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Can the West solve the Israel/Palestine conflict?

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Palestinians remove a blood stained piece of rubble from a house hit by an Israeli airstrike in the al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City
AFP/Getty Images
Palestinians remove a blood stained piece of rubble from a house hit by an Israeli airstrike in the al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City
Much of the world stands horrified by the pictures of death and destruction coming from Gaza. But some believe America, alongside other Western governments, is responsible for the present situation.
Unlike Iraq, Iran, Libya, and North Korea, Israel has impunity from defying the UN Security Council
25 September 2017
25 September 2017
25 September 2017
T he United Nations Security Council is theoretically a sort of sovereign in international law. If it designates a regime like that of Gaddafi in Libya as a threat to international peace, it can deputize the nations of the world to remove it. One major exception to UNSC authority is Israel, which routinely thumbs its nose at the world body while suffering no sanctions or other punishment.
Defying the UNSC can be extremely dangerous and costly. It demanded that Iraq dismantle its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs and destroy any stockpiles of such unconventional weapons, in a series of resolutions after the Gulf War. The Bush administration alleged that Iraq’s President Saddam Hussein had declined completely to destroy those stockpiles and so was in violation of international law, and therefore claimed a sort of indirect sanction from the UNSC to invade and occupy Iraq in order to finish the job. (Unfortunately for Bush, the Baath regime in Iraq had in fact destroyed the stockpiles; this had not stopped Bush propagandists from continuing to this day to cite Saddam Hussein’s alleged defiance of the UNSC as a justification for the US war on Iraq.) Saddam Hussein was hanged in December 2006.
As of Thursday July 31, 1,263 Palestinians and 59 Israelis have been killed.
The UNSC demanded a decade or so ago that Iran mothball its civilian, peaceful nuclear enrichment program, aimed at gaining the capacity to fuel nuclear reactors to produce electricity. Iran refused, citing the pledge in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that guarantees all countries the right to close the fuel cycle. (Note that Israel went for broke to develop a nuclear warhead, of which it has several hundred, and never suffered any sanctions at all.)
As a result of the UNSC resolutions against Iran, the Obama administration was emboldened to impose a financial boycott on Iran, having it kicked off all the major banking exchanges and making it difficult or impossible for Iran to get paid for its petroleum. Then the US went around strong-arming countries like South Korea in a bid to force them to stop importing Iranian petroleum. A simple US congressional resolution would probably not have given the US the legitimacy to pursue this financial blockade against Iran, but the UNSC resolutions were much more persuasive, combined with US threats to sanction companies that traded with Iran.
Iran’s oil export earnings fell to $61.92 billion in 2013, “down 46% from $114.75 billion in 2011.” That was an over $50 bn annual fine for defying the UNSC, even when it wasn’t clear that international law justified the UNSC stance.
UNSC resolutions against the North Korean nuclear weapons program (a kind of military program Iran does not even have) imposed an arms embargo and even permitted other countries to board North Korean vessels at will on the high seas if they suspected that weapons were aboard– a severe attack on the country’s national sovereignty.
On Monday 28 July, the UN Security Council issued a statement calling on the parties to the conflict "to accept and fully implement the humanitarian ceasefire into the Eid period and beyond” and "to engage in efforts to achieve a durable and fully respected ceasefire, based on the Egyptian initiative”.
So when the UNSC calls on Israel and on Hamas in Gaza to institute an immediate ceasefire, and they refuse, they will attract sanctions, right? These demands, everyone knows, would be full-fledged resolutions if they weren’t watered down by the US. (And let us face it, Israel is the one with the firepower here; it has killed over a thousand in this round of fighting, 80% of them non-combatants; Hamas has killed four dozen or so Israelis, all but three soldiers). I mean, Saddam Hussein was hanged merely for being falsely accused of violating UNSC resolutions! And what if, as with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel not only refuses the demand for an immediate ceasefire but actually accuses the world’s major powers of being accomplices to terrorism? Doesn’t that sound a little bit like Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaking of “global arrogance”?
