Israel’s War Erodes US Middle East Diplomacy

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For more than three weeks, Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead,” took the lead role in showing the world how it uses advanced defense weaponry against the 1.5 Palestinian refugees living in the Gaza Strip.

The war on Gaza is one of the bloodiest assaults on Palestinians in years. At the time of this writing, more than 1,230 people have been killed (half are women and children) and over 5,400 wounded in 23 days. Approximately 800,000 people are without drinking water and one million people are without electricity. Tens of thousands of Palestinians have been internally displaced. An estimated 4,000 homes are destroyed and 16,000 homes damaged. Hundreds of municipal buildings – including 60 schools – are rubble.

Israel demonstrated to the world not only its lack of moral, legal and political authority, but its complete disregard for humanity. As a result, US diplomacy further eroded in the Middle East and the greater Middle East Region because of US-involvement with Israel.

The incoming Obama Administration will be handed a diplomatic arm burned by the white phosphorous, artillery shells that rained down on Gaza. As long as Israel continues its occupation of the Palestinians by air, land and sea, which was the state of affairs prior to the Gaza invasion on December 27th, the oppression lives on. This latest offensive gained fresh outrage for Israel – not only throughout the Arab World, but worldwide. These past, three weeks have seen people protesting all over the globe. If anything, the war on Gaza renewed the world’s interest for serious change.

Over the airwaves estimates are that it will cost at least $1 billion to reconstruct Gaza and it will take more than five years. The US could play a pivotal role in who pays for Gaza Reconstruction. If the US wants to prove to the rest of the world who runs the Oval Office, the US should ensure Israel pays for Gaza’s reconstruction. Since Israel shelled Gaza, they can shell out for the reconstruction.

According to IfAmericansNew.org, Israel received an estimated $6.8 million/day from the US in fiscal year 2007. In “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” Professors John L. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt explain that “Israel now receives on average about $3 billion in direct foreign assistance each year…in recent years, about 75 percent of U.S. assistance has been military aid…” (p. 26), which means American taxpayers have not only paid for this recent, accelerated ethnic cleansing; but Americans have made possible Israel’s occupation of the Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.

People may say: “the US can’t make Israel do anything. In fact, it’s Israel that tells the US what to do. Look how Prime Minister Ehud Olmert publicly declared how he told the US not to vote for a UN Security Council Resolution crafted by the US secretary of state, which called for an immediate ceasefire. Israel calls the shots – not the US.”

As informed Americans and journalists, we must continue informing the American public how their tax dollars are spent to commit crimes against the Palestinians. Since June 2002, Israel began building a concrete-and- metal wall, eight-meters wall that cost US taxpayers $2.8 M per km, or a total of $1.82 billion for 650 km. The construction of the wall annexes approximately half the land within the West Bank to the State of Israel. The wall and the hundreds of Israeli checkpoints throughout the West Bank prevents Palestinians from living their daily lives. According to 18000homes.org, Israeli forces have demolished 18,147 Palestinian homes since 1967 (not including the recent war on Gaza), as part of a policy that ethnically-cleanses Palestinians from their indigenous land. Even though Palestinians have asked for a Palestinian State within the pre-June 1967 borders in past negotiations, Israel continues building illegal settlements throughout the West Bank. Moreover, Palestinians who live inside Israel, who have Israeli-Arab citizen status, have been evicted from their homes in East Jerusalem.

What does all of this information mean for average Americans? According to the US Department of Labor, the US unemployment rate was 7.2 per cent in December 2008. The 2009 forecast for the US economy in media reports is: “it will get worse before it gets better.” Most likely the people who cannot find jobs spend more time on the Internet. They not only have more time, they have open schedules that create conditions for reading informative articles.

If Americans learned how years of their financial contributions to the US-taxpayer system have not been spent on their needs and economic hardships; but their money has been given to a country halfway around the world that annihilates Palestinian lives…more Americans will stand up and speak out. The Israel-Palestine conflict has the potential to become a part of mainstream conversation in millions of American homes. For the millions of unemployed Americans who have lost their homes to foreclosure; who are unable to feed their families; they will ask the following question: my tax money was spent on this?

In a matter of three weeks, F16 warplanes and Apache-attack helicopters further eradicated an already dilapidated, Palestinian infrastructure from 18-months of blockade. As a result, food, medicine, fuel, goods, and machinery parts did not cross the borders and reach Gaza. With regards to water, 220,000 cubic meters are needed daily for the 1.5 M refugees living there. Since the war, the Coastal Municipal Waters Utility can only provide 100,000 cubic meters of water each day.

According to the CMWU, “…the Gaza Wastewater Treatment Plant is completely out of operation and yet the plant is unable to discharge the wastewater to the sea. As a result, the collection ponds are threatened to be broken down at any moment in which it will impose serious catastrophic humanitarian, health, and environmental consequences on the surrounding lives and properties from danger of sewerage floods” (press release 01/10/09.)

The Palestinians need immediate relief now. In the years to follow, they must rebuild.

US-taxpayer money should not be used to kill innocent people and destroy their lives. The American public needs to wake up to reality. We need to transform our image to the Palestinians, the Arab World and the international community. We need to show our decency by acknowledging the negative consequences of US foreign policy in the Middle East. Changes in US foreign policy toward the Middle East should exemplify a fair and just peace, which will not only safeguard the US, but protect Palestinians and Israelis also. The war on Gaza exacerbated tensions in the region. It may or may not have been one of Israel’s unstated objectives. The end result: negotiations for a Palestinian State could not fruition. The language of raining down white phosphorous shells, F15 missiles, unidentified incinerating bombs, and Qassam rockets will not bring peace or stabilize the region.

Finally, we need to send a clear message about our nation to the rest of the world: the American public is aware and fiscally-responsible. We believe in fairness, justice, peace, and equality. We do not support our money being used to destroy peoples’ lives.

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