Amazing! While in Israel, an American vice president explicitly condemns an Israeli decision to build yet more homes, 1,600 apartments, in occupied Arab East Jerusalem. “I condemn the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem,” Joe Biden said. “It’s the kind of step that undermines the trust we need”. Yes, but…
They were only words. And they call to mind a comment made by Uri Avnery, the grandfather of the Israeli peace movement, in a piece he wrote for Tikkun on 23 September 2009, after President Obama’s call for a complete freeze had been rejected by Prime Minister Netanyahu.
“There’s no point in denying it”, Avnery wrote. “In the first round of the match between Barack Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu, Obama was beaten… In the words of the ancient proverb, a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Netanyahu has tripped Obama on his first step. The President of the United States has stumbled.” And Netanyahu had won in a big way. “Not only did he survive, not only has he shown that he is no ‘sucker’ (a word he uses all the time), he has proven to his people – and to the public at large – that there is nothing to fear: Obama is nothing but a paper tiger. The settlements can go on expanding without hindrance. Any negotiations that start, if they start at all, can go on until the coming of the Messiah. Nothing will come out of them.”
Whether or not Netanyahu himself had advance knowledge of the decision to humiliate Biden is not the point. It is that Biden and so Obama were humiliated, the president for a second time. And that begs my headline question – Can he, Obama, live with a third humiliation?
If the history of previous American attempts to give life to a peace process is a good guide, Obama will have no choice but to live with a third humiliation, and no doubt others, at least for a while. An explanation of why is offered in the Epilogue of the forthcoming Volume 3 of the American edition of my book, Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews. (The Epilogue is titled Is Peace Possible?) Explaining why Obama moved so quickly with his demand for a total settlement freeze, I put it this way:
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He knew something that all American presidents know about when serious initiatives for peace in the Middle East can and cannot be taken. (I know what that something is because one of them told me a few months after events had denied him a second term in office). Any American president has only two windows of opportunity to break or try to break the Zionist lobby’s stranglehold on Congress on matters to do with Israel/Palestine.
The first window is during the first nine months of his first term because after that the soliciting of funds for the mid-term elections begins. (Presidents don’t have to worry on their own account about funds for the mid-term elections, but with their approach no president can do or say anything that would cost his party seats in Congress. In Obama’s case that is going to be an extremely critical consideration because of the Democrats’ loss of the Massachusetts Senate seat, on 19 January 2010, to a Republican who had demonstrated his ability to read from Zionism’s script during the campaigning).
The second window of opportunity is the last year of his second term if he has one. In that year, because he can’t run for a third term, no president has a personal need for election campaign funds or organised votes.
And that calls to mind the words of an eminent Arab-American, actually a Palestinian-American, who knew Obama very well and, before the race for the White House entered its final, decisive stage, had private conversations with him. A few months before Obama’s victory, this gentleman said to a very dear friend of mine, “Don’t expect any real pressure on Israel from Obama until he is well into his second term.”
I am inclined to the view that after the mid-term elections of a second term, Obama could indeed be the president to do whatever is necessary to bring Zionism to heel in order to best protect America’s own real interests. But the prospects of him winning as second term don’t look very good at the moment.
* Alan Hart is a former ITN and BBC Panorama foreign correspondent who covered wars and conflicts wherever they were taking place in the world and specialized in the Middle East. Author of Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews. He blogs on www.alanhart.net and tweets on www.twitter.com/alanauthor