Playground allies

US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) speak during meetings in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, March 5, 2012. (AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB)

In his speeches over the last few days, U.S. President Barack Obama has made it clearer than ever that it is hypocrisy that dictates American foreign policy when it comes to the issue of Palestine.

When he was elected in 2008, and in his Cairo speech the following year, signaling, in his own words, “a new beginning,” with the Arab world, many in the region believed that the 44th president really would usher in positive changes, and perhaps even the hope of progress in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

With the benefit of hindsight, it appears that Obama’s words sounded so sweet because they followed the two-term reign of George W. Bush, whose actions brought the region so much misery.

But now, with U.S. presidential elections again on the horizon, it is all too apparent that regardless of political affiliation, upon inauguration, any president of the union will support Israel unconditionally.

Speaking to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual conference, Obama spoke of Israeli President Shimon Peres’ moral fortitude. Peres, he said, has been “a powerful moral voice that reminds us that right makes might – and not the other way around.”

What links the U.S. to Israel, he added, was a shared belief in “those human values that Shimon spoke about: a commitment to human dignity; a belief that freedom is a right that is given to all of God’s children.”

To stand there and talk about Israel’s commitment to human dignity smacks of selective hearing: Thousands of Palestinians are locked in Israeli jails, detained without charge, and Israel talks of freedom being a natural right but is the first country founded on a religious basis.

But Obama does not want us just to look at his words, Sunday inviting his audience to examine his actions. It is immediately clear his deeds thus far have been 100 percent in line with the wishes of Israel’s leaders.

“At every crucial juncture – at every fork in the road – we have been there for Israel,” Obama said. And how true this is, with the U.S. having wielded its use of the veto whenever Israel needed its backing, turning a blind-eye to the hundreds of acres of supposedly Palestinian land siphoned off by Israeli settlers without retribution. Politically and geographically, a two-state solution seems as intangible as ever, “Palestine” having been carved up into scattered isolated islands.

This is what Obama claims is a “balanced policy.” Sounding like a playground ally, Obama told Netanyahu Monday that the U.S. “will always have Israel’s back.” He has now shown the Arab world that U.S. foreign policy on Israel is ruled by hypocrisy: that the fate of the Palestinians lies in this alliance.

And through this support for the “human values” of Israel, despite the Jewish state having rejected so many peaceful initiatives over the years, Obama is encouraging extremist elements in the Arab region, who see the Palestinian cause pushed into the corner, to prevail.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 06, 2012, on page 7.




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