The Biggest “If” of History

President Obama has apparently taken President Carter’s advice. It was that any American President has only two windows of opportunity to break the iron grip the Zionist lobby in all of its manifestations has on the Congress of the United States of America on matters to do with the conflict in and over Palestine that became Israel. The two windows are the first nine months of a president’s first term and the second half of his second term if he has one. This is so because fund-raising for the mid-term elections, which enables Zionism to buy law makers or take out those who won’t toe Zionism’s line (e.g. Congressman Paul Findley), begins in about month ten.

Into the fifth month of his first term, President Obama is demonstrating that he really is serious about making peace in the Middle East. After his straight talking to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on the need for an end to all Israeli settlement activity, this being the pre-requisite for the start of a real but last chance peace process, it was reasonable to conclude, I thought, that President Obama understands what the biggest real threat to America’s own best interests is – American foreign policy of the Bush-Cheney era in general and, in particular, American support for Israel right or wrong. The latter, with the assistance of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, was the recruiting sergeant for violent Islamic fundamentalism in all of its forms.

I was even more convinced that President Obama was going to be serious about moving the peace process forward after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, somewhat to my surprise, fully and even vigorously endorsed the President’s statements to Netanyahu. When the President said he wanted an end to all settlement activity, she said, he meant just that, all activity including “natural growth”. On his return to Israel, and as I mentioned in my last post, Netanyahu, by insisting that “natural growth” activities would continue, was effectively telling Obama to go to hell. In that light and sequence of events, Secretary of State Clinton’s words were dramatic. She was effectively saying to Netanyahu something like, “If you want confrontation with the Obama administration, you can have it.”

After listening several times to Clinton’s words, I said to myself, we’re in for some very interesting weeks. If there is not to be a confrontation between the Obama administration and the Zionist state of Israel and its lobby in America, either Netanyahu or Obama will have to back down. Which of the two of them will it be?

But since those thoughts passed through my mind, President Obama has spoken again (after meeting with Palestinian President Abbas), and I’m no longer as hopeful as I was about the prospects for peace. Obama said he was really confident that “we can move the peace process forward IF (my emphasis added) all the parties are willing to take on their responsibilities and obligations.”

We know that the governments of the whole Arab and wider Muslim world are ready, willing and able to take on their responsibilities and obligations – to make peace with Israel in exchange for its withdrawal from all the Arab territory occupied in 1967. (In the ideal scenario, apparently acceptable to all the governments of the Arab and wider Muslim world, and Hamas and Hizbollah, Jerusalem would not be divided and would be the capital of two states).

The question arising is – What will President Obama actually do if, as I fear will be the case, Israel remains opposed to peace on terms the vast majority of Palestinians and almost all other Arabs and Muslims everywhere could accept?

That’s the context in which President Obama’s “if” worries me. It could imply that he won’t be willing to confront the Zionist state and its lobby if necessary, and that he’ll explain that lack of will, that failure of leadership, by saying, in effect: “Don’t blame me. I tried. It’s not my fault that all of the parties are not willing to take on their responsibilities and obligations.”

2 comments on this post.
  1. Abdullah:

    When Obama was running for presidency, he visited the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem where he posted a prayer to God which someone then removed and gave to the media.

    His prayer said something along the lines of, “Help me to do what is right and protect my family.”

    When I read this, I broke in tears in recognition of a person who really believes in God. Believes in God because he cares about doing what’s right and believes in God because he understands the consequences of struggling for what is right and believes in God because he knows that His help will be needed in dealing with consequences.

    Whilst none of us know whether that was a sincere prayer or not, I am more inclined towards believing that it was.

    If so, I have high expectations that Obama will do what is right, even if the Israeli Government has become so arrogant that it prefers to clash with him.

    My only fear, though, is that life in the White House makes you forget God!

    President Obama,

    May God help you to do what is right, and protect your family.


  2. Susil Gupta:

    Promoting a real settlement for the Palestinian question is crucial for the US because it is key to stabilising and reinforcing its relationship with a series of States and strategic interests, from Kosovo to India in almost a straight line. This would give the US an immense strategic advantage. If it manages to pull off a comprehensive Middle East settlement, the US will establish a comfortable dominance in the management of world affairs and diplomacy for the next 20 years. Consider, in addition, that on one side of this ‘line’ the US is building a very significant Africa Command and preparing to dominate a continent (Kenya is now a virtual US colony) and that on the other side of the line Russia is keen to strike up a relationship with the US. If the US manages to develop a genuine Middle East settlement it will undermine Russia’s position considerably, making the latter much more anxious to develop an stable understanding with the US. With would undermine China. So a comprehensive Middle East settlement would deliver ten times more ‘soft power’ than the Neocon project promised to do.

