Mostafa Zein
Dar Al-Hayat (Opinion)
December 22, 2009 - 1:00am

In 1996, or a year after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu worked to sabotage the peace process, both at the time, and at present. The Clinton administration responded, threatening to reduce military assistance. He got angry. He rejected the pressure. He said, “If the Americans think they can buy us with this assistance, I have a plan to do without it in five years’ time.”

The Clinton administration could not tolerate his anger. It sent people to Netanyahu, to placate him. The two sides reached a compromise agreement, which involved reducing civilian assistance ($120 million annually) over ten years, and continuing military assistance, with an increase of half the amount allocated to it. However, the Bush administration compensated Tel Aviv for everything that it had lost. It approved granting Israel $1 billion, in one go, and $9 billion in loan guarantees.

“Netanyahu I” succeeded in blackmailing Washington. He did not assign – neither he nor Ariel Sharon, nor anyone else – any meaning to negotiations with the Palestinians. Fourteen years later, the world has changed. Many wars have been waged, from Lebanon to Afghanistan, and the Bush project has failed. The Republicans were defeated in the US. A black man entered the White House. He tried to issue a challenge. He decided to freeze Israeli settlements, as a prelude to re-opening peace negotiations. “Netanyahu II” went back to his old nature, and responded to the challenge. He refused to listen to the orders of the new emperor. He considered him a political novice. Obama did not know the power of Israel in Congress and in the administration, or in its decaying surrounding region. Obama retreated. He sufficed with freezing settlements temporarily, except for Jerusalem, which Netanyahu exempted from the freeze, because it is the eternal capital of the state and cannot be subjected to any political deals. Washington gave in and portrayed it as a victory for the new administration. Washington then carried out the largest-scale maneuvers with the “partner,” provoking all of the surrounding Arab countries and insulting all human values. It obstructed all of the efforts to issue a UN Security Council resolution condemning the aggression against Gaza. It voted against the Goldstone Report, because it blocked negotiations that had yet to begin. It approved military assistance for the peaceful state to defend itself, to the tune of around $3 billion a year. It intensified its intelligence, industrial and military cooperation with Tel Aviv. It pressured its allies to show good intentions toward “their enemy.” Some went along with it, and the rest are on the way.

In short, the Obama administration has not deviated from its predecessors in dealing with Israel, whether in terms of military assistance or in terms of protecting it from international law. Why is that, after Obama and the political commentators inundated us with hope that justice would prevail and the oppressed, whoever they were, would be supported, even if it required standing up to Netanyahu?

To search for the answer to this question, we remember the religious ideology that dominated Bush’s policy. It was based on the doctrine of the apocalypse, which sees Israel as an implementation of the Lord’s promise, and this country’s wars are just, even if all peoples who oppose it are wiped out. And what about Obama? It is said that the US president is a realist, not governed by ideology of any kind. However, what about his comment, when he accepted the Nobel Prize, coinciding with military assistance to Israel and a troop surge in Afghanistan? He made a passing reference to being influenced by the Protestant thinker Reinhold Niebuhr. Doesn’t this indicate ideology?

Niebuhr was a philosopher known for his realism in linking Christian belief to contemporary political events. He was a founder of the Church for Palestine and one of the biggest supporters of the Jewish state.

Obama cited the just war in his speech before the Nobel academy. He mentioned it with sadness, since there was evil in the world, and it should be confronted. However, who decides whether a war is just? In the first case, it is decided by Niebuhr. He saw the creation and support of Israel as the utmost in justice, irrespective of the injustice that was incurred by the Palestinians and the Arabs. They are evil. In the second case, Obama decides whether a war is just. Justice requires him to offer all possible assistance to Israel, forgive its racism, and retreat before its fundamentalist government.

The Arabs are waiting for the justice of Obama, as he wages his wars, inspired by Niebuhr, just as Bush was inspired by heaven, and Natan Sharansky. Netanyahu is sitting on the throne of Israel, content.


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