Palestine Update 421
Biden’s election and the Question of Palestine
Israeli bulldozers have started work today on a new road for settlers in the south of the occupied West Bank that would eat up over 2000 dunums of Palestinian land. Fouad al-Amour, coordinator of the Protection and Steadfastness Committee in the south of the West Bank reported that the road would pass various villages eating away at more than 2000 dunums of land belonging to Palestinian residents. The escalation of settlement activities throughout the occupied Palestinian territories, but mainly in the south of the West Bank, is creating havoc for Palestinian farmers, in particular. Palestinians are wondering if a new US administration will bring them any relief. This is probably doubtful, if one looks at Biden’s and Harris’ track record. They may not resemble Trump and his abrasive style, but the substance may just be the same.
Al Jazeera made its observation when it reported how a 30-year-old Joe Biden was visibly moved as Golda Meir explained what she said was Israel’s militarily dangerous situation surrounded by “enemy states”. He found cheer on the flip side of Meir’s comment: “The Israelis have nowhere else to go”. Biden has referred to this conversation as “one of the most consequential meetings I’ve ever had in my life”. It inaugurated his dogged support for Israel as he sealed contacts with many Israeli leaders well into his political career. Not too many years ago, Biden said while in the Obama Administration: “If there were not an Israel, we would have to invent one to make sure our interests were preserved.”
Republicans and Democrats, alike, have been firmly on Israel’s side. Unsurprisingly, the Palestinians know the Republicans better, even if they don’t like them. Talking to Palestinians on the streets when the Bush-Gore voting went down to the wire in the Presidential elections in 2000, I heard many Palestinians speak as follows: “With the Republicans we know what to expect; they are unabashedly pro-Israel. The Democrats tend to use us in the Ping-Pong of American diplomacy. Obama was, perhaps, the worst example of Democratic hypocrisy. He made the famous Cairo speech, took home the Nobel Peace Prize, and then went on to be one of history’s biggest war mongers. Obama’s legacy will always be one where he elevated huge hopes about peace and justice only to fall short and disappoint. Obama’s regress began three months after the Cairo speech. He vowed to support Palestinian statehood. After having demanded a total Israeli settlement freeze, the U.S. president buckled under pressure from AIPAC. Palestinians recognized they were mere pawns in the American game. Why he discounted the Palestinians so despicably, one will never really know. A political critic called it a ‘back bone’ deficit.
Nothing is certain in politics, and when one is on the losing side, as the Palestinians seem to be, there is just one thing to do: ‘Cling to hope and know a miracle is coming’.
Will Biden be cast in Obama’s image with regard to the Palestinians?
Excerpts from an article by Dr Ahmet Alioglu
His speech came a few months after a brutal Israeli offensive, “Operation Cast Lead”, which killed hundreds of Palestinian civilians, among them entire families. The war started days after Obama’s election victory which saw Joe Biden become US Vice President, and continued for more than a month. Follow his inauguration; the Palestinian leadership was optimistic that Obama would take a different stance to that of his Republican predecessor George W Bush. In 2011, Obama made it clear that, “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements… It is time for these settlements to stop.” When, in November 2012, the Israeli occupation forces launched another military offensive against Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, the diplomacy of the late Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was able to end the aggression. Obama sent Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the region and a ceasefire was agreed.When former US President Barack Obama delivered his famous speech at Cairo University in 2009, he said, “So let there be no doubt: The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. And America will not turn its backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity and a state of their own.”
America will not turn its backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity and a state of their own. (Barack Obama, 2009 in Cairo University)
This Israeli war was launched a couple of months after the Obama administration pledged to veto any Palestinian statehood bid, arguing that it could endorse the move if it only came through direct negotiations with Israel, not through the UN. Eventually, in 2016 Obama was able to abstain on a UN resolution demanding an end to illegal Israeli settlements; this was one of his last acts as president. An “audacious” abstention crowned a series of concessions that Obama made during his two terms in office.
On Israel-Palestine, Biden is not just another version of Obama
Many in Israel are expressing concern that the administration of President-elect Joe Biden will be a repeat of the Obama administration. But Biden is not Barack Obama and 2021 is not 2009. Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are traditional Democrats, with a fundamental commitment to Israel whose roots are in part emotional in nature (in contrast to Obama). The top members of Biden’s team are for the most part level-headed and experienced. Contacts with them in recent months leave the impression that their approach to the challenges in the Middle East—which will not be at the top of their agenda in any event – is realistic. They seem to be a far cry from the irrational hopes for the Arab Spring of the Obama era, from dividing the Middle East between Iran and Saudi Arabia, or from seeing political Islam as an antidote to extremist Islam. These are people who have learned the lessons of the past decade and are alert to changes in the strategic environment prepared to advance security cooperation with Israel and its Arab partners, but it can be assumed that they will also be critical of human rights abuses by Arab regimes that are important to Israel.
A memo on Palestine
It’s not difficult to discern Joe Biden’s myopic cheer for Israel over the course of almost half a century of his legislative applause. Anything but nuanced, or disguised, time and time again he voted aye for all pro-Israeli resolutions and nay for any that might begin to temper the systemic corrupt imbalance between the occupier and the occupied. To Biden and his generation of legislative pander, votes which might suggest, let alone facilitate, any modicum of equity or justice between Palestine and Israel were viewed as political surrender… if not suicide.
Yet, in the United States, political drive of legislative prerogative is far less indicative of one’s theological thirst than what they pursue when they wield the executive gavel of largely unfettered, unitary power. Here, eight years as vice president speaks volumes of Joe Biden’s heretofore zeal to protect Israel at all cost and to deny Palestine any safeguard of consequence whatsoever.
UN agencies call for a gentler occupation
A coalition of UN agencies and international aid groups are calling on Israel to protect the Palestinian olive harvest which, as it does every year, has come under attack by West Bank settlers. But their toothless demands on Israel ignore the reality of the occupation. Twenty-five Palestinians have been injured so far during this year’s harvest, which began in early October. More than 1,000 olive trees have been damaged and large amounts of produce have been stolen from Palestinians by settlers. The coalition demands that Israeli occupation forces – which they euphemistically refer to as “Israeli Security Forces” – protect Palestinians from settlers. This ignores the vanguard role played by settlers in Israel’s conquest of Palestinian land, which is then enforced by the state.
The failure of international bodies to call for measures that would compel Israel to end the occupation only ensures its endurance and all the violence it entails. The failure of international bodies to call for measures that would compel Israel to end the occupation only ensures its endurance and all the violence it entails.
Settler violence towards Palestinians is “part of a broader strategy in which the state colludes, as it stands to benefit from the result,” as the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem explains. “Over time, this unchecked violence is gradually driving Palestinians from more and more locations in the West Bank, making it easier for the state to take over land and resources,” B’Tselem adds. The UN does not serve its ostensible aim of preventing violence against Palestinian farmers by overlooking this partnership between Israeli settlers and the military. Some people working within the UN system are admittedly willing to speak frankly. Michael Lynk, the UN’s special rapporteur on Palestine, is one of them. Israel’s occupation, imposed for more than 50 years, “has crossed a red line into illegality.” A state of permanent occupation that shows no sign of ending, in which Israel is treating the occupied territory as its own, must trigger international legal processes, according to Lynk.
Israel has a chokehold on the Palestinian economy, treating the population under its military occupation as a captive market for Israeli goods. This too is an essential component of its subjugation of the Palestinian people. These are not unfortunate and unintended consequences of Israeli “security” measures. They’re part of Israel’s wider strategy to comprehensively control Palestinians’ lives. Settler violence is not incidental to the occupation. It is central to it. And settler impunity is not incidental to the theft of Palestinian land. It is a means towards that end, implicitly blessed by the state.
A Biden presidency resurrects ’67 lines, Palestinian state
US President-elect Joe Biden’s presidency will erase many of the gains the Israeli Right made over the last four years with regard to Israeli sovereignty over Area C of the West Bank – and reintroduce the concept of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on the pre-1967 lines. It is no accident that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took time; during his speech in the Knesset Tuesday about the normalization deal with Bahrain, to speak against the pre-1967 lines.
Biden has long considered West Bank settlements to be a stumbling block to peace. The divide between Israel and the United States with regard to the settlements dates back to the immediate aftermath of the Six Day War and has not shifted. Outside of the last four years of the Trump administration, the United States has never legitimized Jewish building over the pre-1967 lines, including in east Jerusalem. The US wavered between considering settlements illegal or illegitimate.
Israel, however, was able to push forward to lay the groundwork for its civilian hold on the West Bank with the creation of new settlements, in spite of the friction it created with the US, until the Oslo Accords under president Bill Clinton, which ushered in the era of the two-state solution.