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News & Analysis > All
News & analysis from Proletarian Internationalist Notes—news, reviews and analysis from a global perspective
Same old real news: Obama does nothing for the two-state solution
December 13, 2016
American President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet selection process has been making the front page. It is understandable and not just because it is Trump’s cabinet. Whether a choice will make a difference in American policy or not, the world has an interest in studying Trump’s defense and state secretary choices so it can be prepared to handle them in diplomatic and media settings. Despite its Syria debacle the United States isn’t yet in such a position of weakness for negotiations, though, that it would stop carrying out certain policies, regardless of who ends up being chosen and confirmed as Secretary of State. That includes a policy of dividing and weakening Muslim oil-producing countries both Arab and non-Arab.
Alternatively, many still remember Richard Nixon as “Tricky Dick” not just for Watergate. They remember Nixon as someone who had an aggressively ant-communist reputation and supported the reactionaries in Chinese Taiwan before there was “Nixon goes to China” and the Shanghai Communiqué. So even an anti-Russian choice for the Oval Office or the Cabinet Room today could appear to change contrary to reputation, making Trump’s cabinet picks before the inauguration less consequential than they seem. Trump is more of an epiphenomenon than most realize.
In the case of Obama before eir election in 2008, there were for example news articles with titles such as “Allies of Palestinians see a friend in Obama.” Even in 2016 there is self-deception along those lines, but it should be obvious that Obama has failed those who had perceived/claimed Obama was sympathetic. Both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine people did find things to like about Obama, though, so there hasn’t really been much of a surprise.
Obama made several anti-Saudi statements before 2008 and then amerikan-Saudi relations deteriorated toward the end of eir presidency, for example with the passage of the anti-Saudi, anti-Arab JASTA law that even Iran has cited as evidence of amerikan untrustworthiness. Obama’s symbolic, overridden JASTA veto didn’t do much after Obama laid the groundwork years ago. It is true the united $tates never really was a close friend of Saudi Arabia in the first place.
Whether Trump turns out to be more hostile than Barack Obama to Russia, or not, the writing has been on the wall for Saudi Arabia’s most diehard Amerikan collaborators since Obama was quoted nine months ago as President publicly severely criticizing Saudi society, calling Saudi Arabia a “free rider,” and doubting its friendship. (The New York Times years earlier was publishing pieces questioning – in the context of 9/11, the so-called Arab Spring, and emerging u.$. energy independence – Saudi Arabia’s status as a friend, as a stabilizing force, and even as a second-tier ally.) Obama was understood then as wanting to break with so-called foreign policy orthodoxy and being shackled by institutional constraints. Poor righteous Obama. Trump’s apparent willingness to upend or tinker with supposed tradition is arguably a continuation of something Obama started as part of adjusting how the united $tates dominates the Middle East. For that matter, the amerikans haven’t restricted their alliances to NATO countries at any time since NATO was formed, and there are ways for the united $tates to exercise hegemony, and prop up hegemony and amerikan influence, that involve less emphasis on NATO. In terms of numbers of people involved, the united $tates has already done more work with some non-NATO allies than with some NATO allies of comparable population size. So, there are different ways to view what Trump has said about NATO. For that matter, Israel is a “major non-NATO ally” unlike Saudi Arabia still.
The importance of Trump’s cabinet choices has thus been exaggerated or misunderstood. The real news, which is also more of the same from Obama, is that Obama’s own defense secretary of almost two years was in “Israel” the other day for the landing of the first of several dozen of the amerikan F-35 fighter jet that I$rael is getting.(1) That is according to AFP, Press TV, and many different other sources. (Carter’s attendance at the problem-ridden event was widely reported, which is probably why Trump talked about the F-35 program. It has nothing to do with Russian influence except for how ties involving the program are partly about countering Russia and possibly Russian support for the-state solution.) Ash Carter’s presence at the ceremony isn’t surprising. Obama three months ago approved a $38 billion, ten-year military aid package for I$rael. So much for the notion that Obama was going to do something for Palestine in eir last weeks in office. Again and again it has been disproved.
