SULTANY: Another voice – as Israel moves right, Obama must become tougher 19Jan13 January 19, 2013


Illustration Photo by Amos Biderman

by Nimer Sultany    -   The Buffalo News   -    17 January 2013

Next week, Israeli citizens vote for the Knesset. Far right-wing parties expect to dominate even more than they have in recent years. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu exacerbated this trend by forming the Likud-Yisrael Beitenu list with Israel’s David Duke, Avigdor Lieberman. These are dire developments not only for Israelis and Palestinians but also for Americans.

The Netanyahu-Lieberman government has undermined regional peacemaking. Yuval Diskin, a recent head of the Israeli security agency, SHABAK, blamed this government for the lack of negotiations. Even though many Israeli officials recognize the current Palestinian leadership is the most accommodating partner Israel could ever hope for, Israel has continued its colonization of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

With the expected composition of the next Knesset, it is obvious that Israeli ruling elites reject the idea of a Palestinian state, even a diminished, demilitarized, discontiguous entity on less than 22 percent of historic Palestine. With the existence of separate roads, separate laws and disparate resources for Palestinians and Israeli settlers, many visitors to the West Bank are struck by the similarities to South Africa’s apartheid system. Simultaneously, Gaza remains under a cruel siege.

Despite the imposition of tight sanctions, Netanyahu’s government has been pushing the United States toward war with Iran. But the United States has been here before: The U.S. occupation of Iraq on dubious grounds devastated Iraq, destabilized the region and depleted U.S. taxpayers’ money. Consequently, a headlong American rush into war with Iran is far less likely.

The election outcome also threatens to undermine the Palestinian minority’s rights in Israel. This minority has undergone a process of ghettoization, relegating it to a separate and unequal status akin to Jim Crow.

The Arab education system is segregated from the Jewish education system from kindergarten to high school. Arab women’s employment rate is lower than in Saudi Arabia. Nearly 66 percent of Arab children inside Israel were poor in 2010.

The stakes in these elections are high. Uncritical U.S. support and enormous military aid for Israel have undermined peace prospects, backed the longest military occupation since World War II and allowed institutionalized discrimination against the Palestinian minority.

In 2008, President Obama rejected equating “pro-Israeli” with “pro-Likud.” Nevertheless, the first Obama administration’s policies have been pro-Likud, notwithstanding his personal disagreement with Netanyahu. His second administration should press Israel to end its colonial rule and discriminatory policies rather than again being pro-Likud.

Nimer Sultany is a visiting professor at Tel Aviv University and a postdoctoral fellow at the UB Law School.

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