Monday, February 21, 2011

Forget Arab Democracy, Let’s Pretend It’s about Israel

For Immediate Release:
Contact: Anne Bayefsky
February 21, 2011

This article by Anne Bayefsky and Benjamin Weinthal appears today on National Review Online.

It is no coincidence that the Hezbollah-dominated Lebanese government, a non-standing member of the U.N. Security Council and an Iranian subsidiary, sponsored a resolution last Friday condemning Israeli housing construction in the disputed territories. The anti-Israel-resolution activity diverted the U.N. Security Council from passing resolutions against such authoritarian regimes as Iran and Libya for shooting their citizens and suppressing pro-democracy efforts.

Arab despots — and Iran’s regime — have a tried-and-true method for deflecting attention from their profoundly anti-democratic and repressive political systems: Formulate a U.N. resolution to condemn the Jewish State and its vibrant democracy. The fact that EU countries — for example Germany, which asserts that Israel’s national security is integral to German interests — joined the diplomatic assault on Israel is nothing short of a major body blow to the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.

The resolution placed the Obama administration in a bind, especially in light of its having made the U.N. the cornerstone of its foreign policy, notwithstanding the organization’s inability to define terrorism or stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and its anti-Israel obsession. But in the end, the president knew that the resolution would be a death knell to the peace process — because instead of negotiating over what are clearly final-status issues, like settlements, the U.N. would have decided outcomes in advance — so the administration vetoed the resolution (with “regret”) over the votes of the 14 remaining council members. But the mere fact that the resolution got this far is a stark indication of the Obama administration’s foreign-policy impotence.

President Obama consumed an hour on the telephone in an attempt to convince Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas to withdraw the anti-Israel resolution, but was snubbed, in what will surely be one of the more humiliating memories he takes from office. And the Palestinian leader isn’t finished. The veto in the Security Council now opens the door for a so-called resumed emergency session of the U.N. General Assembly. That would be almost the 20th time that the “10th” emergency session has been “resumed” since 1997. In all those years, there has never been a U.N. General Assembly emergency session on any other subject, genocides and horrors around the world notwithstanding. Abbas wants another one, which he will probably get, about Israeli construction.

The explanation U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice gave to the Security Council after casting her negative vote neatly captured the Obama administration’s Dr.-Jekyll-and-Mr.-Hyde approach to the Jewish State. Instead of taking the opportunity to mention the critical problems unfolding in the Middle East — the agenda item was called “The Situation in the Middle East, Including The Palestinian Question” — she labeled Israel’s home-building “folly and illegitimacy” and castigated our only democratic ally in the region as “devastat[ing] trust . . . and threaten[ing] the prospects for peace.” Make no mistake, Iran, Libya, Algeria, and the rest of the thugs brutalizing their populations took notice. After all, this took place in the U.N. body with ultimate responsibility for protecting international peace and security.

The U.N.’s pathological obsession with turning Israel into a diplomatic punching bag was well known before the vote. But there is no excuse for the United States, or Britain, France, and Germany, to legitimize the spectacle.

The EU’s bizarre and flawed fixation on settlement construction as the linchpin of Mideast peace turned absurd in the British, German, and French statement advocating a one-sided resolution rebuking Israel. It stated: “A way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of both states.” In short, while paying lip service to a negotiated resolution to the conflict, the EU unilaterally purported to settle one of the core elements to be negotiated.

The German move was an extension of its intemperate legislative language toward Israel. In 2010, the Merkel administration made no effort to convince members of its coalition government in the Bundestag not to agree to a resolution blaming the Jewish state for “violating the principle of proportionality” against the occupants of the Turkish vessel Mavi Marmara. The ship contained a hardcore group of jihadists whose only aim was to diminish Israel’s right to self-defense and create an Iranian port on the Mediterranean.

Israel’s ambassador to Berlin was apparently under the mistaken impression that the Merkel administration would likely reject the Security Council resolution. But the anti-Israeli writing was plainly on the wall. As a 2009 WikiLeaks cable from U.S. diplomats in Berlin reveals, Christoph Heusgen, a senior adviser to Merkel, urged the U.S to water down its opposition to the U.N.’s anti-Israel “Goldstone Report” in order to force Israel to freeze settlement construction. The dispatch from Heusgen, Merkel’s point man on the Middle East, ought to raise giant question marks over her oft-repeated declarations to the U.S. Congress and the Israeli Knesset that the Jewish state’s security is “non-negotiable” for Germany.

A day after German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle instructed his U.N. diplomats to add Germany’s voice to the round of condemnations at the Security Council, he traveled to Tehran and met with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. There were no statements about Israel’s security, Iranians dying in the streets, or Ahmadinejad’s grotesque denial of the Holocaust. Iranian dissidents speaking to AP called Westerwelle’s meeting “simply a disgrace.” “His meeting ignored the ruling regime’s terror, the people’s suffering,” they said.

British and French support for the resolution comes at a time when we are learning how deeply immersed both countries are with the dirty business of propping up unsavory regimes in Tunisia and Libya. WikiLeaks cables point directly to Britain’s role in releasing the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, in exchange for British energy giant BP’s right to access and develop Libyan oil. During the pro-democracy demonstrations in Tunisia, France’s foreign minister Michele Alliot-Marie offered a sophisticated French police-skills program to the security forces of now-deposed Tunisian despot Ben Ali.

It is long overdue for the EU and the U.S. to make good on their promise to leave the talks about all final-status issues, including settlements and territorial compromises, to the parties themselves. As of today, the EU has given the Palestinians no compelling reason to return to the bargaining table or get serious about living side-by-side with a Jewish state. Instead of obsessing over Israel, the time is now ripe to acquire a healthy obsession with democracy promotion in the Muslim and Arab worlds.

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