Many kept “hope” alive all these years. They were stupid, callous or reactionary enough to support illusions about Obama and u.$. leadership even after the war criminal succeeded in overthrowing and assassinating Muammar Gaddafi (Qadhafi) toward the end of 2011. Obama had announced eir re-election bid in April 2011 just days after taking credit for leading the Western bombing and invasion of Libya, in the midst of having to justify u.$. involvement prior to the “transition” to NATO formal command and control.
Regardless of “fake news,” Russian influence, or the actual likelihood of war with Russia, some AmeriKKKans voted for Obama accomplice Hillary Clinton despite their own belief that a vote for Clinton could be a vote for war between nuclear-armed countries. Matters of war and foreign affairs just weren’t a priority for them, not one more important than various amerikan citizenship privileges. In the case of paranoid anti-Russian jingoism bordering on conspiracy theory and risking a nuclear event for the sake of an economic or social benefit, the mass delusion or self-centeredness involved could verge on being psychotic or pathological.
Whether by intention or in spite of it, Jill Stein’s recount effort giving more votes to Trump has succeeded in getting more people on the same page regarding Trump’s inauguration weeks from now and Trump’s legal claim to the presidency. No Democrat really has a chance of being elected to the u.$. presidency when the Electoral College votes on December 19, and neither Barack nor Michelle Obama is openly running for any office though a future Senate bid isn’t impossible. It is possible to view Trump negatively without viewing Obama positively, and yet Obama continues to have extremely high job approval ratings among the demographics that are supposed to be the base for a change in I$rael/Palestine policy that never happened under Obama and won’t happen. Even if it could somehow happen under Trump, those demographics may not support it.
As of the week ending on December 11, 63% of those who seldom/never attended church approve of how Obama is doing eir job (Gallup Obama weekly job approval). (Many such people might be expected not to favor Israel. Although, the idea that Western atheists would attach much value to a Muslim or Jewish state, other than in the most opportunist way, was never really believable. And atheists are susceptible to secular arguments in support of right-wing Israeli policy.) So did 95% of liberal Democrats approve of Obama’s actions, 87% of liberals, 92% of Democrats, 68% of those with less than US$2000 in monthly income, 65% of those with postgraduate education, 82% of nonwhites, and 73% of the 18-29 age group. Obama’s job approval rating has increased among many different demographics since mid-June. There will relatedly be much support for Democratic candidates and leaders who still won’t do anything for Palestine after Trump’s presidency ends.
In terms of maintaining popularity and political capital, Obama can just run out the clock. In the days before Obama leaves office, there almost certainly isn’t going to be an amerikan statement condemning West Bank settlements in the UN Security Council chamber or sudden u.$. recognition of the State of Palestine. Obama and other Democrats are too busy trying to convince amerikans that Democrats support u.$. strategic interests more than Republicans do – an approach to opposing Trump that looks especially bad now that Trump has been elected. Others are claiming to oppose Trump alleged fascism, and white nationalism or supremacism, by supporting theories involving former KGB officer Vladimir Putin and a larger external, Russian threat. Criticisms of Trump as not really “draining the swamp” are themselves populist and potentially fascist, but the anti-Russia hawkishness involving Democrats and liberals is particularly making it even less believable that u.$. policy change on Palestine is coming. Russia has relations with Israel that Iran doesn’t have and, also, some Palestinians support the so-called revolution against the Syrian government, but the amerikans and the Russians are at odds over the two-state solution.
That doesn’t mean nothing involving amerikan-Israeli relations can change. Amid Carter’s visit in “Israel,” Trump said that the F-35 program and cost were “out of control.” Trump was in the news more than a year ago for criticizing the Joint Strike Fighter program, after announcing eir presidential candidacy. The JSF program has been criticized by many, including Republicans, for years. Trump may have chosen the I$rael F-35 delivery as an occasion to criticize the program again. That wouldn’t be surprising given that Trump has a need to appeal to liberals and amerikans concerned about business interests: Trump’s own but also others’. Trump wants to appear as a check against big corporate influence in general. Billionaires may be in Trump’s cabinet obviously, but particular business interests won’t get in the way of ending a deal with Iran or prevent Trump from helping to make a celebration of F-35s look bad.
