When Benjamin Netanyahu stated recently that there would never be a Palestinian state as long as he was Prime Minister of Israel, he confirmed what everyone had been saying for years: Netanyahu has never been interested in a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His vast expansion of illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land since becoming Prime Minister in 2009 was evidence enough. Instead, his strategy has been to claim the land of a future Palestinian state, settlement by settlement.
In this regard there is no difference between what Netanyahu has been doing with settlement development on Palestinian land than what President Vladimir Putin of Russia has been doing in Eastern Ukraine; both stealing land that belongs to others in the name of national security. Both base their political survival on the creation of fear perpetuated by endless war. Peace, rather than war, would allow their citizens to consider their poor performance on a variety of domestic issues.
"Domestically," according to Alon Ben-Meir, Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University, Netanyahu has done "nothing to reduce the cost of living, housing became unaffordable, and hundreds of thousands of children joined the ranks of those living under the poverty line." According to Ben-Meir, Netanyahu has "caused more damage to Israel domestically and internationally than Israel's worst enemies could have possibly contemplated."
Israel is becoming, says Ben-Meir, "a pariah state with no scruples about human rights violations, defying both the international community and Israel's own moral principles on which the state was built. Netanyahu has consistently lied to the U.S. about his intentions to negotiate with the Palestinians in earnest to achieve peace based on a two-state solution. He used the pretext of national security to stampede any efforts by the U.S. to ease the conflict with the Palestinians."
An essential question for Americans moving forward is why we continue to provide Israel with our unconditional support, worth over $3 billion per year in foreign aid, when the rest of the Western world has seen the light. This is not a political question as some politicians have framed it. Consider what James Baker, the most respected Republican foreign policy advisor, former Secretary of State for President George Bush, Sr., and foreign policy advisory for former Gov. Jeb Bush's presidential campaign, stated at a Jewish conference last week: Netanyahu is "out of sync" with his own country, Washington and the world. "Although Netanyahu and his right-and-center coalition may oppose a two-state solution, a land-for-peace approach has long been supported by a substantial portion of the Israeli body politic, by every American administration since 1967 — Republican and Democratic alike — and a vast majority of nations around the world."
People say that Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East and, thus, deserves our support. But Ben-Meir believes what many international human rights advocates have stated, that Netanyahu has "deliberately undermined Israel's democratic and human rights principles by allowing open-ended discrimination against Israeli Arabs in jobs, housing, funding for schools, infrastructure and the overall economic development of predominantly Arab villages and towns." In this regard, how is Israel different from the discrimination against Christians and Jews by some Arab states?
The only reason why Netanyahu has avoided formal international investigation and condemnation from the United Nations is that the United States protects it with our veto vote. Attempts by the U.N. to look into Israel's behavior against the Palestinian people, for example, are consistently vetoed by the U.S. Efforts by the U.N. to recognize that Israel has stolen Palestinian land with settlement development or by building walls preventing Palestinians access to their land is consistently vetoed by the U.S.
If the U.S. wishes to be a credible power-broker in the world, we need to get our heads out of the sand when it comes to the behavior of our so-called allies. I hope that President Obama is strong enough to say enough is enough, and put the national security needs of America ahead of the political needs of Netanyahu, as well as his far-right supporters in Israel and the United States.
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Tom Zirpoli writes from Westminster. His column appears Wednesdays. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.