Sunday, February 20, 2011
With settlement resolution veto, Obama has joined Likud
By Gideon Levy
This weekend, a new member enrolled in Likud - and not just in the ruling party, but in its most hawkish wing. Located somewhere between Tzipi Hotovely and Danny Danon, U.S. President Barack Obama bypassed Dan Meridor and Michael Eitan on the right and weakened their position.
The first veto cast by the United States during Obama's term, a veto he promised in vain not to use as his predecessors did, was a veto against the chance and promise of change, a veto against hope. This is a veto that is not friendly to Israel; it supports the settlers and the Israeli right, and them alone.
The excuses of the American ambassador to the UN won't help, and neither will the words of thanks from the Prime Minister's Office: This is a step that is nothing less than hostile to Israel. America, which Israel depends on more than ever, said yes to settlements. That is the one and only meaning of its decision, and in so doing, it supported the enterprise most damaging to Israel.
Moreover, it did so at a time when winds of change are blowing in the Middle East. A promise of change was heard from America, but instead, it continued with its automatic responses and its blind support of Israel's settlement building. This is not an America that will be able to change its standing among the peoples of the region. And Israel, an international pariah, once again found itself supported only by America.
This should have disturbed every Israeli. Is that what we are? Alone and condemned? And all for the continuation of that worthless enterprise? Is it really worth the price? To hell with the UN and the whole world is against us?
We can't wrap ourselves in this hollow iron dome forever. We must open our eyes and understand that if no country, aside from weakening America, supports this caprice of ours, then something fundamental is wrong here.
Israel, which is condemned by the entire world but continues merrily on its way, is a country that is losing its connection to reality. It is also a country that will ultimately find itself left entirely to its fate. That is why America's decision harmed Israel's interests: It continued to blind and stupefy Israel into thinking it can go on this way forever.
A friendly U.S., concerned for Israel's fate, should have said no. An America that understands that the settlements are the obstacle should have joined in condemning them. A superpower that wants to make peace, at a time when Arab peoples are rising up against their regimes and against the U.S. and Israel, should have understood that it must change the old, bad rules of the game of blanket support for the ally addicted to its settlements.
A friendly America should have mobilized to wean Israel of its addiction Only it can do so, and it should have started, belatedly, at the Security Council on Friday.
But promises of change and of real concern for Israel are one thing, and diplomatic behavior is another: another automatic veto, as if nothing has changed. Obama or George W. Bush, there's no difference. When Ambassador Susan Rice said that the draft resolution risked hardening the positions of both sides and could encourage the parties to refrain from negotiations, she misled. She knows that what prevents negotiations and hardens positions is continued building in the settlements.
And when the Israeli Foreign Ministry said it is "peculiar that the Security Council should choose to consider one single aspect" of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations "while ignoring the wider scope of events in our region," it, too, misled. Do the Foreign Ministry's spokesmen really believe there is a serious party that would agree to Israel creating irreversible facts on the ground without let or hindrance?
And to call this "one single aspect?" Perhaps it is only one, but it is certainly the most destructive. And thus it is the one the world sought to condemn - and rightly so.
Moreover, this veto was not cast during ordinary days. These are days of boiling lava in the region. If there were a responsible government in Israel, it would have stopped settlement building long ago - not only to deflect fire from Israel, but to promote an agreement that has never been more vital for it.
If the U.S. had been a responsible superpower, it would have voted for the resolution on Friday to rouse Israel from its dangerous sleep. Instead, we got a hostile veto from Washington, shouts of joy from Jerusalem and a party that will end very badly for both.