Monday, October 4, 2010

Day 277- Why the peace talks will not continue

"President Barack Obama rises at the UN and calls for a further moratorium on building in the settlements, as if it’s a crime for peaceful people to have children and add rooms to warm and hospitable homes." Shmuley Boteach, Jerusalem Post

I'd like to know if the peaceful people of East Jerusalem having their houses bulldozed are entitled to these things? Or the Bedouins? Settlement expansion is part of the same manifest-destiny mentality that makes people like Mr. Boteach feel entitled to the entire West Bank. And I wouldn't call this an act of peace.

Dear Mr. President,

Rumor has it you've been writing your own letters lately. I don't know if this account is true or not, but I do believe that you are desperate enough to continue the peace talks that you would make the offer you're rumored to have made to Prime Minister Netanyahu. Increasing our aid money, our weapon sales, our UN-veto frequency in exchange for a 2-month extension on the settlement freeze might seem like a good deal. Let's be honest, the US was going to veto those resolutions, sell those weapons and send that money anyway. I'm sure you still will, and so is Netanyahu, which is why he rejected your offer. I suppose in this sense you had nothing to lose by making it.

But the nature of your offer to Netanyahu highlight the utter foolishness of our policy toward Israel. Unconditional veto of UN resolutions? What does that say about our respect for the UN, the Security Council, or the process of seeking international justice? That no matter what Israel does, the US will use our veto to defend it. I suppose I was foolish to think that your administration had more respect for the UN than the previous one, but it really is disappointing to see how little you care for the institution and its purpose. Your alleged offer makes it clear that Israel may commit whatever human rights violations it sees fit and count on US support. Just like your reaction to the Mavi Marmara. Or the Goldstone Report. Or the Gaza war. Just like your complete lack of outrage over the cold-blooded murder of Palestinian children by Israeli troops. Your policies make it impossible to defend your administration against those on the left who wonder what the point of voting is, any more.

So the settlements will expand. The peace talks will break down. You can't ask President Abbas to abandon his already fragile legitimacy for peace talks that Israel has done nothing to indicate sincerity about. I am sorry, if not surprised. This is why it doesn't matter if you really made that offer to Netanyahu or not. The US cannot continue to pretend to play an honest broker while being this cozily in bed with one side of these negotiations. If you are serious about peace, if you want to earn your Nobel or secure your legacy or if you honestly want to ease the suffering on both sides of this conflict and leave the world a little safer for Sasha and Malia than you have to cease the charade of neutrality. The US can be neutral, it can be an honest broker and can lead both sides to a just and peaceful future. But it has to be more than just lip-service. We have to end the funding of Israel's occupation forces and insist that the Israeli people pay the bill themselves. We have to end our unconditional defense of Israel to the world and base our positions on the values of the United States of America- respect for human life, human rights, and for international law. We have to stop selling weapons to a regime that targets civilians and stop giving tax breaks to us groups funding illegal settlements. If we can practice real neutrality, we can achieve real peace.

Respectfully yours,



  1. "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor."

  2. I agree with that. But we're talking about oppression that we actively fund and support. Becoming financially, militarily and diplomatically neutral would not also mean we couldn't criticize acts of injustice by either side. I'd just rather have us out of the fight than aiding the oppressors.

    Also, it's funny that my call for neutrality, were it ever implemented by a US President, would be decried by neocons as a betrayal of Israel. Everything I said in this letter is enough to ensure I'll never have a career in politics. Neutrality might not be the most moral position the US could take, but it would be so much of an improvement that even suggesting it is considered radically leftist.