Stanley's blog

In interpreting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s long speech of 22 March, the audience – the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) – has to be taken into account.

Her support for Israel was effusive:
• The relationship between the US and Israel has never been more important.
• The US has long recognized that a strong and secure Israel is vital to its own strategic interests.
• Forces that threaten Israel also threaten the US.
• When the US strengthens Israel’s security, it strengthens America’s security.
• The two countries and its peoples are bound together by the shared values of freedom, equality, democracy, the right to live free from fear, and their common aspirations for a future of peace, security and prosperity.
• “God bless you. God bless Israel and God bless the United States of America.”

Fair enough, except that the shared values of freedom, equality and the right to live free from fear, also apply to the Palestinians.

Clinton praised Prime Minister Netanyahu in Jerusalem last autumn and elsewhere for placing a moratorium on new residential construction in the West Bank. She “underscored the longstanding American policy that does not accept the legitimacy of continued settlements.”

The Secretary of State explained that American devotion to the need for negotiations to be built on a foundation of mutual trust and confidence, led the condemnation by the US of the announcement of plans for new construction in East Jerusalem.

“New construction in East Jerusalem or the West Bank undermines that mutual trust… And it exposes daylight between Israel and the United States that others in the region hope to exploit.”

The rhetoric is fine but the US (and others) have allowed to illegal settlement building to go on for 30 years. This is the one issue that is indisputable (except by the ultra-Orthodox). What does the US now plan to do in the light of Netanyahu’s continued defiance?

Secretary Clinton was highly nuanced in her reference to Jerusalem:
“We believe that through good-faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome that realizes the aspirations of both parties for Jerusalem and safeguards its status for people around the world.”

Does Washington believe that East Jerusalem should be the capital of Palestine?

She also said that she continues to expect Israel to demonstrate “respect for the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians, stopping settlement activity, and addressing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.”

It is easy to conclude that this speech confirms a US support for Israel which prevents peace because, in practice, it supports the Israeli government’s uncompromising behaviour. I believe that it gives the following message:

• New construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank must stop.
• Israel must address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
• Israel must ultimately accept East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.

With the Healthcare bill behind him, President Obama can now address the absolute need to stop settlement construction. Will he?

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