Many Democrats, populists and so-called leftists have alleged I$raeli control over u.$. foreign policy and spoken of I$rael as a burden to amerikans. They seemingly haven’t realized that I$rael’s function as an appendage of the united $tates has taken priority over the goal of having a Jewish state with more stability and regional peace. Many non-Jewish amerikans who weren’t Christian-Zionist never really cared about the Jewishness of Israel except as a justification for amerikan policy. Many commentators have noted the coincidence of Trump’s Twitter remarks with the F-35 delivery yesterday, but some may not be inclined to talk about how Trump’s remarks may relate to a critique of amerikan-I$rael relations. The critique may appeal to various people without really changing anything.
Boeing-, Lockheed Martin- related criticism differences
There may seem to be nothing remarkable about Trump’s words about the F-35 program after criticizing Air Force One development costs. Both the Boeing Company and Lockheed Martin are arms manufacturers – the two largest defense contractors in fact – and huge corporations. But, Boeing’s commercial airplanes division interests with Iran may be useful to the oppressed. Iran has ordered dozens of jetliners from Boeing. That makes it more difficult for the united $tates to withdraw from the JCPOA nuclear agreement at a time and on terms favorable to the united $tates. At least, Boeing’s current Iran airliner sales interests aren’t more reactionary than those of u.$. workers who may be worried about more-expensive gas, or other countries’ aircraft industry workers if sanctions relief leads to development of the aircraft industry in Iran for example.
Saying that is an admission of a few things, one being there isn’t much real class struggle going on in the united $tates involving an exploited working class. Some corporate executives and officers could be expected to behave in a predictable way that could be helpful in a context in which prospects for helpful u.$. working class action are considerably less clear, or dismal. Boeing doesn’t claim to be other than a multinational corporation that makes supposedly great commercial and defense products. Global corporations still have ties to particular nations, but there are situations in which they may support reactionary nationalism less than the workers in the country of headquarters do. Despite – and as a part of – benefiting from exploitive international trade with countries with lower wages and less development of capital, imperialist country workers have been at the forefront of efforts to impede the mobility of capital and labor.
Lockheed Martin’s interests with I$rael are less useful in that way. Criticizing the F-35 program could be perceived as criticism of the cost of supporting I$rael. Curiously, though, Trump’s talking about the F-35 program could be a way of saying something about amerikan-I$raeli relations that is not blaming I$raelis more than amerikans. Trump could have been opposing amerikans’ subsidizing various other countries’ purchase of the same jets, or opposing inefficiencies of amerikan government-industry ties while still supporting a military spending increase. Anyway, what people saw in the news is that DC area-based Lockheed Martin’s stock fell.
The Jerusalem Post seemingly reacted unenthusiastically to Trump’s remarks. “If Trump follows through on his comments, the 50 planes that Israel purchases in the next decade will be several billion dollars more expensive and will come at the expense of the purchase of other American weapons or will require increasing Israel’s defense budget. And the defense budget’s increase, as always, will come at the expense of health, education and welfare.”(2) The same article on JPost, however, ended with the question, “Is it indeed the best plane in the world, or does it have limited capabilities that fall short of the praises heaped on it by its advocates?” Trump’s remarks could thus be an excuse for I$rael to not buy F-35s.
I$raelis’ using amerikan aid and their own tax money to buy other things from the united $tates may or may not benefit amerikans economically. In any case, I$raelis wouldn’t get what they were planning to get if $38 billion can’t buy the same things. This may lead to some pressure for an adjustment in relations with other states.
The two-state solution and opposition to it today
Whether I$rael ends up having to spend money on other things or not, there is only so much Iran – no offense to its capabilities – by itself could do to support armed anti-I$rael struggle. Opposition to and rejection of the two-state solution, which the united $tates opposes in favor of a worsening status quo, is a runaway train that must be countered in political and diplomatic spheres.
Most formulations of the two-state solution involve a Jewish-majority (religious or secular) state in one way or another. Many in the world, including some in Iran, support a temporary two-state outcome on the Palestinian land including “Israel,” but support for a permanent two-state outcome is by definition Zionist. Leftism and socialism in Israel are for the most part phony leftism and phony socialism, as they are in most other imperialist formations today. Liberal Zionism, a term associated with certain trends in Israel and the united $tates, is no more or less than Zionism with some liberal features. Independently of what counts as liberalism or conservatism in Israeli society, there is still a left wing and a right wing to Zionism in terms of supporting the two-state solution versus supporting attempted ethnic cleansing and annexation of the West Bank to have an enlarged I$rael with a Jewish majority. (That is how some Israelis themselves view things.) In this sense, the left wing of Zionism includes some religiously conservative and pro-capitalist elements, some more conservative in some respects than secular Netanyahu and many of those justifying right-wing Israeli policy in purely secular and non-Zionist terms. Failure to understand this could lead to difficulties both inside and outside Israel.