Wouldn’t the UNSC do something to Netanyahu for sassing them that way? Wouldn’t they devastate the Israeli economy the way they did the Iranian? Wouldn’t they authorize military action to protect civilians in Gaza from Israeli war crimes, as they did in Libya?
President Obama will protect Israel from any accountability by wielding his veto.
The Reagan administration in the US and the Thatcher government in the UK initially blocked UN attempts to impose sanctions on South Africa under apartheid. Favouring a conservative government against the threat of communism, they instead pursued an approach of "constructive engagement". In 1986, however, the US Congress overrode President Reagan's veto of the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act, which banned all new American trade and investment in South Africa. This proved a catalyst for other governments to introduce similar sanctions, pressuring South Africa to repeal its apartheid laws and release Nelson Mandela.
And that is one of the reasons for the mess in the Mideast. The Israeli leadership is completely fearless because it knows that the US will protect it no matter what it does, up to and including calling high American officials terrorist sympathizers.
Israel is not a guarantor of the principles of respect for life and the elementary precepts of rights that govern the peaceful and harmonious coexistence of our international community.”
Evo Morales , President, Bolivia
The truth is that Mr. Obama could end the madness fairly easily. He could just abstain when the UNSC votes sanctions on Israel for its violations of international law.
International publications show the number of children killed in Gaza
International publications show the number of children killed in Gaza . Soo Soo Kim/The World Weekly
During the 2008-9 Operation Cast Lead the UN Security Council approved a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire. The US abstained from voting because, as former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice explained, it wanted to see how efforts from Egypt played out.
The European Union has forwarded the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the US, as an American sphere of influence. The US congress and government more generally, in turn, has been bought and paid for by the Israel lobbies, including the “Christian Zionists.” Unless and until counter-lobbies are formed that effectively contest with AIPAC for influence over US representatives, the problems in the Mideast are unsolvable.
Juan Cole
Opponents of Israel's military operation in Gaza are the real enemies of Middle Eastern peace
25 September 2017
Opposition to Israel’s military operation against Hamas is the greatest threat the international community poses to peace in the Middle East.
Implicit in the promise of the two state solution has always been a concomitant understanding: that, if attacked, Israel would have broad international support to strike back under its inalienable right to self-defence as enshrined in Article 51 of the UN Charter.
Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, but subsequent barrages of missiles against Israel have met with indifference by the international community. Hamas’s quotidian commission of war crimes nets them a global shrug or rap on the knuckles – another example of the soft bigotry of low expectations. 
The UN has gone further – by all accounts, it has actually aided and abetted Hamas’s creation of a terror statelet – most recently, by storing rockets in UNRWA schools, and, when “discovered,” handing those rockets back to Hamas to fire at Israel.
In stark contrast, Israel’s targeted retaliation against Hamas’s rocket and terror infrastructure has been greeted by the usual cavalcade of media and diplomatic opprobrium, and the steady march of protesters the world over yelling, “Death to the Jews!” and “Hitler was right!”
A poll conducted by Mina Tzemach shows that 86.5% of Israelis are opposed to a ceasefire with Hamas “because Hamas continues firing missiles on Israel, not all the tunnels have been found, and Hamas has not surrendered”. The findings suggest that despite the extremely small number of Israeli civilians killed by Hamas rockets, Israelis continue to adopt a siege mentality, believing their country faces a similar kind of existential threat as it did when bombings were a frequent occurrence on Israeli soil and it faced invasions from neighbouring Arab countries.
I advise a member of the Israeli Labor Party, the party of Yitzhak Rabin. The Israeli peace camp has spent years convincing the electorate that the security risks inherent in handing the Palestinians the West Bank are outweighed by the likelihood that territorial withdrawals, and peace with a Palestinian state, would lead to “peace dividends:” moderation, trade, and, above all, a disincentive against terrorism.
