AlterPolitics New Post

Obama’s Veto of UN Resolution On Settlements Harms His Own Standing in World

by on Saturday, February 19, 2011 at 3:04 pm EDT in Egypt, Middle East, World

The Arab world has long suffered as a direct consequence of misguided U.S. policies in the Middle East. From propping up their brutal dictators, to funding and granting immunity to Israel as it colonizes Palestinian lands and bombs its neighbors with impunity, the U.S. has underwritten most of what is wrong in the region.

Until recently, the voices on the Arab streets have largely been muzzled by their oppressive (U.S. supported) regimes. But all that is finally changing. The people have had enough. They want a voice. They have taken to the streets, and are demanding their inalienable rights: freedom from repression.

First came the protests in Tunisia, and that quickly spread to Egypt. Like wildfire, the protests and demonstrations soon moved on to Bahrain, Libya, Yemen, Iraq, Oman, Algeria, etc.

One could argue that the seeds were sown when President Obama made his famous 2009 Cairo speech to the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims. In it, he asked for a new beginning between the U.S. and the Muslim world — one “based on mutual respect.”

On promoting democracy in the Muslim world, Obama stated:

I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.

There is no straight line to realize this promise. But this much is clear: governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments – provided they govern with respect for all their people.

This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they are out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. No matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who hold power: you must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.

He stated, “America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs.”

He said of Israel’s colonization of Palestine:

… 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. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.

Though generally well received, the speech provoked a large degree of skepticism from much of the Arab world. Like Americans at home, they wanted to believe Obama was an authentic ‘change agent’, but as everyone knows, the status quo is the status quo for good reason. Powerful entrenched interests work 24/7 to massage ‘change agents’ into ‘status quo’ agents.

The Muslim world wondered if this new U.S. President, with an Arab-sounding name, would be true to his words. Would he apply pressure to their oppressive rulers to implement democratic reforms? Would he take the necessary political risks in the United States (See: Israel Lobby) to force Israel to end its colonization, and to forge peace with the Palestinians?

As far as promoting democracy, WikiLeaks cables revealed that the Obama Administration did next to nothing to press Mubarak to end his brutal policies and adopt democratic reforms.

Even after Egyptians took to the streets, the Obama Administration cautiously waffled around — never really taking a strong position until the smoke had all but cleared, and they knew definitively that the protesters would prevail.

To further undermine U.S. commitment to democratic change, once it became clear that Mubarak was finished, the Administration brazenly tried to insert Mubarak-equivalent (and alleged torturer) Omar Suleiman to take the reigns.

The so called ‘peace process’ between Israelis and Palestinians has been a much more transparent failure for the Obama administration, due in part because the U.S. is supposed to have more leverage over the Israelis — showering them with billions in aid and holding veto power over UN condemnations against their actions.

But what has forever been etched into the world consciousness is a disturbing image of the United States playing a subservient role to Israeli interests.

First the Netanyahu government outwardly defied the Obama Administration, by refusing to extend a 10-month partial ‘moratorium’ on its illegal settlement expansions in the West Bank, which brought the ‘peace process’ to a screeching halt.

The humiliated U.S. President undermined his own standing further by cowering back to the Israelis with an unbelievable display of servility. Obama offered them $3B — in addition to the $3.5 billion in annual aid — and pledged to grant them preemptive immunity for 1 year against any prospective UN Security Council resolutions (regardless of what Israel might do).

All this, for merely extending the partial moratorium — only in the West Bank — for an additional 90 days. And Israel refused.

Robert Fisk of The Independent rightly castigated Obama as an ‘appeaser’:

In any other country, the current American bribe to Israel, and the latter’s reluctance to accept it, in return for even a temporary end to the theft of somebody else’s property would be regarded as preposterous. Three billion dollars’ worth of fighter bombers in return for a temporary freeze in West Bank colonisation for a mere 90 days? Not including East Jerusalem – so goodbye to the last chance of the east of the holy city for a Palestinian capital – and, if Benjamin Netanyahu so wishes, a rip-roaring continuation of settlement on Arab land. In the ordinary sane world in which we think we live, there is only one word for Barack Obama’s offer: appeasement. Usually, our lords and masters use that word with disdain and disgust.

Anyone who panders to injustice by one people against another people is called an appeaser. Anyone who prefers peace at any price, let alone a $3bn bribe to the guilty party – is an appeaser. Anyone who will not risk the consequences of standing up for international morality against territorial greed is an appeaser … Yet that is precisely what Obama has done in his pathetic, unbelievable effort to plead with Netanyahu for just 90 days of submission to international law. Obama is an appeaser. […]

After the U.S. proved itself to be powerless in forcing Israel to cease stealing Palestinian land, the Palestinians naturally concluded that the United States would never do what was necessary to force Israel to recognize a Palestinian state. So they turned to the United Nations Security Council and asked for a resolution that does little more than recognize international law (as it already exists) — condemning Israel’s illegal settlement building.

The language in the UN Security Council resolution is ironically the official US stated policy on the matter, and so the Muslim world watched with interest to see if Obama would do as he promised them, and “align [his] policies with those who pursue peace”.

Obama — because Israelis rejected his unprecedented $3B offer — had essentially laid the political groundwork to allow this resolution to pass. This was Obama’s grand moment to show some fortitude. He offered the Israelis the world, for almost nothing in return, and they swiftly rejected it. Here was Obama’s moment to make good on his promise that the United States indeed sought a more just and equitable future for the Muslim world — one based on mutual respect …

HE VETOED IT!

By doing so, President Obama has squandered any remaining credibility he might have had as a champion for democracy, human rights, and international law. And he has reaffirmed to the world that the United States is not now, nor ever has been, a fair and honest broker for middle east peace.

UPDATE:

WATCH as Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations, struggles to justify the U.S. veto to Al Jazeera:

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