Even Zionism of any kind that openly favors Jewish settlement of Haifa or Rishon LeZion, but acknowledges Palestinians as a distinct people, is less confusing than one-state proposals. It is less confusing than liberalism that claims not to have a Zionist identity but is noncommittal (verbally or in action) about Palestinian independence, ambiguous about Palestinian nationhood, supportive of amerikan secular leadership or Western models, and disposed to fusing with populism or promoting illusions about majorities in rich countries. Those proposals and that liberalism disguise colonialism as democracy, civil rights, and superior culture leading to some utopia. Zionism doesn’t claim to be other than a shameless scripturally inspired, exceptionalist ethnoreligious colonization movement with a notion of nationality encompassing Jews from various countries. One can criticize Zionism without being antisemitic, but drawing a relatively favorable distinction within Zionism has the additional benefit of weeding out people with antisemitism problems who are prone to obscuring the amerikans’ paramount interest and role in opposing the two-state solution. The antisemites outside Palestine who actively oppose the two-state solution, and don’t have relatives who were violently attacked by Jewish settlers, are worthless in the current struggle.
Some don’t draw such distinctions and speak of an Israeli settler colonialism while making comparisons to Apartheid. Whether there is explicit support for an inclusive one-state outcome or not, these comparisons are suggestive of the one-state solution or including a majority of the Jewish population of Israel in a new, “Palestinian” state. Despite the radical sound of much rhetoric about Israeli settler colonialism, discussion of settler colonialism in the same breath as the supposed merits of the desperate and impracticable one-state solution isn’t inconsistent. One of the supposed features of settler colonialism is its permanence relative to other types of colonialism. This means that, even if “settler colonialism” is the best way of characterizing conditions in Palestine, there may be no choice presented to the Palestinians. They may just have to accept it as First Nations in the Americans supposedly have to basically accept their current situation despite liberals’ talking about genocide and other history or current events. Although, among amerikans there seems to be more acknowledgment of smaller and more-divided First Nations’ nationhood and sovereignty than acknowledgment of Palestinians’ nationhood and ability to apply their right to self-determination.
Whether Azania (South Africa) provides an ideal example of settler colonialism or not, the comparison of Israel to the united $tates, and Azania or the Apartheid regime, is misleading. Despite some superficial similarities involving Britain and anti-British struggle, Azania, Israel and the united $tates ended up in different places. The Netherlands and Britain ruled Azania at different times and sent people to Azania who settled there. The Netherlands and Britain eventually developed large and consequential anti-Apartheid movements. Western powers that were holdouts in the anti-Apartheid struggle opposed Apartheid after the anti-Soviet rivalry that was an excuse for supporting the Apartheid government disappeared along with the Soviet Union itself. Azania is today part of Third World though it has elevated status with that grouping of countries. Western European settlers in North America became imperial powers in their own right unlike Azania. Today, the amerikans are a hegemonic superpower. Israel is an imperialist entity probably with its own nuclear weapons, but it isn’t the dominant one. Many of the Jews in Israel are from places like Russia, Romania, Iraq, Morocco, Yemen, and Ethiopia, but amerika is the master. The current Israeli formation is partly amerikan in character. It is common to assume Israeli independence from amerikan influence means pursuing settlement and annexation of the rest of Palestine or a more ferocious anti-Iran policy, but the amerikans have subsidized and enabled the settlement while using Arabs and terrorism as an excuse to make Israel dependent on them financially and preserve Israel as a giant amerikan military base. Israelis’ independence as settlers doesn’t necessarily mean opposing the two-state solution more than the amerikans do. If Israelis were to revolt against the amerikans, they might support the two-state solution more than they do now.