Israel regarded its withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 as a trial balloon for this theory. After the Second Intifada years of bloodshed, during which much of the electorate concluded that the Palestinians would never accept the state of Israel as a fait accompli, the “disengagement” from Gaza was an opportunity to turn the tide back – toward compromise, mutual dialogue, and constructive engagement.
Gazans could have built the nucleus of a state and given a decisive boost to Israeli peaceniks agitating for a final status agreement, including a pullout from the West Bank and full Palestinian statehood. Instead, Hamas took over and turned the Strip into a giant rocket launching facility.
Would you, a private citizen of Great Britain not demand your government to defend you against enemy (sic) shooting rockets at London? You actually did, and in response, your government firebombed the German city of Dresden and annihilated millions of civilians across Germany.”
Ayelet Shaked , Knesset member, Israel
The international community fully supported the disengagement. The ideological right wing vehemently opposed it, arguing that extremists would set up a terror statelet in Gaza and launch mass attacks against Israel. These concerns were laughed off by moderates and progressives, who thought “patently ridiculous” the idea of Hamas being able to fire even on the southern city of Ashkelon – much less Tel Aviv.
Fast forward nine years. Thousands of rockets later, the right wing’s doomsday scenario has become a surreal, nightmarish reality. The right wing claimed that the rockets would one day reach Tel Aviv. Laughable in 2005, Hamas achieved this by 2012, and, as of last week, Hamas had two-thirds of Israel’s 8 million citizens in bomb shelters, its projectile power stretching as far north as Haifa.
In this context, the FAA shutdown of flights to Ben Gurion International airport, following a Hamas missile strike on a civilian house in nearby Yahud, was a game changer.
Never mind that Hamas committed a war crime, and had been explicitly broadcasting its intent to hit Ben Gurion for weeks. Even more critically, Hamas nearly hit the airport from a distance of 70 kilometres, while withdrawal from the West Bank would bring Palestine’s borders to within 10 kilometres of Ben Gurion.
Hamas has done enough damage to the prospects of a two state solution with its violent rejectionist extremism. But the death knell for future peace efforts may well be the international community’s reflexive opposition to Israel’s operation in Gaza.
While many of the Arab states “get it,” and the EU’s statement yesterday was heartening (though unreported anywhere but in Israel), as soon as civilians began dying in Gaza, we saw lukewarm support drop to mild opposition, with that opposition only rising with today's UN Human Rights Council’s decision to establish a commission of inquiry on "war crimes."
Withdrawal from the West Bank is a lynchpin of any two state peace proposal. That will require an enormous security gamble on Israel’s part. Israel must know that the international community would not tolerate a single mortar fired on Israeli territory, because, as we’ve seen, just one projectile can shut down air traffic and bring the economy to a screeching halt.
However, since 2005, the world has blithely watched, indifferent, as literally thousands of mortars and rockets – often at a “low” weekly rate – have been fired on southern Israel. Now, Hamas has fired rockets at Ben Gurion airport, yet somehow it is the Israelis being castigated for retaliating.
The problem is that there are two sides to every coin, and it is very difficult to be objective and show both sides. We are not the only ones who are good and just. It’s the same on the Gazans' side.”
Dov Hartuv , Kibbutzim, Israel
The world’s pathetic reaction to Hamas’s aggression is beginning to crystallize the right-wing turn in Israeli politics. You are killing the peace movement in Israel with your unthinking opposition to Israeli self-defense. How can Israel possibly risk a West Bank withdrawal when its army's frankly restrained response to 2000 rockets being fired at its cities from Gaza by terrorists is the subject of "disproportionate" global condemnation?
The late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s motto was to “fight terrorism as if there is no peace process and pursue peace as if there is no terrorism.” The world cannot push Israel to adopt just half of Rabin’s motto. If the international community is serious about getting to a two state peace, it must encourage Israel to pursue peace as if there is no terrorism, but it must also stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel in its fight against terrorism regardless of the state of the peace process.
Gabriel Sassoon
31 July 2014 - last edited 31 July 2014