What Being a Friend of Israel Means

DAN-CHYI CHUA
Mar 10, 2010
*Special to asia!

When Israel announces it's built more settlements in the West Bank during the US Vice President's visit, the Obama administration shows just how much it is willing to let Israel get away with.

This must be a particularly sweet morning for Sarah Palin. 

Back in 2008, she fumbled through foreign policy opposite Joe Biden during the Vice-Presidential debate, during which they spelt out their positions on the Israel and Palestinian problem.

There she stood, listening to the former Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee gush:

“No one in the United States Senate has been a better friend to Israel than Joe Biden.”

Fast forward to March 9, 2010.

Good friend Biden is on his first state visit to Israel as the Vice President of the United States of America. He outranks recent frequent American travellers to the city like Obama's Middle East envoy George Mitchell and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. And in its gesture to welcome him, Israel goes and slaps him in the face.
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The engines on the official plane that flew him across the Atlantic probably have not even had time to cool down, when Israel's Interior Ministry announced that it would be building 1,600 new homes in the West Bank.

This, by the way, is exactly what the Obama administration denounces. Or rather denounced.

In May 2009, Clinton spelt it out for the Israelis.

“With respect to settlements, the president was very clear when Prime Minister Netanyahu was here. He wants to see a stop to settlements.”

Then six months down the road, a spectacular about-turn, cloaked in convoluted language.

... That Israel is doing this is no surprise... What is disgraceful is the American response to it.

"What the Prime Minister (Netanyahu) has offered in specifics of a restraint on the policy of settlements which he has just described - no new starts for example, is unprecedented in the context of prior to negotiations.

"It's also the fact that for forty years, Presidents of both parties have questioned the legitimacy of settlements, but I think that where we are right now is to try to get into the negotiations. The Prime Minister will be able to present his government's proposal about what they are doing regarding settlements which I think when fully explained will be seen as being not only unprecedented in response to many of the concerns that have been expressed." 

The bottomline: the US does not even consider settlement freeze a “pre-condition” for Israel-Palestinian peace talks.

It was a far cry from her earlier sentiments on settlement-building in the West Bank: 

"Clearly this kind of activity is unhelpful and not in keeping with the obligations entered into under the 'road map'," as the Israeli-Palestinian peace plan is known.

Just what is the problem with settlement-building in the West Bank?

For a start, it is illegal under international law. 

The West Bank is considered territory occupied by Israel, which should form a part of the future Palestinian state. Right now, Israel contends that it needs to retain control of some parts of the West Bank because of the Jewish settlements that sprung up there after the 1967 war, after it annexed the West Bank from Jordan.

And here is the small print that seems to have escaped most newspaper reports.

The construction that has been so widely reported as being in the West Bank is actually in the eastern part of Jerusalem, a predominantly Palestinian-inhabited part of the holy city, which the Palestinians want as the capital of their future state.

dan-chyi chua

Dan-Chyi Chua was a broadcast journalist, before forsaking Goggle Box Glitz for the Open Road. A three-year foray led her through the Middle East, China, SE Asia, Latin America and Cuba, and she's now grounded herself as a writer for theasiamag.com, content with spending her days in Jerusalem.

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