Obama, Bush alike when it comes to Israel


Tel Aviv knows it can always count on unwavering US support despite its flagrant disregard for human rights
By Abdullah Al Shayji, Special to Gulf News

  • The global outrage has forced the US to talk about Gaza. It seems that the Obama administration finally accepts that the situation is “unsustainable” and there is a need to break the
  • Image Credit: Illustration: Danesh Mohiuddin/©Gulf News

On the eve of the first anniversary of US President Barack Obama’s Cairo speech to the 1.5 billion Muslims across the globe, the US proved that it does not miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity to hold Israel accountable for its mischievous behaviour and intransigence. To many disillusioned Muslims there is little difference, if any, between George W. Bush and Obama.

While Israel continues to behave like a rogue or even a pariah state, it can always fall back on America’s unwavering support. Regardless of Tel Aviv’s intransigence, the US does no more than request it to exercise caution. Such actions only reaffirm Washington’s commitment to safeguarding Israel’s security.

Israel’s latest transgression of attacking the unarmed Freedom Flotilla has been internationally condemned, but the US is muted in its response. The fact that the aid convoy sought to break the inhumane, three-year-old blockade of Gaza made no difference. The killing of nine activists in cold blood and the seizing of ships carrying medical and food cargo along with over 500 activists, parliamentarians, and journalists did not perturb the Obama administration.

The US could not do anything more than say it needs more information to determine what had happened. Nevertheless, in the UN Security Council, Washington pushed member states to endorse a watered-down presidential statement about the “acts” i.e. equating Israeli commandos who attacked the ships and the activists, who were trying to protect themselves.

Although Israel has embarrassed its staunch ally by repeatedly derailing US efforts to jumpstart the Middle East peace process, Washington never tires of providing Tel Aviv its support on numerous occasions. It uses its veto power to shelter Israel from global condemnation.

The US expressing dismay over the mention of Israel in last week’s UN nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review is another example of this politics. All the summiteers did was call on Israel to join the 189 signatories to the NPT and to participate in a conference in 2012 to make the Middle East a nuclear free zone.

In a bind

The US has shot itself in the foot with its reaction to the flotilla attack. Coming as it does in the wake of Israel’s forgery of western passports, which were used in Dubai by the assassins of Hamas official Mahmoud Al Mabhouh, Washington’s stand validates the Arab and Muslim view that it backs Israel’s actions.

But US military concerns were made obvious by US Centcom commander General David Petraeus’s briefing to the influential Armed Services Committee in the US Senate in mid-March. General Petraeus argued on record that “the enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbours present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interest in the AOR [area of operational responsibilities]. Israeli-Palestinian tensions often flare into violence and large-scale armed confrontations. The conflict foments anti-American sentiments, due to the perception of US favouritism for Israel.

“Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of US partnerships with governments and peoples in the AOR and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world. Al Qaida and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilise support. The conflict also gives Iran influence in the Arab world through its clients, Lebanese Hezbollah and Hamas”.

Further, Mossad chief Meir Dagan’s blunt assessment of the security situation is of interest. He declared that “Israel is gradually turning from an asset to a burden”. It seems that Israel’s assault on the Freedom Flotilla in violation of international laws — an act of piracy — will have severe consequences for the Jewish state. Israel has already been described by one of its leading newspapers as being ‘Lost at sea’.

The prime minister of its former strategic ally, Turkey, has accused Tel Aviv of “state terrorism”. Israel’s allies the European Union, Russia, China along with the UN Secretary-General are calling for the lifting of the blockade on Gaza. The assault has drawn the world’s attention to the suffering of the people of Gaza. An outraged world is refusing to be pushed around by a pariah state and its backers any more.

Policy change

The global outrage has forced the US to talk about Gaza. It seems that the Obama administration finally accepts that the situation is “unsustainable” and there is a need to break the impasse.

There is even talk about the need to change US policy on Gaza. That policy should focus on lifting the blockade, opening all the crossing points and ending the suffering of more than 1.5 million Gazans.

When an American columnist such as Nicholas D. Kristof writes in the New York Times about “saving Israel from itself” then there is something glaringly wrong with Israel’s behaviour and how far it has gone.

Israel has become a clear liability. Someone has to put some sense into Tel Aviv’s far-right leadership before the world grows more impatient. Otherwise, Israelis should stop asking the rhetorical question, “Why do they hate us”?

Professor Abdullah Al Shayji is the Chairman of the Political Science Department, Kuwait University.