An Islamic Unity Week article published yesterday on Ayatollah Khamenei’s English website quotes an October 17, 2011, speech on the “the domineering powers” using differences to divide Muslim nations.(3) “They use this tool to create conflicts. They use it to foment discord. They turn brothers against one another. They magnify the differences and brush aside the common areas and unifying factors.” The article also quotes a September 7, 2016, speech criticizing Saudis over the Masjid al-Haram crane collapse incident and the Mina crowd collapse incident in September 2015. “It is the treacherous propaganda of westerners that wants to describe this as a quarrel between Shia and Sunni or a quarrel between Arabs and non-Arabs. This is one of their propaganda tricks, which is of course completely untrue. The issue is that they are an intra-Islamic group which is busy working as the enemy of the Islamic Ummah. Some of them do this knowingly and some do it unknowingly. The world of Islam should stand up against them. The world of Islam should express their hatred of them and of their masters, namely America, nasty England and faithless and immoral western powers.”
The same article, which contains “global arrogance and colonialism” and “global powers” with “scientific and technological power,” suggests unity with Saudi Arabia without naming it. The u.$. entity and England are mentioned explicitly, but not Israel. There is no reference to Jews. The word “Zionism” doesn’t appear in this particular article either.
Israelis are going to find themselves in the middle of a rivalry between the Russia and the united $tates, one that the world needs amerikans to lose. That can happen without nuclear war so having Russian Order of Friendship recipient Rex Tillerson as u.$. Secretary of State should be a cause for concern in more-vulnerable oil-producing countries but doesn’t look bad entirely. Israelis need to decide what is more important and what they are going to do. Continuing to collaborate with the amerikans in trying to sustain a worsening status quo that will end in another war in the Middle East, economic crisis, and still no real stability for a Jewish-majority state, is a horrible idea and counterproductive.
An opinion piece published on JPost last week puts it this way: “It seems that the decision not to decide [between peace and annexation] will continue for quite some time to come, but that is not a strategy to lead our nation forward, and it is certainly not the Zionist way.”(4) With respect, Gershon Baskin is mistaken to suggest most Arab leaders don’t care about what happens in Palestine, exaggerates the importance of bilateral, direct negotiations between the I$raeli entity and the Palestinians, and says some other things that are debatable. But Baskin is certainly right to consider the role of non-amerikan elites and hope “that the new American administration will tell us all that they will not come to our rescue with a new American-led peace initiative.” The idol that is amerikan leadership must be cast away forever by both Israel and the world. Israel should go where it needs to go even in the context of Iran. The idea that the united $tates acts to restrain Israel in a way that benefits the world hasn’t been helping. Among those emphasizing direct talks, there is a use for more voices like Baskin’s even as multilateral Middle East peace efforts not led by amerikans continue to be undermined.
There should be a secret channel to work on Marwan Barghouti’s release. Israeli elites and journalists already need to start preparing Israeli public opinion for Barghouti’s release. There are ways of achieving this in which Israel doesn’t lose face.
Some points about left-wing Zionism and the two-state solution are debatable, but hopefully the related objective of freeing Marwan Barghouti isn’t too difficult for the skeptical to support. The Palestinians as a whole have made it very clear they want Marwan Barghouti to have a leadership role and to be out of prison. Non-Palestinians actively opposing Barghouti’s release, getting in the way, or failing to support Barghouti’s release when they could easily do so, need to answer regarding the seriousness of their supposed support for the Palestinian cause.
International figure and bureaucrat Mahmoud Abbas has been criticized for not doing enough to support Barghouti’s release and support mass militant resistance, armed or unarmed. Abbas is a convenient target for criticism, an easy one. If Palestinians want a powerful uprising badly enough it will happen whether Abbas supports it or not, ultimately. According to some polls, many Palestinians in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank care more about economic issues (seemingly as if they were unrelated to the Palestinian nation’s independence and sovereignty struggles) than about Palestinian statehood, occupation, settlement activity, or the blockade. That can’t be blamed on just Abbas, the PA, Fatah, or Hamas. So there is a role for elites to play even in Palestine and not just because international support is lacking or because of global difficulties in advancing to another stage of struggle.
