Abdel-Moneim Said
Asharq Alawsat (Opinion)
February 26, 2011 - 1:00am

The US veto of the Security Council draft resolution to condemn Israeli settlement construction is a disgrace on the part of President Barack Obama and the United States. This ignominy will forever remain in the history books, and the voting records of the UN Security Council. The veto is shameful firstly because the US, by using its veto power, has adopted a stance in opposition to the entire world. The overwhelming majority of countries around the world have had enough of Israel's arrogance, and its constant refusal to stop altering the reality on the ground, by continuing with its colonial settlement building policy. This shameful act was by no means rectified by the incomprehensible apology made by the US ambassador to the UN Security Council, who claimed this veto did not mean that the US recognizes Israel's settlement building policy as being legitimate. This statement was nothing more than diplomatic maneuvering. In fact, this represented a second disgrace for a global superpower and its president who promised to follow a moral and ethical course with regards to his domestic and foreign policies, but who has now – and for purely domestic and political reasons – accepted an unjust and immoral stance.

Further shame has been heaped on the US president and his country, as he has effectively put an end to the so-called peace process. I know that many will deny that there was a genuine peace process from the onset, and will argue that no honorable deeds or morals should be expected from the US. However, in the world of practical politics, there are constant fluctuations in power, and certain conflicts can intelligently and politically be resolved via a peace process, which adopts the principle of conflict resolution through peaceful means. The US vetoing the Security Council resolution in this manner, and at this particular time, puts an end to any talk of a peace process and only serves to further fuel the forces of revolution, unrest and chaos, providing them with the impetus they need.

Of course, many inside and outside the US believe that the forces of the revolution, unrest, and chaos in the Middle East were already primed to explode for internal, reasons. This is largely correct, but America has added fuel to an already highly flammable fire, thus making the problem far more widespread. For those who may not remember, there has always been a historical bond between the Palestinian Cause and the internal situation in all countries in the region. This Palestinian Cause has been the primary reason behind revolutions and uprisings in the Middle East, with the Arab public expressing their anger at the injustice of the situation there, however this always results in other forces being awarded moral credentials [for their support of the Palestinian Cause] even if they trample upon their own people at the same time.

Shame on Obama and the United States for failing to understand the strategic outcome, not just of the US veto, but also of the wider approach they are taking. Israel was given a historical opportunity to achieve peace, but it ultimately continued on its course; expanding settlements and creating enemies, with whom it shares qualities of extremism, intolerance and expansionism. Following such aggressive Israeli activity, Iran has been given the pretext it needs in order to crush its own democratic revolution. Similarly, Hezbollah can continue to control all of Lebanon, so long as it promises to fight for the liberation of the Galilee.

Nowadays, the region is being turned on its head. When the dust settles, a new mindset will emerge amongst countries seeking to change the rules of the game. The US cannot even support an anti-settlement resolution against Israel, despite the fact that America itself is suffering from the repercussions of the Israeli's intransigence on this particular issue. Israel continues to act arrogantly when dealing with a country that provides it with so much aid, arms and technology. Yet now the general consensus in the region is that that rules of the game will change.

Many regard the US stance to be nothing new, for the UN has experienced numerous situations where the US has used its veto, against the will of the international community. Yet, at that time, it was always America's pretext that it had adopted such stances in order to obtain greater material concessions from Israel on the ground, in return for verbal promises of potential peace. The situation now is unprecedented; Israeli settlement construction has almost reached a point of no return, having changed the entire reality on the ground. Now, the establishment of a genuine Palestinian state, as envisaged by the peace process, has been rendered improbable, or almost impossible. If Israel is determined to establish one state extending from the river to the sea, then the Israelis should expect this to be a Palestinian state, not an Israeli one.

This US veto has shown that decision-makers in the White House do not seem to be monitoring what is going on in the Middle East. Turkey emerged from its Atlantic isolation and began to interact with the region, and then the conservative government and presidency of Iran came out, ready to gamble with the hand that they had been dealt. Following this, we have seen the small fires in Kuwait, Oman and Morocco, and larger ones in Bahrain, Iraq, Yemen, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Sudan. When the statue of the Green Book was toppled in Benghazi, and when Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi gave his Friday sermon in Tahrir Square, this showed that a new world was being born, and nobody knows if this will be better or worse. However, this world will reflect new strategic balances and values, which will render the rules of the American game obsolete.

Perhaps this is the most shameful aspect of Obama and his companions in the White House - their common wisdom has been based on the strategic balances and 1970s values which were relevant when the Egyptian-Israeli peace agreement was signed, and when the Iranian revolution erupted. Since then, there has been a balance between the forces of revolution and the forces of stability, and this balance had its own rules and precepts, which everybody monitored extremely carefully. This balance continued to prevail even after the entire world was shaken by the 9/11 attacks, and the subsequent invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

However, this system has now collapsed, even if traces of it still remain this will not be for very long. It will not take long for the new changes to emerge, as the situation is developing faster than anyone could expect. The crucial point is that the recent US veto will neither be beneficial to the US, nor to the countries in the region, at a time when a new, unprecedented Middle East is being created.

Is the US veto that important? The answer is both yes and no. Yes, because it underlines the nature of America's relations, and maybe that of the entire West, with a region that does not forgive or forget quickly. The answer is also no, because the clash between the West and the Middle East has been ongoing and has taken many forms over the past two centuries. We now entertain hopes that new relations will be established in the 21st century, for we have failed to achieve anything significant to date, in any case.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017