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How The U.S. Has Undermined Its Own Vital Interests To Appease Israel At The UN

by on Tuesday, November 1, 2011 at 12:13 pm EDT in Middle East, World

Yesterday, the Palestinians’ bid for full membership at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was approved by a vote of 107-14, with 52 abstentions.

This move will help to prevent the Palestinians’ cultural-heritage sites and artifacts from being plundered, as Israel continues its efforts to Judaize the occupied territory. 

But what might come as a surprise to many in the United States, is that the U.S. Congress created virtual ‘UN poison pills’ in past legislation that automatically damages the U.S.’s own strategic interests the moment Palestinians gain membership at any UN agency:

Legislation dating from 1990 and 1994 mandates a complete cutoff of American financing to any United Nations agency that accepts the Palestinians as a full member. State Department lawyers judged that there was no leeway in the legislation, and no possibility of a waiver, so the United States contribution for 2011 and future years will not be paid.

This means the U.S. (as confirmed by the State Department) will withhold its $80 million annual commitment to UNESCO’s funding (with a $60 million portion of this total being stopped immediately). The U.S. is responsible for 22% of the organization’s total funding.

The Palestinians are reported to be seeking membership in other UN organizations as well, which too would face U.S. funding cuts. These include: UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), World Health Organization (WHO), International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and others.

How will this damage U.S. strategic interests? 

President of the UN Foundation and former U.S. Senator (D-CO) Timothy Wirth writes that the U.S. will lose its leverage over these international bodies, and with it, the ability to advance America’s interests and ideals around the world. He believes some of America’s global rivals might even volunteer to cover America’s reneged financial commitments, filling its leadership void in the process.

Sen. Wirth explains the significance of UNESCO’s work:

To Americans, UNESCO is best known for designating World Heritage Sites. It also leads global efforts to bring clean water to the poor, promotes educational and curriculum building in the developing world, and manages a tsunami early warning system in the Pacific, among other important tasks. This critical work would be jeopardized if UNESCO’s top funder stops paying its bills.

UNESCO’s director general, Irena Bokova, reveals that the U.S. funding cut will directly impact America’s security interests in Afghanistan and Iraq, where UNESCO is “helping governments and communities prepare for life after the withdrawal of U.S. military forces.”

Sen. Wirth details how U.S. economic interests abroad will be negatively impacted when it cuts its funding for WIPO:

This is a lesser known UN agency that serves American businesses and brands by setting global standards for copyrights and adjudicating cross border patent disputes. In the last year alone, dozens of major American companies brought cases before WIPO — the American Automobile Association, Apple, The North Face, Costco and Facebook to name just a few. If Palestine joins WIPO, the United States will have to pull out, limiting its ability to steer policies in ways that advance American economic interests and create jobs here at home.

He explains how IAEA is critical to U.S. national security interests:

In recent years the IAEA has been a critical part of American attempts to constrain the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea. In 2006, the Bush administration successfully lobbied other members of the IAEA executive board to refer Iran’s nuclear program to the Security Council for sanctions. Should the United States stop paying membership dues to the IAEA–which it could be forced to do under current legislation if Palestine is admitted as a member — the United States would give up our vote on the executive board. It would literally lose a seat at the table during the next nuclear crisis.

And he stresses the importance of WHO:

The WHO works closely with the United States–particularly the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — to keep infectious diseases like the Avian Flu from reaching our shores. If the Palestinians are admitted to the WHO, that cooperation would have to stop under the current law.

Here is the irony: These legislative ‘poison pills,’ so harmful to U.S. interests, were passed entirely for the benefit of Israel, and yet Israel has no similar legislation of its own to trigger a cut in funding for UNESCO (Israel contributes 3% of the organization’s funding). In fact, while U.S. international interests have been marred by this automatic funding cut, Israel is rationally mulling over what it might do. Because, of course, only a fool would rush to action, and risk harming his own vital interests in the process.

When the U.S. State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland was asked why the Administration felt it was even necessary to vote against this Palestinian membership bid at UNESCO, she stated that it undermines the ‘peace process.’

The peace process?

