What Being a Friend of Israel Means

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.

What this does is it tilts the demographic and territorial balance in Israel's favour when time comes to decide who gets what, and more importantly, who gets Jerusalem.

It's not very helpful during negotiations, but a useful ploy when you are trying to get more out of the final deal.

This is all very clever. That Israel is doing this is no surprise. After all, with all due respect to Israeli engineering, 120 official Jewish settlements and more than 280,000 Jews in the West Bank didn't quite spring up overnight.

What is disgraceful is the American response to it. 

Rewind back to that bright June day last year when Barack Obama stood in Cairo and spoke of “a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect”.

There he stated plainly, 

“The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.”

Far from it to doubt the sincerity of these presidential remarks, it may be more useful to realise that regardless of what was said and felt by the most powerful man in the world, there lie behind him forces more influential.

Washington is bid(en)ing its time on the issue of the Israelis and Palestinians. Is it not quite ludicrous to think Israel blindsided its most reliable ally on the visit of its Vice President, by announcing these controversial construction? The White House must have known.

Afterall, even without an official memo from Netanyahu, the rest of us common folks on the streets could have told him Israel's been putting up more Jewish homes in the contested West Bank. Plus, the construction site is an easy drive from both the US consulates in East and West Jerusalem.

What is probably closer to the truth is this: Sorry, Palestinians, you just ain't really a priority right now.

Biden met with key Jewish American leaders before he left for the Middle East. His purpose there was the same as another key goal of his visit to the Middle East: speak out against the threat of a nuclear Shiite Iran in the region. 

"The cornerstone of the relationship is our absolute, total, unvarnished commitment to Israel's security," he said at the start of his visit.

Iran is an issue that is critical not only to Israel's security. It threatens the stability of the region, affects the other American allies like Sunni Saudi Arabia, and Iraq where more than 90,000 US troops are still waiting to go home.

Sorry if “waiting to go home” is what the Palestinians are doing as well.

As Obama noted in his Cairo speech, 

“For more than 60 years they've endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and

neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead.”

Well, they will just have to wait a little longer. 

Biden may have condemned the construction of the settlements. Israel's interior minister may have apologised for the ill-timed announcement. But in the spaces between these empty words, Jewish settler homes are quickly sprouting up.


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.

Contact Dan-Chyi