With regard to failure to support non-amerikan leadership on the amerikan-I$raeli colonialism issue and persevering in the two-state solution regardless of chosen tactical approach, it comes down to that some people don’t know what year it is. Even someone like Barghouti, out of context, could have been considered reactionary at multiple points in the past for supporting a Palestinian state alongside an Israeli state. However, there is no war today that could result in the establishment or destruction of Israel, and the united $tates has in one way or another hampered advancement of the two-state solution since the PLO started signaling it could accept it. Obama isn’t some kind of revolutionary for not getting Barghouti out of prison all these years, classifying Islamic organization Hamas as terrorist, contributing to supposedly undoable changes (“facts on the ground”) threatening peace, and not really supporting the two-state solution.
One day the u.$. entity in North America and the Israeli entity in Palestine will both be gone after a protracted struggle in which u.$. hegemony is dealt with first. In the interim the Palestinians already recognize Israel. So do Egypt and Jordan after going to war with Israel with thousands of casualties. The Palestinians have collectively decided to pursue state recognition now, and a majority of countries already recognize both Israel and Palestine as States. The Palestinians would be within their rights to invite in a multinational force to resist the wicked criminals settling in the West Bank, but things don’t have to be done that way.
More Israelis indeed have a decision to make. They can show mercy and justice, even just plain sense and sanity – or they can display something else. ◊
• “Pak religious leader: ‘unity’ only way to foil anti-Islam conspiracies,” 2016 December 12. http://www.irna.ir/en/News/82343232/
• “Qatar renews support for efforts to achieve just peace in Middle East,” 2016 December 1. http://www.qna.org.qa/en-us/News/16120109580016/Qatar-Renews-Support-for-Efforts-to-Achieve-Just-Peace-in-Middle-East
• “Judeh, French envoy discuss preparations for Mideast peace conference,” 2016 December 4. http://jordantimes.com/news/local/judeh-french-envoy-discuss-preparations-mideast-peace-conference
• “Iran signals its support for the two-state solution and Palestinian diplomacy,” 2016 November. https://github.com/pinotes/pinotes.github.io/blob/master/_posts/2016-11-01-news-Iran-two-state-solution.md
• “Fatah congress gives Marwan Barghouti a boost,” 2016 December. https://github.com/pinotes/pinotes.github.io/blob/master/_posts/2016-12-09-news-Fatah-congress-Marwan-Barghouti.md
“Can Taiwan trust Trump? Island fears becoming pawn between superpowers,” 2016 December 13. http://edition.cnn.com/2016/12/13/asia/taiwan-china-trump/index.html
1. “Carter arrives in Israel over Tel Aviv purchase of F-35s,” 2016 December 12. http://presstv.ir/Detail/2016/12/12/497617/Carter-in-Israel-to-celebrate-F35s-arrival-Avigdor-Lieberman
“Israel’s first F-35 jets land as Trump blasts costs,” 2016 December 12. https://www.afp.com/en/news/23/israels-first-f-35-jets-land-trump-blasts-costs
2. “Analysis: the F-35 fiasco and a Trump decision that could cost Israel,” 2016 December 13. http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Analysis-The-F-35-fiasco-and-a-Trump-decision-that-could-cost-Israel-475163
3. “Global arrogance sowing discord among Muslims since 2 centuries ago,” 2016 December 12. http://english.khamenei.ir/news/4438/Global-arrogance-sowing-discord-among-Muslims-since-2-centuries
“Leader’s speech to people of Paveh,” 2011 October 17. http://english.khamenei.ir/news/1570/Leader-s-Speech-to-People-of-Paveh
“Have the competence to be the custodians of the Two Holy Mosques,” 2016 September 7. http://english.khamenei.ir/news/4134/The-Evil-and-Cursed-Ale-Saud-Dynasty-Does-Not-Have-the-Competence “Another dimension of the issue is that we should know that in the incident of Mina and in similar incidents, powers supporting the House of Saud have a share as well. The Americans were not present locally on the issue of Mina. Nonetheless, their hands are dirty with the blood of our martyrs in Mina. It is with the American power and cooperation that those wrongdoing rulers can stand against the world of Islam in such a shameless manner and commit this great sin without uttering one word of apology. It is with their support that they can do so [audience chants “Death to America”]. Therefore, they have a share in this as well.”
4. “Encountering peace?” 2016 December 7. http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Encountering-peace-Encountering-peace-474737