The U.S.-lead Israeli-Palestinian peace process was effectively buried in December 2010 after Benjamin Netanyahu refused Obama’s unprecedented offer of an additional $3B in military aid, plus a guarantee that the U.S. would veto any UN Security Council Resolutions against Israel for 1 year, regardless of what Israel might do; all this for a mere 3-month extension of a partial moratorium on Israel’s illegal settlement expansions. 

This rejection made it clear to the entire world that Israel has no intentions of ever ceding any part of the occupied territories to the Palestinians to foment peace. No one, outside the Obama Administration, pretends the U.S.-led Middle East peace process is still a legitimate undertaking. Yet, this is the only excuse the Administration can come up with to explain why it continues to sabotage America’s own vital interests in the name of Israel.

Just as banking lobbyists have seized control of our political establishment, making it impossible for politicians to regulate them, or to hold them to account for bringing the entire U.S. economy to its knees, the Israel Lobby has effectively hijacked our political establishment with regards to U.S. policy in the Middle East.

Will it take an #OccupyAIPAC movement to ensure that U.S. politicians put the national security interests of American citizens — all 100% of us — above the interests of a foreign country? 

Sec. of State Hillary Clinton’s Diplomatic Skills Rival Those Of John Bolton’s

by on Thursday, November 5, 2009 at 8:12 pm EDT in Middle East, Politics, World

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Israel PM Benjamin NetanyahuNice work Hillary!  The fallout from her most recent world tour continues to materialize.

First our nation’s chief diplomat completely offended the country of Pakistan.  Here’s how the Pakistan Daily appraised her visit with their officials and press:

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went on the offensive during her three-day visit to Pakistan that was concluded yesterday. Her comments were blunt and combative, and the Pakistani press labeled her approach as “aggressive diplomacy.”

The intended purpose of Clinton’s visit was to drum up support for the ongoing war against al Qaeda and to pressure the Pakistani government to do more in fighting insurgents. Apparently she checked whatever diplomatic skills she might have at the door and her remarks to her hosts were anything but diplomatic.

She at one point hinted that Pakistani officials are reluctant to pursue al Qaeda. “I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are and couldn’t get them if they really wanted to,” Clinton told her Pakistani interlocutors during an interview with journalists in Lahore.

Clinton’s comments were on the wrong track as they were made at time when the Pakistan’s army was busy fighting tribal insurgents in Waziristan on the heels of its two-month offensive in the Swat valley in Northeast Pakistan. Pakistan has also single-handedly captured the largest number of al Qaeda operatives since 2002. The military involvement in the war on terrorism has started to take a heavy toll on the Pakistani population and threatens to destabilize the country if insurgents continue to bring the fight to Pakistan’s major cities. […]

Next, on to Israel, where she decided to inflict some irreparable damage to the Middle East Peace Process.  First she stands with one of the most right-winged Israeli leaders of our lifetime, Benjamin Netanyahu, and sings him praises for basically telling the United States to go ‘fuck itself’ on its demands that Israel cease its illegal settlement activity.  She gloated about how his agreement to slow down the illegal settlements was ‘unprecedented’.

I blogged earlier on the outcry at the time in the Arab world — a dramatic display of utter shock and bereavement at this sudden shift in policy by the Obama Administration.  So, the following day, in Marrakech, Hillary tried to tamper down the damage by clarifying her statement:

‘This offer falls far short of what our preference would be, but if it is acted upon it will be an unprecedented restriction on settlements and would have a significant and meaningful effect on restraining their growth.

Then in yet another about face (as reported by The Palestinian Chronicle):

… the next day [after Hillary’s clarification] she deployed [yet] another character, mixing a take-it-or-leave-it approach to the Palestinians with praise for the White House.  She told Al Jazeera, ‘I think it is important for your viewers to say to themselves, ‘well, we can continue with what we have now ‘which is a halt to nothing’ or we can halt all new settlement activity’.

The purpose of her mission had been to kick-start the Middle East peace talks, and by the time she left for Cairo, she’d single-handedly sabotaged them for good.  Now The New York Times is reporting that Palestinian President Abbas announced he will not seek re-election:

[Abbas’s] announcement, coming immediately after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s visit to kick start talks between Israel and the Palestinians, illustrated the rising tensions over the Obama administration’s failure to produce an Israeli settlement freeze or any concessions from Arab leaders.

