THE AMERICAN DEBACLE AT THE UNITED NATIONS: A COMMENT
"The French leader, speaking from the famous green marble podium of the General Assembly barely an hour after President Obama, also said it was time to change the formula in trying to negotiate an Arab-Israeli peace, taking an indirect swipe at the United States by saying the efforts so far were a complete failure.
“Let us cease our endless debates on the parameters,” Mr. Sarkozy said. “Let us begin negotiations and adopt a precise timetable.”
The timetable he suggested is resuming the negotiations in one month, agreeing on borders and security within six months and finishing a definitive agreement within one year. The Palestinians have sought a specific timeline, suggesting that endless stalling was slowly erasing the chances for a two-state solution. In the meantime, if the Palestinian effort at membership faces a Security Council veto, the deadly reverberations will be felt across the Arab world, Mr. Sarkozy warned.
"Each of us knows that Palestine cannot immediately obtain full and complete recognition of the status of United Nations member state," he said. "But who could doubt that a veto at the Security Council risks engendering a cycle of violence in the Middle East?" The Palestinians currently have the status of an observer “entity” in the United Nations.
"Why not envisage offering Palestine the status of United Nations observer state?” said the French leader. “This would be an important step forward. Most important, it would mean emerging from a state of immobility that favors only the extremists.”
Recognition as an observer state would not mean much here except for some procedural changes, but it would allow the Palestinians to join subsidiary bodies and treaties of the United Nations. Alain Juppé, the French foreign minister, told a news conference that the Palestinian bid for full membership via the Security Council would proceed as expected, but that France anticipates that it is bound to fail given American opposition. In the ensuing weeks, France would work on refining its plan, which was based on four pillars, he said. First is changing the method, because that of the past decades has failed; second is to get the negotiations between the two parties started again as quickly as possible and without preconditions from either side; third is to establish a concrete timetable; and finally is to work on elevating the Palestinians to a full observer state in the General Assembly".
Neil MacFarquhar, "France Breaks With Obama on Palestinian Statehood Issue." The New York Times. 21 September 2011, in www.nytimes.com.
"The world, therefore, is facing at least 14 months with the United States being at best reactive and at worst non-responsive to events. Obama has never been a foreign policy president; events and proclivity (I suspect) have always drawn him to domestic matters. But between now and the election, the political configuration of the United States and the dynamics of his presidency will force him away from foreign policy. This at a time when the Persian Gulf is coming to terms with the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and the power of Iran, when Palestinians and Israelis are facing another crisis over U.N. recognition, when the future of Europe is unknown, when North Africa is unstable and Syria is in crisis and when U.S. forces continue to fight in Afghanistan. All of this creates opportunities for countries to build realities that may not be in the best interests of the United States in the long run. There is a period of at least 14 months for regional powers to act with confidence without being too concerned about the United States.
The point of this analysis is to try to show the dynamics that have led the United States to this position, and to sketch the international landscape in broad strokes. The U.S. president will not be deeply engaged in the world for more than a year. Thus, he will have to cope with events pressed on him. He may undertake initiatives, such as trying to revive the Middle East peace process, but such moves would have large political components that would make it difficult to cope with realities on the ground. The rest of the world knows this, of course. The question is whether and how they take advantage of it".
George Friedman, "Obama's dilemma: U.S. Foreign Policy and Electoral Realities." Stratfor: Global Intelligence. 20 September 2011, in www.stratfor.com.
The speech of the American President on Tuesday of this week was a complete capitulation to the pro-Israeli lobby (or more specifically its pro-Likuidnik / pro-settler elements). Pur et simple. There are no other words to describe his speech to the United Nations. Even for someone such as myself who did not expect very much from the USA in the last eighteen months prior to the November 2012, am surprised by the posture of American policy. As was pointed out in the Israeli periodical Haaretz, the fact that the ultra-hawkish Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman has stated that he could: "sign with both hands", the speech in question is most telling 1. Given this state of affairs it is not surprising that the French President has made an attempt (no doubt fruitless and indeed toothless) to break the American monopoly on Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. Unfortunately, in the absence of a united European position on the politics of the issue, it is quite impossible to imagine any change in the current impasse. Instead we have a situation where the Israeli military is preparing for potential mass violence on the West Bank 2. Something which underlines the essential bankruptcy of current American policy. I for one can only hope that any outbreak of violence is limited to the West Bank and does not involve any more serious ruptures in the wider Near and Middle East. This may indeed be a mere faut de mieux, but under the circumstances, such is indeed the plus ultra of peacemaking in the region for the next fourteen months if not longer. As Anne-Marie Slaughter who until recently served in the Clinton State Department as head of the Policy Planning Staff noted earlier this week, the potential for a complete breakdown in the region, with the resulting violence is now potentially within the realm of possibility:
"So, fine, let the US issue its veto. Then what? The move is likely to trigger violence in Gaza and possibly the West Bank; Israeli countermeasures risk igniting more anti-Israel demonstrations across the Middle East, particularly in Egypt, and possibly in Syria. In both cases a direct clash between the Israeli and Egyptian or Syrian soldiers in the Sinai or the Golan Heights is all too possible, with potentially catastrophic consequences....These are threats growing daily on the horizon. The move from threat to confrontation may seem unlikely, but remember the inexorable, deadly sequence of mobilisation that turned the assassination of an Austrian archduke into first world war. These things can get out of hand quickly" 3.
Is the Jewish vote in the next American Presidential election really worth the above consequences?
1. Natasha Mozgovaya, "U.S. Jews give Obama mixed reviews for 'pro-Israeli' UN speech." Haaretz. 22 September 2011, in www.haaretz.com; Tony Karon, "Why's Obama's U.N. Speech Won't Raise U.S. Credibility in the Middle East." Time. 21 September 2011, in www.time.com; David Gardner, "A Diplomatic bid to call Israel's bluff." The Financial Times. 21 September 2011, in www.ft.com.
2. Anshel Pfeffer, "Israel security forces braces for mass Palestinian protests in West Bank." Haaretz. 23 September 2011, in www.haaretz.com; Anne-Marie Slaughter, "Veto or no Veto, the Middle East is on the brink." The Financial Times. 22 September 2011, in www.ft.com.
3. Slaughter, Op. cit.