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Netanyahu and Obama: What's the difference?

Saturday June 04, 2011 09:37:33 AM, Chandra Muzaffar

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Two speeches made by a President and a Prime Minister within the short span of three days confirm what we have known all along: the US and Israeli governments have no interest in a just solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Let us begin with the second speech, delivered by Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, to a joint session of the US Congress on May 24 2011. Not unexpectedly, Netanyahu adopted an intransigent, belligerent position on all the critical issues that divide Israelis from Palestinians. He reiterated that there will be no return to the 1967 borders. In more precise language, he wants the 500,000 Israeli settlers who now occupy large tracts of the West Bank seized in the 1967 war to remain where they are. This means that in terms of actual land area the Palestinian state of the future will be much less than even the 22 per cent of historical Palestine, comprising the West Bank and Gaza, that many Palestinian and Arab leaders were prepared to accept as a settlement for the sake of peace. The Palestinian state will be nothing more than a Bantustan, a’la apartheid South Africa which is what Netanyahu and other like-minded Israeli, American and European
leaders have wanted all along.

Netanyahu was also adamant about Jerusalem remaining “the united capital of Israel” --- thus rejecting once again the proposal made by a number of advocates of a two state solution that East Jerusalem should be the capital of a future Palestinian state. He went on to fabricate a blatant lie about how “Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem” is “the only time that Jews, Christians and Muslims could worship freely, could have unfettered access to their holy sites” Apart from the fact that Muslims, and to a limited extent, Christians are hampered and hindered by all sorts of restrictions and obstacles in carrying out their religious duties in the holy city today, Netanyahu forgets the irrefutable truth that it was during long periods of Muslim rule from 638 to 1099 and then again from 1187 to 1916 that Jerusalem was a hospitable home to the three Abrahamic faiths. This also exposes the hollowness of the argument that Netanyahu and others have made on other occasions that Jerusalem has always been a “Jewish City.”

The Israeli Prime Minister also insisted in his usual arrogant manner that Palestinian refugees should not be allowed to return to their native land --- the historical Palestine that Israel has taken over since 1948. In other words, they cannot exercise their inalienable right under international law. “If they so choose” Netanyahu asserted, they could settle in the new Palestinian state, or more accurately, in Bantustan.

There were many other outrageous statements in his speech to the US Congress which was received by standing ovations 31 times! He indulged in half-truths about the partition of Palestine in 1947. He gave the erroneous impression that the Palestinians and other Arabs are antagonistic towards the Jewish presence in their neighbourhood when in fact their opposition is directed against the Zionist colonisation of their homeland which has led to their dispossession and oppression. He made the ludicrous claim that the Arab citizens of Israel are the only Arabs who enjoy real democratic rights when everyone knows that it is a crime for them to express a basic human right--- their right of self-determination. He painted a frightening picture of the danger that a so-called “nuclear armed” Iran poses to the Middle East and the entire world when it is common knowledge that Israel is the only state in the region that possesses a substantial nuclear weapons

Contrary to the impression created by mainstream media analysts, President Barack Obama’s speech to the AIPAC (American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee) Policy Conference 2011 on May 22 2011 was very much in line with what Netanyahu said two days later. He not only reiterated his endorsement of Israel as a Jewish State but also provided iron-clad guarantees that the US will enhance Israel’s security. He condemned the democratically elected Hamas as a terrorist organisation and had the temerity to describe the “the recent agreement between Fatah and Hamas” as “an enormous obstacle to peace.” In what was certainly music to Israeli ears, he berated Iran for its alleged nuclear weapons programme. He went out of the way to assure Israel that he would oppose any attempt to seek recognition for an independent Palestinian state through the United Nations.

Most of all, he emphasised that the “borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps…” He elaborated that it means “that the parties themselves --- Israelis and Palestinians--- will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4 1967.” This is exactly what Netanyahu has been saying---- except that he uses much more robust language to articulate his rejection of the internationally recognised 1967 borders as “indefensible.”

If Obama differed from Netanyahu it is only in the advice he offered Israel to hasten towards peace with the Palestinians partly because demographic realities were changing, partly because of the Arab Uprising and partly because governments in various parts of the world were getting impatient with the absence of a peace process. But it is advice that lost its significance in Obama’s more determined bid to appear to be in complete tandem with Netanyahu and the powerful Israeli-Zionist lobby in his country.

The Obama Netanyahu speeches, coming as they do in the wake of the Arab Uprising and the Fatah-Hamas pact, should convince --- if further convincing is needed at all---the Palestinians, other Arabs and advocates of a just peace elsewhere that negotiations with Israel through the US will only result in greater humiliation and loss of dignity for the Palestinians. They should –as they have begun to do--- draw inspiration from the Arab Uprising and mobilise the people in the region and from other parts of the world for a massive non-violent struggle for the restoration of the dignity of the Palestinians and other victims of Zionist oppression and US helmed hegemony. There was a hint of this on May 15 2011 when Palestinians and other Arabs launched peaceful protests against the Israeli regime from Lebanon, Syria and Egypt in remembrance of the catastrophe (nakba) that has befallen them as a consequence of the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.
Tel Aviv responded to the protests with bullets killing a number of protesters.(Incidentally, Obama, the champion of non-violent protest, made no reference at all to the nakba massacre in his speech). But the brave protesters have vowed to continue the struggle.


Dr. Chandra Muzaffar is President of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST) and Professor of Global Studies in Universiti Sains Malaysia.




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