Mrs. Clinton’s visit to the region, which she characterized as a success, sowed anger and confusion among Palestinians and other Arabs after she praised as “unprecedented” Israel’s compromise offer to slow down, but not stop, construction of settlements. […]

A top aide to Mr. Abbas said a large part of the “despondency and frustration” felt by Mr. Abbas and the entire Palestinian leadership was due to President Obama’s unrealized promises to the region. He said he feared that without a stop to settlements, Islamist rivals in Hamas could triumph and violence could break out.

“There was high expectation when he arrived on the scene,” the aide, Nabil Shaath, who heads the Fatah party’s foreign affairs department, said of Mr. Obama, at a briefing. “He said he would work to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that it would play a major role in improving the American and Western relationship with the Muslim world. Now there is a total retreat, which has destroyed trust instead of building trust.”

Mr. Shaath added that if the United States vetoed sending a United Nations report critical of Israel’s actions in Gaza to the Security Council, “It really is like telling the Palestinians to go back to violence.”

President Abbas was probably the most peaceful, pro-western leader the Palestinians had ever had.

Talk about a “bull in a china shop,” could Obama have picked a more confrontational and destructive personality to serve as our nation’s ‘chief Diplomat’?  And I had assumed the days of John Bolton were finally behind us.  Apparently not …


Juan Cole (sourcing the BBC) reveals that chief of the Palestine Liberation Organization Steering Committee, Saeb Erekat is calling it a moment of truth for President Abbas.  Erekat goes on to say:

Palestine Authority president Mahmoud Abbas should be frank with the Palestinian people and admit to them that there is no possibility of a two-state solution given continued Israeli colonization of the West Bank.

It is morally and ethically unconscionable to leave millions of Palestinians in a condition of statelessness, in which they have no rights. Therefore, if there isn’t going to be a two-state solution, there will have to be a one-state solution, in which Israel gives citizenship to the Palestinians.

It’s a fascinating, and long overdue realization.  You can read more about it at Salon …

Hillary Clinton’s Pandering To Israel Destroys U.S. Credibility On Middle East Peace

by on Tuesday, November 3, 2009 at 2:33 pm EDT in Middle East, Politics, World

U.S. Middle East policy has effectively come full-circle again, as it has done repeatedly for the past forty-plus years.  Every blue moon we get a U.S. President who dares to challenge Israel on its ethnic cleansing — as demonstrated by continued Palestinian home demolitions and Jewish-ONLY settlement expansion within the occupied territories (all interconnected by Jewish-ONLY roads).  And as usual, the world holds its breath wondering if this U.S. President will have the balls to apply pressure behind his rhetoric and actually force Israel to cease its illegal activities and engage in peace negotiations.

But then a familiar pattern unfolds: The Israel Lobby applies its pressure, Congress obediently issues ridiculously dishonest resolutions, and before long the U.S. Administration sheepishly backs down, changes course, and proceeds to embarrass itself by actually praising Israel for its indefensible conduct.

Rewind to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in March, 2009:

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday blasted Israel’s plans to demolish Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem as a violation of its international obligations and “unhelpful” to Middle East peace efforts.

“Clearly this kind of activity is unhelpful and not in keeping with the obligations entered into under the ‘road map’,” Clinton said, referring to the long-stalled peace plan.

“It is an issue that we intend to raise with the government of Israel and the government at the municipal level in Jerusalem,”

Now let’s revisit Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s strong language in May, 2009:

Rebuffing Israel on a key Mideast negotiating issue, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that the Obama administration wants a complete halt in the growth of Jewish settlements on Palestinian territory, with no exceptions.

President Obama “wants to see a stop to settlements — not some settlements, not outposts, not natural-growth exceptions,” Clinton said.

Next, let’s move on to President Obama’s Cairo Speech in June, 2009:

Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. (Applause.) This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.

Fast forward five months later — to this week — as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, backpedals on U.S. Middle East policy, while speaking in Israel:

Having failed to force Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, to meet US demands for a total settlement freeze, Mrs Clinton switched tack during a one-day visit to Jerusalem when she called on both sides to resume peace talks.

