Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas has arrived in New York to ask the UN Security Council to turn his territory into a real nation. Considering that Abbas is called a US/Israeli cat's paw or Quisling by many Palestinians, it's a bold gesture indeed.
One that has rightly shaken Washington and left it isolated and the target of the Muslim world's wrath. Now, comes the moment of truth for the western powers.
A majority of the world's nations are fed up by the endless suffering of the stateless Palestinians and support creation of a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza. In fact, the United States appears almost alone, save Israel, Canada, and Micronesia.
Turkey's increasingly influential premier, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, went to Cairo last week and spoke for the world: "Let's raise the Palestinian flag and let that flag be the symbol of peace and justice in the Middle East."
The United States is desperately scrambling to head off a favorable vote at the UN. Washington threatens to veto any pro-Palestine vote in the Security Council -- that alone can grant statehood status to a new state. The US is exerting huge pressure on allies and dependent states to vote against any Palestinian statehood resolution in the General Assembly. If Palestine gets full or even upgraded status at the UN, Washington fears Israel might face war crimes charges at the International Court in The Hague.
Israel is in a panic and is using all its mighty influence to sidetrack a UN vote. Its hard right-wing government is threatening the Palestinian territory with unspecified "grave consequences." The United States is doing the same, on a larger scale.
A special Congressional election in New York City last week gave Israel and its American supporters powerful new ammunition. A Democratic candidate in a long-time Democratic district was soundly defeated after he and President Barack Obama were denounced for "throwing Israel under a bus."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is heading the anti-Palestinian diplomatic drive. She clearly has future political ambitions and is buttering up Israel's supporters. Her goal is to arm-twist the feeble Palestinian leadership to accept some sort of diluted compromise that does not upset Israel. Abbas' Palestinian Authority totally depends on the US and, to a much lesser degree, the EU and Saudi Arabia, for money, arms, intelligence support, and tepid diplomatic assistance.
It's no secret that Israel's right- wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu clearly controls Washington's Middle East policy through its well-organized and funded US supporters. This has poisoned US interests in the Muslim world at a time that American domination of the turbulent region is weakening. But everyone also knows the political law: "don't cross Israel in or near an election year." George H.W. Bush paid the prices for trying to block illegal Israeli settlements. So did the very able former Senator Charles Percy, who died last week.
Turkey's Erdogan just called Israel, "America's spoiled child," a view shared by many around the globe. The 9/11 hijackers who attacked New York and Washington made plain they were doing so to punish America for its unquestioned support of Israel's repression of Palestine. Other smaller attacks seem likely to follow.
In a black comedy, US efforts to make PA leader Mahmoud Abbas back down are being led by Dennis Ross, one of Israel's staunchest partisans in the US government. The US Congress, ever responsive to Israel's demands, threatens to cut off all funding for Palestinian refugees and any UN organ that supports them.
The sanctimonious and discredited former British PM Tony Blair leads efforts to get Palestinians back to the negotiating table.
Israel, now no longer quietly assisted by Egypt's former ruler, Hosni Mubarak, or Turkey's rightwing generals, is feeling increasingly isolated. But it can still count on unquestioning US support.
Many outsiders believe a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians is possible provided irksome details can be resolved. This writer, who recently published a book on the subject, does not share this rosy view.
Israel's hard right Likud Party and its even further right coalition allies and settlers groups are determined to retain the entire West Bank and Golan Heights. According to the closest thing Israel has to a real sage, thinker Uri Avnery, Likud not only refuses to define Israel's borders, it has a powerful faction that wants further territorial expansion into Syria and Lebanon.
Israel has now gobbled up 60% of the West Bank's land and all its major water aquifers. Settlement building is surging, in defiance of President Barack Obama's peeps of protest. Israel is now demanding that Palestinians recognize it as a "Jewish state," though 20% of its population is Christian or Muslim.
Israel's strategy has been to hold endless, phony "peace talks" while rapidly expanding West Bank and Golan settlements. As one Palestinian aptly noted, his people and Israel are negotiating over a pizza while Israel is eating it up. Over 500,000 Jewish settlers have been moved into the West Bank, Golan, and Greater Jerusalem since peace talks began two decades ago.
A million Russians, some Jews, others not were moved to Israel, thanks to US financial aid, to beef up the non-Arab population while Israel refuses any right of return to five million stateless Palestinians.
Now, as President Obama steadily weakens, Israel's right sees a Republican victory in 2012 that will bring in a new president and Congress even more pro-Israel than Israel's own Knesset.
Tragically, the 2002 Arab peace plan that offers full recognition and acceptance for Israel behind its 1967 borders -- the best chance ever seen for real Mideast peace - was rejected by Israel and the US.
An upgrade of Palestine's orphan UN status or more empty talks won't do anything to address these basic problems. But Palestine's plea in New York for statehood and some justice will at least keep the plight of Palestine before the world's view. It will certainly put the US and Israel on the wrong side of history and justice. It will end any hope the US has of improving relations with the Muslim world.
copyright Eric S. Margolis 2011
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