THE BLOG

America: Helpless Giant

The stunning failure of President Barack Obama's vaunted campaign to forge an Israeli-Arab peace marks a new low point in US foreign policy and another sign that the American colossus is growing progressively weaker.

To comprehend the magnitude of President Barack Obama's diplomatic defeat, go back to 1956 when Dwight Eisenhower was president.

Britain, France and Israel colluded to invade Egypt in an effort to overthrow its hugely popular nationalist leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Israel provoked border clashes and quickly captured the Sinai Peninsula. The British and French landed at Suez, ostensibly for "peacekeeping."

US President Dwight Eisenhower deemed the tripartite Suez aggression immoral and damaging to American interests in the Mideast. "Ike" angrily ordered the British, French and Israelis to get out of Egypt at once -- or else. They got.

Fast forward to 2010. President Barack Obama has been demanding Israel stop building illegal Jewish settlements around Jerusalem and on the West Bank.

Obama rightly concluded the ongoing agony of Palestine has turned the Muslim world against the United States. It is a primary generator of what Washington calls "terrorism." Failure to create a viable Palestinian state is a human rights disaster and a grave threat to US Mideast interests. Over five million Palestinians remain stateless.

After the Suez invasion, Israel's American partisans set about building an influence network that would ensure no American president could ever force Israel to do anything against its will. Over the next half century, the pro-Israel lobby became the most powerful and feared lobby in America.

The Israel lobby's enormous success in shaping US Mideast policy was again confirmed last week. The Obama administration took advantage of the uproar over WikiLeaks to quietly announce the end of its efforts to halt Israeli colonization of the West Bank.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of Israel's rightist coalition, had contemptuously rejected Obama's pleas to create a viable Palestinian state. Vice President Joseph Biden had been earlier humiliated on a trip to Israel to plead with Israel to stop building Jewish settlements, some of them funded by US tax-deductible donations.

Some members of the US Congress and conservative media actually applauded the public humiliation of their president and vice president. Republicans were cock-a-hoop.

How the mighty have fallen. Obama has shown himself weak and intimidated at a time when his political fortunes are plummeting.

The White House understands that America's vital interests in the Mideast are being increasingly undermined as Netanyahu adamantly refuses to accept a workable Palestinian state.

Netanyahu insists he will never allow a Palestinian state, only a "homeland" which, to many, sounds much like South Africa's apartheid-era tribal Bantustans.

Israel's settler-dominated right is jubilant. But Israel's prime minister is undermining the long-term security and well-being of his own people by refusing to make a decent, lasting peace with Palestinians -- which would lead to a wider peace with the entire Muslim world. Failure to forge a real peace means Israel will face at least another generation of violence and siege, as well as growing international isolation.

A triumphant Netanyahu made clear Israel would retain all of Jerusalem, settlement blocks around it, water resources, key roads, the West Bank high ground and the Jordan River valley. In short, "useful Palestine." The rest, waterless scrub and slums, might be left to the Arabs. Nothing was said about Israel's illegal occupation of Syria's Golan Heights which has become, de facto, an annexation.

Even Obama's astounding, shameful offer of a multi-billion dollar bribe to Israel of 20 F-35 warplanes and promises to veto any UN resolutions calling for a Palestinian state in exchange for a flimsy 90-day temporary settlement building freeze, was contemptuously rejected by Netanyahu who showed more pride than the American president.

Netanyahu knows the US Congress would give Israel the moon if asked. The US has already given Israel at least $114 billion in official aid since its creation in 1947, as well as tens of billions more in covert support and military assistance.

What does Obama's humiliation mean? His chances of being defeated in the next presidential election are growing. Obama's arch-rival, Hillary Clinton, who is considered a strong friend of Israel, appears to be positioning herself to take over the Democratic Party from a fallen Obama. There are already rumbles in the Democratic Party of a primary challenge to Obama.

The US diplomatic, intelligence and military establishment has got the message, loud and clear: don't mess with Israel.

By caving in to Israel's hard right over the West Bank, Obama also sends a message of profound weakness to the rest of the world. He is signaling Israel's decisive influence in shaping America's Mideast policy. This message will not be lost of US Mideast allies or foes.

Israel also increasingly influences US policy towards Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and North Korea. Israel has helped engineer increasingly warmer relations with India, a key ally of Israel.

The humiliated Palestinian Authority is shown as a helpless puppet of the Americans and Israelis, as rival Hamas has long charged. Its hapless leader, Mahmoud Abbas, should resign if he has a shred of honor left. The pliant Abbas was put into power by the US and Israel after PLO chief Yasser Arafat's mysterious and convenient death.

Obama's defeat suggests Israel now may have "carte blanche" to move ahead and attack Lebanon's resistance movement Hezbullah, Syria, and eventually Iran.

In fact, Israel now seems to have the power to plunge the US into war against Iran whenever it decides the time is right and the risk worthwhile. That's a major reason why Netanyahu holds the whip hand over Obama. Thanks to George Bush's reckless wars, US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan are now in a sense hostages of Iran. In the event of an Israeli air assault on Iran, US forces in the region would bear the brunt of any Iranian counter-attack.

Since the US has become a helpless giant, it's up to the rest of the world to end the suffering in Palestine. Brazil and Argentina have taken an important step forward by recognizing a Palestinian state in the pre-1967 borders. Uruguay is set to follow.

The sensible 2002 Saudi peace plan still offers both parties concerned the fairest, most practical road to peace. It's the best peace plan ever offered to Israel.

This proposal calls for the creation of a Palestinian state on the pre-1967 West Bank, sharing Jerusalem, and some at least symbolic restitution to a small number of Palestinian refugees. In exchange, the US would guarantee Israel's borders, and the entire Muslim world would recognize Israel and normalize relations with the Jewish state. Netanyahu has rejected this plan.

The UN General Assembly should again endorse this plan. Israel's own pro-peace movement badly needs to hear support from abroad. The voice of Israelis who want to make a real peace has been drowned out by the clamor over Iran and Gaza.

Netanyahu and his fellow rightwing zealots are determined to hold on to every inch of the West Bank and Golan. Some far rightists want to further expand Israel's borders. In fact, Netanyahu's Likud Party has been reluctant to define Israel's permanent borders.

Israel's refusal to compromise over Palestine is at the heart of its increasingly dangerous confrontation with Iran. If Israel would conclude a peace deal with authentic Palestinians -- not the current Palestinian Authority yes-men -- the confrontation with Iran would likely end. The militant Palestinian movement Hamas has again signaled its willingness to make peace along the lines of the Saudi plan, though it speaks with contradictory voices.

Hope for peace has gone up in smoke. Obama's shameful failure in the Mideast will haunt the world for decades to come.