What the Prime Minister has offered in specifics of a restraint on the policy of settlements . . . is unprecedented,” Mrs Clinton said…

The comments by Mrs Clinton were in contrast to the previous stance of the Obama Administration, which has pressured Israel to halt all settlement construction. In May, after President Obama’s first meeting with Mr Netanyahu, Mrs Clinton said that the US “wants to see a stop to settlements — not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions”.

And the angry response in the Arab world is as one might expect:

Nabil Abu Rudeinah, a spokesman for Mr Abbas, said: “The negotiations are in a state of paralysis, and the result of Israel’s intransigence and America’s back-pedalling is that there is no hope of negotiations on the horizon.”

Ghassan Khatib, a Palestinian Authority spokesman, said:

“I believe that the U.S. condones continued settlement expansion.  Calling for a resumption of negotiations despite continued settlement construction doesn’t help because we have tried this way many times,” Khatib added. “Negotiations are about ending the occupation and settlement expansion is about entrenching the occupation.”

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said:

“If America cannot get Israel to implement a settlement freeze, what chance do Palestinians have of reaching agreement with Israel on permanent status issues?”

So it appears Obama has concluded — as did all his predecessors — that going head to head with the Israel Lobby is not worth the political price.  So Hillary Clinton does a 180 — yanking the rug out from under President Abbas — thereby ensuring his popularity will plummet further just before the Palestinian elections.  She’s also given the right-winged Likud government a strategic ‘out’ from any peace negotiations.   Netanyahu is now free to accuse the Palestinians of blocking peace, as Fatah demands that Israel cease its settlement expansion as a precondition for peace negotiations.

Is there any wonder why terrorists in that part of the world are motivated to target American interests, considering that we are essentially Israel’s enabler?

Gideon Levy, an Israeli journalist for Harretz, blasts the U.S. Administration in his recent column for always “sucking up to Israel” :

No other country on the planet does the United States kneel and plead like this. In other trouble spots, America takes a different tone. It bombs in Afghanistan, invades Iraq and threatens sanctions against Iran and North Korea. Did anyone in Washington consider begging Saddam Hussein to withdraw from occupied territory in Kuwait?

But Israel the occupier, the stubborn contrarian that continues to mock America and the world by building settlements and abusing the Palestinians, receives different treatment. Another massage to the national ego in one video, more embarrassing praise in another.

Now is the time to say to the United States: Enough flattery. If you don’t change the tone, nothing will change. As long as Israel feels the United States is in its pocket, and that America’s automatic veto will save it from condemnations and sanctions, that it will receive massive aid unconditionally, and that it can continue waging punitive, lethal campaigns without a word from Washington, killing, destroying and imprisoning without the world’s policeman making a sound, it will continue in its ways.

Illegal acts like the occupation and settlement expansion, and offensives that may have involved war crimes, as in Gaza, deserve a different approach. If America and the world had issued condemnations after Operation Summer Rains in 2006 – which left 400 Palestinians dead and severe infrastructure damage in the first major operation in Gaza since the disengagement – then Operation Cast Lead never would have been launched. […]

Israel of 2009 is a spoiled country, arrogant and condescending, convinced that it deserves everything and that it has the power to make a fool of America and the world. The United States has engendered this situation, which endangers the entire Mideast and Israel itself. That is why there needs to be a turning point in the coming year – Washington needs to finally say no to Israel and the occupation. An unambiguous, presidential no.

Stephen Walt succinctly describes the mess the United States is helping to create for the state of Israel and for those whom Israel continues to occupy:

The two-state solution was on life-support when Obama took office, and at first it appeared he might make a serious effort to nurse it back to health and make it a reality. At least, that’s what he said he was going to do. Instead, he and his Secretary of State are in the process of pulling out the plug. But what will they do when “two states for two peoples” isn’t an option and everybody finally admits it, and the Palestinians begin to demand equal rights in “greater Israel?” Will the United States support their claims for equality, democracy, and individual rights, or will it continue to defend and subsidize what will then be an apartheid state? Well, if it’s up to our courageous reps in Congress, you know what the answer will be.

“If America cannot get Israel to implement a settlement freeze, what chance do Palestinians have of reaching agreement with Israel on permanent status issues?” Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said.