Manal Alafrangi
Gulf News (Opinion)
September 24, 2011 - 12:00am

The level of opposition by the United States and some western states to the Palestinian bid for statehood has been very depressing. There isn't even an attempt by US President Barack Obama to disguise the Israelisation of US foreign policy towards Palestine and Palestinians.

In his speech on Wednesday, Obama said peace between Palestinians and Israelis would not come through statements and resolutions at the UN, but rather only through a resumption of direct negotiations. Is he talking about the same direct negotiations he failed to jumpstart? The ones he personally gave a deadline on and missed? The ones that saw Israel refuse to give in to any US or other international pressure to stop its illegal acts of colony building and expansion? Let's not forget the 2008 war on Gaza, which showcased Israeli brutality and put a damper on these ‘direct negotiations'. And let's not fool anyone; the Palestinian state the Palestinians are vying to get recognised is a mini-state as the distinguished Palestinian academic Joseph Massad referred to it, one that has already been organised and put together by Israelis.

In reality, direct negotiations stopped well before Obama and his predecessor former president George W. Bush. Former US president Bill Clinton and former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak had the pleasure of putting a freeze on proper direct negotiations when they accused the Palestinians, led by Yasser Arafat at the time, of asking for too much and not meeting Israelis at the negotiating table (by the way, asking for too much was shown in Palestinian requests for Israel to end its occupation, stop its illegal expansionist policies in the form of colonies, acknowledge the right of return and put occupied Jerusalem on the negotiating table).

Direct negotiations are meaningless given that we are dealing with two unequal partners: a weak and victimised Palestinian side versus a cruel victimiser, the Israeli side. It's not that Arabs and Palestinians don't expect US and western bias towards Israel even at a UN level. It's that it's happening in the most glaring way and nothing can be done about it.
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It has to be said, the Palestinian bid for full UN membership is not a perfect proposal for a number of reasons. The biggest concern has to do with the fact that it is being pushed by the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), which doesn't represent all Palestinians (refugees included). There's also the issue that if Palestine is recognised as a state at the UN, the issue of right of return would suffer a major blow as the focus would be mainly on Palestinians living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Not to mention the PNA has gained a reputation for ceding to US and Israeli pressures — the Palestine Papers are relevant here; if nothing, this UN journey will garner more popularity for Abbas and his men at a time when their grip on power is looking shaky.

Vision betrayed

A year ago this month, Obama envisioned a different scenario for Palestinians. He said, "We should reach for what's best within ourselves… If we do, when we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that will lead to a new member of the United Nations." So what changed? Well, other than the obvious fact that US foreign policy towards Palestinians, regardless of who sits in the White House, is heavily influenced and coerced by the Israeli lobby, Obama is thinking about 2012 elections. That Texas governor Rick Perry has accused Obama of working against Israel even though he's done everything they'd asked for reveals the Israeli audacity and reach. To say Obama is catering to Israeli demands to please Republican (and Democratic) opinion at the expense of Palestinians would be an understatement. In a sense, Obama has turned the Palestinian quest for statehood recognition into a US domestic issue and therefore failed everyone and failed the international system. He had a duty to present a global vision that promotes peace at the General Assembly, which he betrayed by turning it into a poll issue.

Less is being said about the implications of a US veto on America's international standing and regional hegemony and more attention is being focused on Israel's security and concerns. Waves of op/eds and academic lectures by those who are pro-Israeli are being fed into US mainstream coverage in order to camouflage the gravity of a US veto, which would undermine America's credibility and standing. The Palestinians get a veto on their statehood bid and the Israelis get an insistence for Arab states to recognise it as a ‘Jewish state' and reminders that Israel faces a sea of hostility from its neighbours. State or no state, the US will continue to exert pressure on Palestinians to "get back to direct talks" and use tools like veto power and aid pledges and cutoffs to carry out Israeli demands. This will not change regardless of whether Palestinians end up with a full membership at the UN or an observer status.


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