Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Obama's real Israel problem -- and it isn't Bibi

Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, responds to The Times' Jan. 2 Op-Ed article, "Bibi and Barack."

By Phyllis Bennis

"Aaron David Miller is right: President Obama does have an Israel problem. But Miller is wrong about the roots of the problem.

The problem isn't Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or his Likud Party, or even Israel's current extreme right-wing government. Israel's fundamental policy toward the Palestinians is the problem, and that policy has hardly changed, despite the seemingly diverse sequence of left, right and center parties that have been in power.

Just look at the occupation of the territories seized in 1967 -- the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Settlement building, along with all the land and water theft that goes with it, began just weeks after the Six-Day War. And a right-wing government wasn't in power; it was Mapai, the left-wing precursor to today's Labor Party. The right wing wouldn't come to power until almost three decades after Israel's founding, when Menachem Begin led the Likud coalition to victory in 1977.

Settlement construction and expansion started right after the war and continued under all the leftist (in the Israeli context) governments. By the time Likud came to power 10 years after the 1967 war, there were already more than 50,000 Israeli settlers living in Jews-only settlements in the occupied territories, most of them in occupied East Jerusalem, with smaller numbers in the West Bank and Gaza. Settlement expansion advanced under Labor, Likud and Kadima-led governments. Now there are more than 600,000 settlers living illegally in Palestinian territory, divided between the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

As Moshe Dayan, a former defense and foreign minister, explained, the settlements were necessary "not because they can ensure security better than the army but because without them we cannot keep the army in those territories. Without them the [Israel Defense Forces] would be a foreign army ruling a foreign population."...."

No comments: