Haaretz - America, stop sucking up to Israel By Gideon Levy
- Haaretz -
Last update - 08:21 01/11/2009
America, stop sucking up to Israel By Gideon Levy
Barack Obama has been busy - offering the Jewish People blessings for
Rosh Hashanah, and recording a flattering video for the President's
Conference in Jerusalem and another for Yitzhak Rabin's memorial rally.
Only Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah surpasses him in terms of sheer output of
In all the videos, Obama heaps sticky-sweet praise on Israel, even
though he has spent nearly a year fruitlessly lobbying for Israel to be
so kind as to do something, anything - even just a temporary freeze on
settlement building - to advance the peace process.
The president's Mideast envoy, George Mitchell, has also been busy,
shuttling between a funeral (for IDF soldier Asaf Ramon, the son of
Israel's first astronaut Ilan Ramon) and a memorial (for Rabin, though
it was postponed until next week due to rain), in order to find favor
with Israelis. Polls have shown that Obama is increasingly unpopular
here, with an approval rating of only 6 to 10 percent.
He decided to address Israelis by video, but a persuasive speech won't
persuade anyone to end the occupation. He simply should have told the
Israeli people the truth. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who
arrived here last night, will certainly express similar sentiments:
"commitment to Israel's security," "strategic alliance," "the need for
peace," and so on .
Before 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
It is true that unlike all the world's other troublemakers, Israel is
viewed as a Western democracy, but Israel of 2009 is a country whose
language is force. Anwar Sadat may have been the last leader to win our
hearts with optimistic, hope-igniting speeches. If he were to visit
Israel today, he would be jeered off the stage. The Syrian president
pleads for peace and Israel callously dismisses him, the United States
begs for a settlement free ze and Israel turns up its nose. This is what
happens when there are no consequences for Israel's inaction.
When Clinton returns to Washington, she should advocate a sharp policy
change toward Israel. Israeli hearts can no longer be won with hope,
promises of a better future or sweet talk, for this is no longer
Israel's language. For something to change, Israel must understand that
perpetuating the status quo will exact a painful price.
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,