Saturday, June 06, 2009

"Assessing the Role of US Foreign Policy, Israeli Security, & Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories" part 3

Transcribed by Scott Senn

"Assessing the Role of US Foreign Policy, Israeli Security, & Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories" part-3

Part 3

Now the critical question, as always, was: what would the United States do? There was an internal beaurocratic battle in the Nixon administration. The State Department –William Rogers – wanted to continue with what had been US policy: so no expanion; withdraw to the international border. And that would mean: accept President Sadat's offer and have security. Henry Kissinger objected. He was National Security Advisor. His position, as he described it, was "stalemate", meaning no negotiations, just force. Okay, not unusual for Mr. Kissinger. And he won out in the beaurocratic battle, and the United States backed off its traditional position since '67 and left the world. And it's been out of the world since then on this issue. That was critical. Israel made a really fateful decision, preferring expansion to peace and security, with US backing. It meant that Israel's completely reliant on the United States really for survival: it's going to be in a position of military confrontation and so on; it's got to have a powerful foreign backer; and the United States is it. So what happened from then on was more or less set in February 1971.

Now President Sadat of Egypt kept warning that if the United States and Israel don't accept peace, he's going to go to war. They were laughing at him basically. It was a period of extreme racism both in Israel and the United States: mockery of Arabs: "how could they fight a war?", "they didn't know which end of a gun to hold", and so on. Well, Sadat went to war, and Israel was practically destroyed. It came very close. It even came close to a nuclear war, because apparently they armed their nuclear warheads and the US declared a nuclear alert; so it was no joke. Okay, that finally was settled. But then, you know, the clouds lifted. It became clear to Israeli leaders and Kissinger that Egypt can't be dismissed as a basket case. They're going to have to negotiate with it. And then started a series of negotiations. I won't run through them. They ended up at Camp David in 1978 and '79. And what actually happened at Camp David is the United States and Israel accepted the offer by Sadat that they had rejected in 1971. Now, in US diplomatic history, that goes down as a great diplomatic triumph of the United States: Carter's "great triumph". That was a diplomatic catastrophe: they accepted an offer that they had rejected eight years earlier; the result was a major war with, you know, huge loses and suffering, almost a nuclear war; and then they finally accepted the offer. It's not exactly a diplomatic triumph; but that's the way it's interpreted in powerful states with obedient intellectuals, like us.

Well, meanwhile, in those years, something else had happened: The Palestinian issue, which had been side-lined before – it was not [even] there – entered the international agenda for various reasons, and it entered it very explicitly in January 1976. In January 1976, the major Arab states, all the relevant ones, brought a resolution to the Security Council of the United Nations, calling for a two-state settlement; that's what the Arab League recently reiterated and what the rest of the world agrees to. Well, that didn't get very far: the United States vetoed it. Now that happens all the time. But when the United States vetoes a resolution, it's a double-veto: first of all, it doesn't happen, and then it's wiped out of history. So, again, you have to look hard to find the record of that; but it's there. The same thing happened in 1980 under Carter. At that point, the Security Council was sort of dismissed; the US wasn't going to let anything happen there. The isssue shifted over to the General Assembly where there is actually a veto, but technically there isn't: a US vote against a resolution amounts to a veto. And there were almost annual resolutions at the General Assembly, kind of reiterating the call for Palestinian national rights. The votes were pretty uniform: you know, 150 to 2: the United States and Israel. Sometimes the United States picked up, you know, Dominica or the Marshall Islands or somebody. But that was the record right through the General Assembly sessions, and it goes right up till today. I mean, Obama and Kerry have just reiterated it, in their indirect and deceitful way.

Now actually it's very important to recognize that, in this record of over 30 years of blocking a diplomatic settlement, there was one exception, a very crucial one. In the last month of Clinton's term, he modified his rejectionist position. In December 2000, he presented what he called his "parameters" for a settlement. They were kind of vague, but they tolerated the international consensus as a part. He then made an important speech in which he said both sides have accepted the parameters, but both sides have presented reservations. They then met in Taba, Egypt: a week of negotiations. And the two sides came pretty close to a resolution which was not very far from the international consensus – a pretty detailed resolution on all issues. And in fact in their final press conference they said if they had a few more days, they probably could have solved the problem. Well, they didn't have a few more days: Prime Minister Barack of Israel canceled the negotiations prematurely, and that came to an end. But that's important. Things have happened since 2001, but not anything fundamental with regard to a settlement. And what it tells us is that if a US president were just willing to tolerate a settlement, it could very likely be reached, just as it almost was reached then. Well, that's out of history too. Again: wrong story. But it's there.

Well, these are the kinds of things that John Kerry omitted when he talked about our failed efforts to be an honest broker since the three no's of 1967. And they're pretty critical, and, again, he's an intelligent person; and if he can omit this, it tells us something. He also, like Obama, brought up the Arab League proposal, but omitted its central component. So that tells us quite a lot.

I should add that this is not just words. I mean, it's not just that the US and Israel block a settlement in words. Much more importantly, they block it in deeds. And that's what's actually happening on the ground. If you were here last night, you saw Rita [Giacaman] put up a map up on the screen back there, which described what the US and Israel have been doing in the West Bank. And what they've been doing is a very planned, systematic project – continuing right now – of undermining the possibility of a two-state settlement. So it's one thing to veto dipolomacy in words, but it's more important to act in a way to undermine the possibility of realizing it. And that goes on constantly, and it's not secret.


(to part 4)

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