President Obama was on the right side of history when he supported the young nonviolent protestors in Egypt. The Obama administration was on the wrong side of history when Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN raised her hand vetoing a UN Security Council resolution condemning Jewish settlements. The resolution supported by 14 countries including US allies repeated the exact same language that the Obama administration has said to the Israelis, to the Palestinians and to the public. Calling Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories illegal is reflecting the reality of international law. The World Court at the Hague has said that Israel’s activities in the occupied territories are illegal.
Last fall the US held intensive talks with Israel with the aim of restarting Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. Palestinians have consistently said that they can’t enter into talks with Israel about the end of the Israeli occupation and the creation of a Palestinian state while Israel continues to build illegal and exclusive settlements for Jews in the land earmarked for the state of Palestine.
The US administration tried the dangle the carrot and the stick to the Israelis. Washington reportedly told Tel Aviv that if it extends the settlement freeze for a mere three months (thus ensuring the continuation of the talks) that the US would make a generous $3 billion military contribution and would veto anti-Israel resolutions. The logic of this offer was that the carrot will be that the US would not veto any future UN Security Council resolution.
The Obama administration itself has failed in restarting the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks due exclusively to the Israeli refusal to honor international law pertaining to its illegal settlement activity. The logical next step was therefore to go to the world body and censure the one state in the world that dares to repeatedly violate international law while claiming to be the only democracy in the Middle East.
Europe, Russia who along with the US and the UN make up the Quartet which is sponsoring the peace talks agreed with the Palestinian and Arab position and voted in favor of censuring Israel at the UN.
America’s excuse for voting against this resolution is rather lame. The Obama administration stated that supporting (or abstaining) from this resolution would exasperate the peace talks and that the place to resolve differences is in direct talks. By making this statement Washington has clearly contradicted its own position to the Israelis asking them to freeze settlement activities in order to ensure the restart of the talks.
Actions have consequences. Israel’s action of flaunting international law and refusing the decisions of the quartet and the rest of the international community should not stand. By refusing to intervene on the world level and by forcing the Palestinians to return to the talks on Israel’s terms, the US has sent a very dangerous signal. President Obama who just last week stood for the rights of people against dictatorships has now reversed himself by supporting an oppressive illegal occupation regime. The saying goes that right is might, but apparently when it has to do with Israel, might becomes right.
This US veto not only gives a green light to the Israelis to continue their illegal activities but it emboldens a shaky right wing government. By issuing the first veto in his administration President Obama has shown that he is not unlike any of the previous administrations in its pro Israel position.
Palestinians and their supporters of their legitimate rights can solve things without America, so long as the US doesn’t act so blatantly in defense of the aggressive Israelis. The Abbas government has been consistent in its rejection of the use of violence in resolving the Palestinian conflict. By going to the UN Security Council, the Palestinian leadership was signaling a continuation of this nonviolent path, not much different than the path taken by the courageous people of Tunis and Egypt.
President Obama was correct in supporting the Arab people’s revolt against their dictators. He was on the right side of history. Unfortunately Washington’s latest decision at the UN places it clearly on the wrong side of history. Sooner or later Palestinians, the peoples of the Arab world and peace lovers around the world will prove that. Palestinian non-violence against the occupiers will now increase, Israel will become more and more isolated including by countries that have signed peace deals with it and international boycotts and divestments of the illegal occupiers will escalate until the people of Palestine, like all peoples, can live in peace and freedom.