Feature

The Israel-Palestine rift deepens

One day after the U.N. elevated Palestine to observer-state status, Israel advanced plans to build 3,000 new homes on contested land.

One day after the U.N. General Assembly voted last week to elevate Palestine to observer-state status, Israel advanced plans to build 3,000 new homes on contested land in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. “These activities set back the cause of a negotiated peace,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, calling on Israel to shelve its plans. Israel’s announcement was seen as retaliation for the U.N.’s overwhelming endorsement of Palestine. The U.S. was one of only nine countries to stand with Israel, and Clinton said the administration would continue to “have Israel’s back.”

That uncritical stance “confirms America’s irrelevance” to resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict, said Henry Siegman in ForeignPolicy.com. It dooms President Obama’s efforts to renew peace talks as an “empty and purposeless exercise.” Unless the U.S. demands that Israel accept its pre-1967 borders as a starting point, negotiations have “no prospect of producing anything other than cover for Israel’s continuing predatory colonial behavior.”

Obama has to stop the settlements “not just to save face, but to protect Americans,” said Robert Wright in TheAtlantic.com. The U.N. vote did not increase the risk of terrorism by much, but the announcement of an “epically indefensible” settlement project did. Whenever the Arab world perceives further insults to the Palestinians, the U.S. “is naturally seen as complicit.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has to hear that if he doesn’t reverse course, Obama will publicly announce that “America can no longer guarantee that it will stand by Israel’s side.”

The White House already has a more nefarious way to undermine Israel, said Elliott Abrams in NationalReview.com. It “engages in polite diplomatic criticism, then privately urges the Europeans to lower the boom.” It was probably at U.S. behest that several European countries just dressed down Israeli ambassadors. Obama clearly wants to hurt Netanyahu’s chances in upcoming elections by suggesting that he “can’t get along with Europe or the United States.” Upset that Netanyahu backed Mitt Romney, Obama “now wishes to return the favor.”

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