The separate May meetings in Washington between US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signalled an undoubted shift from the Bush administration.
Obama is reportedly examining ways he can pressure Israel to cease all settlement building in the West Bank, a reality that radically upsets the Zionist Right. Netanyahu himself has so far refused to accept America’s request and appears determined to ignore Obama’s call.
In reality, Israel has received political cover for its illegal colonial project for decades. Just this week, the Australian Jewish News (AJN) wrote that, “it is not our editorial position to speak for or against settlements, as we would be perceived to be taking sides on a polarising issue within our readership.” Such statements place the Zionist leadership’s supposed belief in a two-state solution completely at odds with reality. There simply cannot be a two-state solution while the settlements continue to expand. The gutlessness of the AJN’s position was indicative of the failure of modern Jewish morality; occupation has become a contemporary Zionist trait.
Back in the real world, Britain’s main academic union voted overwhelmingly last week to boycott Israeli universities and colleges and robust debate continues in Israel over a proposed law to impose a maximum three-year prison sentence on those who dare commemorate Independence Day as Nakba Day. The vast bulk of the Jewish Diaspora has remained silent over this issue, seemingly unconcerned about an allegedly democratic nation banning the rights of minorities.
Eitan Bronstein wrote in Israel’s biggest paper, Yediot Ahoronot, last week that Israeli fears over the law signifies deeper existential guilt:
The proposal to legally bar the commemoration of the Nakba on Israel’s Independence Day reflects growing trepidation in Israel about the inevitable encounter with the Palestinian Nakba and the understanding that the Nakba is a foundational part of Israeli identity. Until recently, the threat of exposing the Nakba was barely felt. There was no need to fight this repressed demon, which might suddenly reveal itself and disrupt the seeming calm of a harmonious Jewish democracy.
To make matters worse, Israel continues to threaten Iran and may even provoke the Islamic Republic to justify its own military strike.
Obama is to be commended if he actually wants to change this decades-old equation. Thus far, however, it has been little more than talk. Using history as a guide, minimal American pressure on the Israelis is the likely outcome of this current, elaborate dance.