What a wild week. On Sunday night at midnight, the Israeli “settlement moratorium” expired, leading to the inevitable question: Does it matter? (Spoiler alert: The answer is no.)
The peace talks will probably continue anyway. But the high-visibility crisis over settlements has raised the usual skepticism of the basis of the talks – international law, U.S. military aid to and diplomatic support for Israel, accountability and lack thereof, and why the Obama administration faces the sad likelihood that they will fail just like their predecessors to reach a just and lasting peace. The reason is hardly a secret – no spoiler alert needed: It’s that the U.S.-brokered talks are based on accepting as legitimate the vast disparity of power between Israel and the Palestinians, between the occupying power and the occupied population, and doesn’t challenge that power reality with a just peace based on international law and human rights. Until it does any talks, with or without a temporary partial settlement slow-down, cannot succeed. That’s what I talked about on Al-Jazeera’s “Inside Story” on Monday of this week.
It was also wild partly because last week was Obama Week at the UN, with major speeches both at the General Assembly and at the Millennium Development Summit the day before. In his UN speech, Obama focused on the Israel-Palestine crisis and international law, stating unequivocally that “international law is not an empty promise.” The problem is, his international law refers only to sanctions on Iran – when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, the words were nowhere to be found.
The U.S. wars are still continuing, of course. I was a guest on NPR’s The Diane Rehm Show a couple of weeks ago, talking about whether 50,000 “re-missioned” combat troops and 75,000 U.S.-paid mercenaries in Iraq still counts as occupation. I don’t think we need a spoiler alert for this one.
And this weekend will be the big One Nation Working Together rally for jobs, peace and justice here in DC. It’s important – the first major rally of progressives in a long time. It was called by key organizations, including the NAACP, AFL-CIO, National Council of La Raza, and a few others. We were in there from the beginning urging a strong peace component, keeping the focus on the links between the costs of war, the military budget, and the lack of jobs. We’ve been reiterating the harsh reality that President Obama’s escalation in Afghanistan – just the escalation – costs $33 billion. And that could be used instead to create 600,000 new green union jobs, with $3 billion left over to begin repaying our debt to the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan.
I hope to see many of you on the National Mall on Saturday.
Summits and Settlements
In the meantime, a few new articles in The Huffington Post, Yes! Magazine, and AlterNet.
“International law is not an empty promise,” Obama said – except for Palestinians.
At the UN, Obama called on the international community to mobilize behind the U.S.-led peace process. He called on the Palestinians to “reconcile with a secure Israel,” and waxed eloquent on the illegality of killing Israeli civilians. He called on the Palestinians’ friends to implement the Arab Peace Plan’s proposed normalization with Israel, without ever mentioning the plan’s clear understanding that ending Israel’s 1967 occupation must come first. And he called on Israel to… talk nicely.
Then the UN summit on development – the failure of the “Millennium Development Goals” requires turning goals and hopes and aspirations into rights. We need Millennium Development RIGHTS instead.
And finally, with the expiration of Israel’s sort-of moratorium on settlements, the question of whether it really matters at all.
Phyllis Bennis is a Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies and co-author with David Wildman of the new Ending the U.S. War in Afghanistan: A Primer.