Friday, June 24, 2011

Response to US State Department Statement on Israel and Palestine

On June 15, 2011, the US State Department released a statement by Esther Brimmer (Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of International Organization Affairs) entitled “Multilateral Cooperation between the United States and Israel: Fighting Delegitimization, Moving Forward Together.” The statement had been delivered at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (NEP) and it illuminates Washington’s “unbreakable” and “ironclad” bond with Israel. With a second term election approaching, the Obama administration is courting the Israel lobby again.

Brimmer cites Washington’s “extensive military cooperation and assistance” to Israel as “one pillar” in an “unparalleled strategic partnership” with Israel. The administration, Brimmer says, will be “unshakeable” in its opposition to efforts that de-legitimize Israel. Apparently, the US will consider a Palestinian declaration of independent statehood at the UN, expected this September, as a de-legitimizing effort. “We reject” she said “counterproductive attempts to resolve permanent status issues at the UN.” Throughout the Arab Spring, civil society voices have called for a resolution to the Israel/Palestine conflict. Nonetheless, Brimmer lists numerous ways in which Washington has worked “tirelessly” to ensure that Israel’s “legitimacy” is not in dispute.

According to Brimmer, examples of Israel's "positive global agenda" include: aid, an appointment to the Human Rights Council’s Special Working Group on discrimination against women, and the passing of annual resolutions on agricultural technology. Such actions cannot absolve Israel of its responsibilities under international law, however. From the US perspective, Israel’s excessive use of force against Palestinian people is legitimate, it seems. Attempts to hold Israel accountable are perceived as “unbalanced” and “one-sided.” Israel and the US perceive any criticisms of Israel and calls upon Israel to comply with international law as “de-legitimizing” efforts.

Brimmer portrays the UN as a venue in which US power interests can be promoted rather than a venue that upholds universal standards or the rule of law. In 1967, the UN Security Council passed a unanimous resolution calling on Israel to withdraw from the territory it occupied during the Six Day War. In 2002, 72% of both Palestinians and Israelis supported a peace settlement based on the 1967 borders. International consensus on this has prevailed for more than twenty years. But negotiations have not implemented the 1967 resolution. Instead, over time, Israel has expanded its settlements in the territories and altered the demographic make-up of East Jerusalem. Nonetheless, the US continues to insist on a peaceful “negotiated settlement” rather than UN efforts.

UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk has suggested that the Palestinians have been too patient and too willing to accept the role of Israel’s leading supporter as a mediating diplomatic force. The Palestinian National Authority is, therefore, looking towards the UN for a resolution. Indeed, if put to a vote, the UN General Assembly is likely to pass a resolution recognizing Palestine as an independent state. The US will veto any UN Security Council resolution on Palestinian membership in the UN. The threat of such a veto may convince the Palestinian National Authority to go back to the phantom negotiating table. More likely, though, the Palestinian National Authority will try to use a UN General Assembly resolution to gain wider recognition and press for real independence.

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