The US has decided to be �flexible� regarding its once
touted call for a total Israeli freeze on the expansion of its occupied
territories� settlements, all illegal under international law.
A senior official spoke to reporters on condition of
anonymity on August 27. �It was more important that the scope of a settlement
freeze was acceptable to the Israelis and the Palestinians than to the United States,�
Reuters reported, citing the senior official. This means that peace
negotiations can resume while Israeli bulldozers are carving up Palestinian
land, demolishing homes and cutting down trees.
It also means that the Israeli rejection of the only US demand,
which has thus far defined President Barack Obama�s relations to the Middle East conflict, has prevailed over the supposed
American persistence. In other words, the US has officially succumbed to
Israeli and pro-Israeli pressures, in Tel Aviv and Washington.
Those not familiar with the connotation of certain
terminology in this conflict may not appreciate what it truly means that the US
will no longer demand an Israeli halt of the �natural growth� of its
settlements, especially in the occupied Jerusalem area where tens of thousands
of Palestinians are vulnerable to Israeli ethnic cleansing. Families like the
Hanoun and Ghawi family have been evicted from their homes and thrown out on
the street before sunrise. �The police came for them at dawn on a Sunday,
heavily armed, wearing helmets and riot shields as they broke down the metal
doors of the houses and dragged the two Palestinian families out onto the
streets,� reported the Guardian on August 24.
The heart-wrenching episodes of innocent people being thrown
into the street for no fault of their own, only for the need to make room for
more Jewish inhabitants took place before TV cameras and barely required more
than a few words of bashful disapproval. That was, in fact, a political message
sent by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the US administration and
anyone else who dares to question Israeli settlement policy. It took place when
Obama�s call for a settlement freeze was at its pinnacle. Now, just imagine how
will behave, now that the US�s
lonely demand is officially retracted. The right-wing Israeli government will
likely expedite its settlement program to preclude any future demands for
freeze. Many more Hanouns and Ghawis, and their children, will find themselves
on the pavement for simply not being Jews, even if they are the rightful owners
of the land.
The Israeli logic, however, is uncompromisingly clear. Two
weeks before the evictions took place, Netanyahu addressed his cabinet, saying
(including occupied East Jerusalem) is �the
capital of the Jewish people and of the state of Israel� and that �our
sovereignty over it cannot be challenged.� He continued, �We cannot accept the
idea that Jews will not have the right to live and purchase in all parts of Jerusalem.�
Aside from her unusually �harsh� statement that the
evictions were �deeply regrettable,� US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had
no answer to the Jerusalemite families pleading for their stolen homes. And now
this, more American flexibility.
While Palestinians, and those who support and sympathize
with their rightful struggle, are accustomed to Israel�s belligerent violations
of international and humanitarian law, and direct and indirect US support of
Israeli behavior, many had the �audacity� to hope that things might change
under the new US presidency. Obama�s speech in Cairo, despite its many flaws, was seen as a
promising sign that the US
will play a more conducive role in finding a just solution to the conflict and
the ongoing tragedy of the Palestinians. It was thought that Obama was planning
to start simple, by merely demanding a freeze of the settlement expansion. It�s
anything but demanding full rights for Palestinians, or even allowing cement,
food and medicine to starving Gaza,
but it�s a start, nonetheless.
And as Palestinians, Israelis, the entire region and world
media awaited the outcome of the Obama-Netanyahu battle of wills, Israel carried
out all sorts of harms that also went unnoticed.
Externally, Israel capitalized on the supposed US pressure,
to place counter pressure on the US to impose draconian sanctions on Iran,
provide a timeline for the end of diplomacy aimed at diffusing the hyped
tension over Iran�s nuclear program, and more. That, too, was the message that
Netanyahu carried with him to the meeting with US Middle East envoy George
Mitchell in London, last week.
Still, Israel expected more, demanding -- with the blessing
of the US -- Arab normalization with Israel, in reciprocation for the never
actualized willingness to temporarily halt the expansion of settlements.
Mitchell was too of the opinion that �Arab states (should) offer some gestures
toward normalization of ties with Israel,� according to Reuters.
Internally, things took a dramatic turn for the worse. It
started with a bill in the Israeli Knesset (parliament) that would jail Arabs
who would commemorate the Palestinian Nakba or Catastrophe of 1948, which saw
the expulsion of nearly 800,000 Palestinians from their land. Then, there was
the new law that enforces the replacement of Arabic lettering on road signs
referring to various locations with their Hebrew equivalent, even if these
locations have been known by their Arabic names for millennia. These are
neither the first nor the last of such fascist roles aimed at denying any trace
of a Palestinian (Muslim or Christian) identity to co-exist along with the
exclusively �Jewish character� of Israel.
But that, and much more, was taking place as Palestinians
and hopeful others held their breath, waiting for Obama to deliver, until the
most recent expression of American flexibility. Now, Palestinians are left with
one of two options: to continue to subscribe to the illusion that the US is
capable, or even willing to rein in Israel�s transgression and exact justice
and human rights on their behalf, or to cleanse their midst of self-seeking and
corrupt leaders, unify their ranks and continue their struggle for an uncompromisingly
free and independent Palestine.Ramzy Baroud is an author and
editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been published in many
newspapers and journals worldwide. His latest book is The
Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People�s
Struggle (Pluto Press, London,) and his
forthcoming book is, �My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza The Untold Story�
(Pluto Press, London).