Rattling The Cage: Goodbye Obama, hello world

Recognition by Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay is a welcome gesture of impatience at Israel’s denial of Palestinians’ right to statehood in pre-1967 borders.

Abbas 311 AP (photo credit: AP)
Abbas 311 AP
(photo credit: AP)
Thank you, Argentina. Thank you, Brazil. Thank you, Uruguay. No, these countries didn’t help fight the Carmel Forest fire, but they just aided Israel in another way by recognizing the state of Palestine.
Of course, not all Israelis see it like this. Most, rather, see these countries’ recognition of Palestine as a hostile, anti-Israeli, “delegitimizing” act.
Why? Did Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay say Israel doesn’t have a right to exist as a Jewish state? No. Did they say the Palestinians have a legitimate claim to even one inch of “Israel proper” – Tel Aviv, Haifa, west Jerusalem and the rest of what this country was before the Six Day War? No.
All they did was “recognize Palestine as a free and independent state within the borders defined in 1967,” as Argentina put it.
The whole democratic world has recognized the Palestinians’ right to statehood within the pre-1967 borders; the recognition by Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay is a welcome gesture of impatience at Israel’s long denial of that right, and at the Obama administration’s demoralizing failure to call this country to order.
America has come up empty, possibly for the final, decisive time, so the rest of the democratic world is going to have to step in or there’s nothing but more Israeli tyranny, Palestinian terrorism and Jewish-Muslim war to look forward to around here.
How can it step in? How can the democratic world, which has always supported Israel as a Jewish state as well as a free, independent Palestine, further that cause – beyond making gestures?
TWO YEARS ago, when Barack Obama was about to enter the White House, the Israeli peace camp talked about “tough love” – about Obama inducing the soon-to-be Netanyahu government to end the occupation by threatening to become less friendly, less generous, if it didn’t. The assumption behind this approach is that Israel, if faced with the choice of losing the settlements or losing America, would prefer to lose the settlements, and fast.
I think such an approach would have worked, but the Obama administration is not tough, certainly not when it comes to this country. So now it’s up to the rest of the world that Israel belongs to, that we don’t want to lose, to be the bearer of tough love. We just saw an attempt come out of Europe, which, with the steady crippling of Obama’s presidency, is the only hope left for moral leadership in the democratic world.
Twenty-six former European leaders, including EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, Spanish prime minister Felipe Gonzales, German president Richard von Weizsacker along with other proven friends of Israel, have called on the EU to stop indulging Israel’s settlement growth.
The “letter of the 26” urges the EU to adopt a policy whereby “enhancement or upgrading of... bilateral agreements will not occur unless settlements are frozen.” It also tells the EU to “ensure that... settlements are excluded from European privileges and will not be promoted and legitimized by their provision... We consider it simply inexplicable that such products still enjoy benefits under preferential trade agreements between the EU and Israel.”
The letter has been denounced here as a call for sanctions. But sanctions are when you penalize somebody; the letter of the 26 doesn’t call for the EU to penalize Israel for settlement expansion, only to stop increasing the rewards to Israel in light of it. The former European leaders don’t speak of boycotts; they speak of stopping the enhancements and upgrades, of ending preferential treatment.
I wouldn’t even call that “tough love,” just “not being a doormat anymore.” Do such measures hurt Israel, do they “delegitimize” it? No, they delegitimize the settlements, they delegitimize the occupation, which have been illegitimate from day one, as every national leader in the democratic world has agreed.
But Israel doesn’t listen, or at least not anymore, so it’s time for the democratic world – which endorsed a Jewish state alongside a Palestinian one in 1947 and hasn’t budged since – to get serious.
Unfortunately, the EU this week rejected the letter’s recommendation, making do with “reiterating,” “affirming” and “underlining” its support for the peace process, i.e. sticking with the doormat strategy.
Too bad. There’s nothing recommended in the Europeans’ letter that gets in the way of the new proximity talks, or the new Hillary Clinton Show, or whatever the US is calling this ghost dance it wants to put on. In fact, there was an interesting sentence indicating that the Obama administration is looking to the EU to do what it can’t (or won’t).
“Senior figures in the United States are also signaling to us that the best way to help President Obama’s efforts,” wrote the former leaders, “is to put a price tag on attitudes and policies that run counter to the positions that the US president himself has advanced.”
A price tag for settlement expansion. Thinking of the burned-down mosques and olive groves in the West Bank, I like the irony of those words.
It’s all good – suspending enhancements and upgrades, recognizing Palestine, declaring statehood, going to the UN. It all puts pressure on Israel to get out of the Palestinians’ lives, which, in the eyes of the world, doesn’t really appear to be what the Netanyahu government has in mind.
None of these moves raises any objection at all to Israel being a Jewish state, or to Israeli sovereignty within its pre-Six Day War borders. Nobody gets hurt, either. All that these measures attempt to do is bring Israel to its senses.
So thank you, Javier Solana, Felipe Gonzales and Richard von Weizsacker – and Helmut Schmidt, Lionel Jospin, Romano Prodi and the rest who signed this letter. Thank you, again, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay – and the other democratic countries that, I’m sure, will be recognizing Palestine before too long.
A terrible fire has been burning this land for 43 years. If it’s ever put out, if this country ever starts to recover, the foreign countries and leaders who stood against the spreading blaze will be remembered here as true friends.

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