not to be putting any pressure on Palestinian leaders, or on other Arab countries (civil rights for Palestinian refugees and their offspring anyone?). But by acting as if Israel has all the power to make things right and is responsible for all wrongs the pro-Palestinian movement makes itself irrelevant for anyone who has compassion for Israelis and a knowledge of history.

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How exactly can Palestinians be "on a war footing"? Palestinians have no army, no navy, no air force, no fighter jets, no attack helicopters, no tanks, no armored vehicles, no drones, no missiles, no nothing but rocks and a few crude unguided rockets which land with a thud. Israel, on the other hand, has a mighty military which they use regularly and relentlessly to savage the captive Gazans. It's nonsense to try to make equitable fault. The Israelis are the occupiers and oppressors, the Palestinians are the occupied and oppressed. Occupied people have a right under international law to resist their occupation and their occupiers.

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I believe that deep-down Obama loathes Netanyahu but he can't do much about it. He is always worried about any attacks on his family which are certainly possible from fanatical Israeli groups. As for the American, most don't really care. There are so many other issues and the majority of American are complacent. Now that the media only focuses on ISIS, Americans believe Muslims are the enemy and we do have to protect Israel. No one cares about the Palestinians. That is the very sad, but truthful fact.

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I also disagree that nothing has changed. Quite a bit has changed. I am tempted to apply a Churchillian phrase to what is happening to the US-Israeli love in which has happened for the last 40 years. "This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is the end of the beginning." US-Israeli interests are starting, ever so slightly, to diverge. Lets wedge it open faster.

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To Maggie: Respect your right to disagree but Abunimah is absolutely on target.

"Ordinary Americans" where I live remain supportive of the Israeli positions as they have no other facts on which to base their views. They object to Palestinians having any rights to decide anything at all in ISRAEL's
Palestine (whic they say the Bible guarantees them.) My bumper sticker stating that "I Support Palestinian Human Rights" on my "rolator"/walker produces mockery and talk of "Palestinian terrorists" as though this part of the racist, hate campaign were an established fact. I get questions of disbelief such as, "Do
you REALLY believe in Palestinian human rights?!!" These "ordinary Americans" object to even the nearly non-existent technical differences between the Obama Administration and Israel. In sum, there is no concern whatsoever at any injustice on the part of Israel in their view. Documentation is in 1. The submission to the ICC on behalf of the Palestine Subcommittee of the NATIONAL LAWYERS GUILD of February 10, 2014 2. DISHONEST BROKER: THE U.S. ROLE IN ISRAEL AND PALESTINE by Naseer H. Aruri, for exhaustive analysis 35 years of the pre-Obama era.

To Vivek Jain: As a constant reader of Clonsortiumnews, I do not feel that your
contention that Robert Parry is "an apologist for Obama" has any basis in fact. Some other contributors in that paper have views with which I disagree. I do not hesitate to say so as a commenter in consortium (not EI) and advise you to do likewise. What about Lawrence Davidson, for only one example?

----Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

As Ali Abunimah points out the deep support of Israel by the Obama Administration and other politicians remains unquestioned.

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.