    The problem is that this requires a significant downgrading of Israel’s strategic role. To put it bluntly, the US cannot modernise its relationship with a series of States in the Middle East and surrounding area if it retains support for an outmoded form of roving and predatory colonialism – Israel – which used to be America’s main form of local control. Just as the modernization and normalization of South African capitalism and industry required the liquidation of Apartheid, the modernization and normalization of the West’s relationship with the Middle East requires the dissolution of Israel as a ‘watchdog state’. You can’t do modern business if you bring a thug with you.

    No one, of course, really cares about the Palestinians. In the system of States they have no power. Their sole importance is to vividly express the relationship between States. So everyone is watching because the nature of the Palestinian settlement is the best indicator of the real relationship America is willing to establish in the Middle East and far beyond. If it sponsors and enforces a sham peace settlement, the world will know that America’s commitment to modernization and normalization is only a sham, a rhetoric. If it enforces a genuinely just settlement, the world will know that America is determined to be a strong manager of world affairs. Its power will be considerably enhanced because, whatever people’s attitude towards America, everyone recognises the need for world leadership.

    This long-overdue shift in US foreign policy has a number of difficulties. It means that America must confront Western Zionism at home and abroad is messy. This is not primarily a problem of dealing with the Israeli Lobby in Washington. The Lobby is nothing without America’s commitment to a strategic outlook focused on Israel. Europe too is wedded –and welded – to such a strategy even though it recognises that its is moribund and increasingly damages Western interests. Again, to put it bluntly, the question is: How do we get rid of an Israel we don’t need any more without handing a moral, ideological and strategic victory to the enemies of the West and creating a ‘stink’ that will lead Western nations to quarrel among themselves?

    Obama has to mobilise and re-orient American and Western opinion towards a new strategic understanding and a new approach to foreign policy management. Frankly, I just don’t think Obama and his team can hack it. Obama is like Kennedy – all yap and swish within the policy circuit and in front of the microphone – but otherwise ‘no balls’. He and his team have caved in on everything in less than 100 days. A remarkable achievement.

    The problem goes much deeper than Obama’s personal shortcomings as a politician. America is a deranged society with a deranged polity – a process that began with Reagan and found its most spectacular expression in the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld trioka. It now has a fragmented leadership and ruling elite that is not capable of taking far-reaching decisions and the hard sacrifices that come with these. Its mode of management is now just short-term crisis management – fire-brigading. The economic crisis is going to accentuate these problems.

    An example of the Obama team’s inability to seriously reorient American foreign policy can be seen in its attitude to International Law. The Bush Administration convinced itself that because America has overwhelming ‘full spectrum dominance’, and no credible adversaries, it did not need International Law, which is essentially a commitment to stabilised and orderly relationships with other States. America could shape and reshape the world as it pleases. The Bush years witness the most remarkable decline in American power, not in terms of an altered balance of military or political power, but in making all-too-visible its limitations.

    America remains powerful and dominant, but now everyone knows what it can and cannot do. It can make war and devastate nations – but it cannot make peace. This is a serious limitation for a hegemon. The privileges of a hegemonic power do not derive directly from its power – the exercise of which is always limited – but from its ability to maintain an orderly framework in which all States can prosper. In return for order, States are willing to allow a hegemonic power to take more than its fare share of everything. The alternative is a zero sum game of chaos, pillage and predation.

    Obama’s return to International Law and traditional diplomacy was therefore a sensible project to repair the damage done to American power during the Bush years. After all, International law and the structure of global diplomacy was created by America and it is its main beneficiary. But to convince the world that this commitment is serious and not simply a sham or a ploy, Obama had to publically dismantle and destroy the machinery of International Law violation set up by Bush. How could American insist States comply with International Law when it demonstrates impunity?

    It is now obvious that not only is this not going to happen. Obama is building on and extending Bush’s legacy. Guantanamo will not be closed – it will just be transferred to other black sites. The bombing of Pakistani territory for weeks without Pakistan’s permission is a blatant and fundamental violation of International Law worthy of Bush at his worst. No one will be prosecuted for any part in the torture scandal – there will not even be basic disclosure about what happened and what is happening. Obama proposes to introduce preventive and perpetual detention. By declaring that the War against Terrorism may go on for 30 years Obama accepts Bush’s basic strategic tenant from which all the crimes and misdemeanors of the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld era flow.

    This should not surprises us. The war on Gaza in January 2009, only a few days before Obama’s inauguration, was Israel pissing on his shoes. He did nothing. The world witnesses, day after day, a horrific ‘turkey shoot’ and the President-elect of the world’s leading nation does nothing.

    So what are the prospects for a real settlement in the Middle East? Does one really need to ask the question?

    Susil Gupta
    World Politics & Imperialism Study Group

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