After Israeli voters opted for more bloodshed in Tuesday’s elections, it’s already been suggested that the American-Israel alliance may finally be showing cracks. Binyamin Netanyahu (the Butcher of Gaza) publicly dismissed the idea of a two-state solution just days before the election, and on election day, incited racial hatred by warning Israelis that the Arabs were coming out to vote “in droves”. Many politicians in the U.S. and UK expressed dismay at the election result, but the question on everybody’s lips is what Obama’s thinking.
The American-Israeli alliance is almost as old as Israel itself. The U.S. has supported Israel through five invasions of Lebanon, massacres of refugee camps, a covert nuclear weapons programme, and the relentless slaughtering of children. What makes anybody think Netanyahu is enough to turn Obama’s stomach?
(Obama put on his serious diplomacy face, but he was actually thinking about what to have for lunch)
The split between Obama and Netanyahu – and there is a split – is merely the tip of the iceberg in relations with Israel. America’s love of all things Israeli – fuelled by anti-Islamic sentiment, hegemonic foreign policy goals, and of course AIPAC – runs far deeper than whoever is in office at any one time.
That said, it’s not a wild suggestion to say that the alliance is showing cracks. As Foreign Policy reported this week, there are murmurs that the U.S. is considering a draft resolution to the UN Security Council which would put the two-state solution back on the table, and Haaretz is reporting that former advisers to the White House see the situation as a “fundamental” change in the two countries’ relationship.
Netanyahu’s open refusal to engage in a two-state solution is also an endorsement of non-engagement with Palestine, and shatters the American’s oft-cited reason for vetoing measures at the UN on Israel’s behalf. The U.S. can get away with vetoing UN resolutions so long as Israel pretends to endorse a two-state solution, but now that it’s stopped pretending, can the U.S. continue to support them? It may be too much to bear, it may not.
But any predictions to that effect – such as the one in the New York Times – go too far. As Haaretz reports, the Obama administration may be sick and tired of the Netanyahu regime, and may be tired of saving it from itself. But the $3 billion in military aid every year is not about to be cut. Nor are the U.S. weapons caches that Israel has access to when it’s slaughtering Gazans. The only quiet threat so far is that the White House may stop vetoing resolutions in the UN Security Council, meaning for the first time in history a resolution may pass that condemns Israel for building settlements. Big deal.
Europe is the real lynch-pin. As the Parliaments of Western Europe fall like dominoes and vote to recognize the State of Palestine, the U.S. looks set to become almost entirely isolated on the Palestinian question, not unlike how it was the lone apologist voice in the late 80’s for South African apartheid.
One thing is for sure – it’s cynical to spin Netanyahu’s victory as “good” for Palestine. International pressure may be mounting, Netanyahu may be driving Israel off the proverbial cliff-edge, and Europe may even be signalling a change in direction, but things in Palestine will only get worse before they (perhaps) get better.
After Operation Protective Edge, over 500 Palestinian children lay dead. They are just the most recent casualties caused by a country that targets civilians, and they won’t be the last. The Butcher of Gaza has won another term, and it is only a matter of time before the bombs begin to fall once more.
It is too soon to say Netanyahu’s re-election means the end of the American-Israeli alliance. The U.S. has saved Israel in the past, and will probably save it again. Obama’s support for Israel will never seriously be in question, but his ability to maintain support for Netanyahu may finally be under threat. Like Reagan’s apologism for apartheid South Africa in the 80’s, the U.S. can only support apartheid in Israel for so long before the world gets sick of it.
A change is a’comin’, but predicting it less than a week after Netanyahu’s re-election is premature, to say the least.
Update: Netanyahu has backtracked on his inflammatory statements and reiterated the demands made in the 2009 Bar-Ilan speech.