There has been a great deal of political grandstanding in America over the Russian invasion of Crimea – the Obama administration and virtually every visible politician has come out against the blatant act of aggression by Putin. There is an argument to be made that America isn’t exactly the best country to lecture others on invading sovereign nations, but there is no denying that the US is firmly on the side of international law on this one.
But as the world concentrates on Russia’s flagrant abuse of the Geneva Conventions, Israel just placed 10,589 housing settlement units on Palestinian territory and killed 56 Palestinians – only eight months after intensive negotiations began between the US, Israel, and Palestine.
The facts are very, very stark: Israel is occupying Palestinian territory by any conceivable standard.
The United Nations, European Union, and virtually every other prominent global organization have condemned Israel’s continuing occupation, but while the Obama administration has occasionally condemned expanding illegal settlement activity, the US continues to boost military aid to Israel, without which Israel’s ability to occupy Palestine would be seriously hampered.
It isn’t a huge stretch to state that the US is aiding and abetting Israeli actions in the West Bank.
There are of course political realities that the US government faces when crafting policy – the powerful Israeli lobby AIPAC wields enormous influence in Washington, and the president has to navigate the complex relationship Israeli politicians have with the political elite in America, and the voting public. Money from fervent Israel supporters floods the political process in America, and as a result, Israel’s interests are massively overrepresented in Washington. It has a corrosive effect on US foreign policy by not allowing the government to make its own. As Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel stated, “The political reality is that … the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here [in Washington],”.
Obama’s record on Israel is not good. He has supported Israel in every way conceivable, while offering the Palestinians virtually nothing.
The president blocked Palestinian attempts to achieve United Nations recognition as a member state, vetoed a Security Council resolution on Israeli settlements, and has steadfastly refused to criticize Israel during some of its most egregious crimes against the Palestinians. Meanwhile, Hamas – the democratically elected party in Gaza, is routinely criticized for its actions against Israel, even when evidence clearly shows Israel’s initiation of violence. Whether Obama wants to be so one-sided in dealing with the crisis is besides the point. His actions thus far leave little room for interpretation.
The Palestinians (at least the Palestinian Authority) seem to be reasonably pleased with the way Obama and Kerry are handling the latest negotiations this time around, despite the blatant obstructionism from Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This probably means little given the US has shown no inclination to apply serious pressure to Israel in the past, but it is at least a start.
When Obama speaks, the world listens. His condemnation of Russia carries serious weight on the international scene, and so too would a condemnation of Israel…and some actual action to back it up.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.