It’s a well known fact that US unwavering support for Israel has been a trademark of US Middle East policy though not without a load of controversies to deal with. This US/Israeli “alliance”, thanks to a very effective/powerful web of lobby groups in the United States , has been able to develop a solid support base in the US congress, so now Israel has open houses to influence/dictate US decision making from within on all matters affecting the State of Israel-this is old news. There are also pressure points the United States is still able to muster every now and then to score political points but they by and large have little effect on the ground in terms of the overall ME conflict and more importantly the support level towards Israel. The question really is whether such a close alliance helped/hindered prospects for reaching a peaceful settlement to the Palestinian issue. Care to guess? The latest posturing between the US & Israel in the UN Security Council is another example of this occasional pressure points being applied. What it does demonstrate however based on Israel’s government reaction to the decision is the level of ownership Israel has to come to expect from the US when it comes to decisions affecting its political interests. What also intrigued me was the Israeli UN Ambassadors response and describing the resolution as “Shameful”. Well a pertinent saying comes to mind; people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.
Some of the talking points always used (as have been this time around) by Israel in situations like this;
- We’re the Only Democracy in the Region: Well good for you, and I agree/mean it. So why not be a positive influence in the regions now that you do have direct/close relations with some Arab leaders to help them understand/realise the benefits democratic governance. Is that not better than benefiting (economically and otherwise) from close relationships with dictators in the region-or is the hole point NOT to counter this particular talking point? But then again what’s that got to do with land occupation, using excessive force sometimes to levels described as war crimes. Are these consistent with democratic values/standards you believe western democracies follow or is that your own particular take on them?
- Comparing building settlements like building houses in Paris or London etc..; Wow, that’s a nice one. Essentially what you are doing is introducing a new narrative which completely bypasses/ignores the aspect of Occupation (so it’s no longer part of the picture). This sets you to a collision course with the view of the rest of the world and if in doubt please review resolution 242 or better yet call for a vote precisely on that question at the UN General Assembly so that this view is reaffirmed. Remember Anti-Occupation/Anti-Settlement does NOT translate to Anti-Israel. This is perception based on a false narrative I mention below.
- The Vote was a Victory for Terror: I don’t see the correlation between halting illegal settlements and promoting terrorism. What we do know is that terrorism breeds on feelings of injustice and disillusions on potential for a just peace-that I get.
In reality Israel has all the characteristics of a modern state powered by a fantastic PR machine. But scratching the surface there is very little change in the narrative (them vs. us) that helped establish the state of Israel-a conflict oriented narrative that is self sustaining & self serving. It is one that was/is used to blur the lines between Judaism as a faith and Zionism as a political movement. I just hope that some in Israel would begin to see the very real potential benefits for Israel as a technological/industrial powerhouse if this narrative is changed to one that promotes regional integration rather than isolation. The Israeli Ambassador himself Danny Dannon is one of those new generation of politicians in the region whom you would expect to be championing this new vision forward one shaped by pragmatism not nativism.
Way forward towards a Resolution of the Conflict
Pushing all that aside for the moment and focusing entirely on the dynamics for resolving the Palestinian conflict itself what are the obstacles. Simple, the more powerful nation in the equation has nothing to loose from the status quo or even diluting the possibility of a 2 state solution by among others increasing settlement development-it’s really all about incentives. What we keep hearing from western leaders around the world is that the conflict can be only resolved by the parties involved and not dictated by foreign powers-well I agree. But then you need to incentivise them both to resolve this matter-or at least not appear to hinder a resolution through unbalanced relations with them-whether this be in areas like aid, trade, technology exchange, military cooperation/arm sales and any other form of special treatment. This in my simplistic mind is the only way forward in helping the parties move towards resolving the conflict without dictating any terms for the deal.
A final thought here and as a follow up to the point above; we in the west need assess/respond to foreign conflicts based on our own values/traditions and not by importing these conflicts into our political echo systems through political lobby groups that come in different forms/sizes. A very small but pertinent example is when I was member of the Liberal Democrats party in the UK I was shocked to discover that within the party there was a pro-Palestine grouping and a pro-Israel grouping. Splits like that make us more vulnerable internally and does not serve us well when making judgments on Foreign Policy matters not based on our values/what we stand for but based on hidden objectives that do not necessarily reflect our national interest. It is therefore paramount that our government and party leaders ensure that our political echo system remains pure from any level of outside influence irrespective of the prevailing view on any specific foreign policy subject matter.