It’s hard to make me not feel proud about being from New Jersey. But this does:
That’s Robin Benosf of Teaneck, New Jersey (a mere twenty-five minutes from my hometown) laying the cornerstone for a new settlement in East Jerusalem. (Photo from the AP, via Mondoweiss.) As the American president and State Department declare their “dismay,” New Jersey citizens actively take part in expanding the reach of Israeli settlements in occupied land. Luckily, we can still claim Bruce Springsteen.
Meanwhile, the Obama Administration is seen as impotent when it comes to confronting the Israelis. An AFP story yesterday said:
The Obama administration is hardening its tone against Israel, but analysts warned Wednesday the tough talk was mere bluster hiding the lack of a viable plan to revive the Middle East peace process.
“You’ve had three ‘no’s’ to an American president in his first year,” Aaron David Miller, who has served as advisor on Middle East peacemaking to previous US administrations, told AFP.
President Barack Obama is now “faced with the default position, which is words,” said Miller from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
“And the louder they shout, the more there is a paradox. The tougher the words are, the weaker we look.”
But when I read that, I find myself thinking, “Well, if we give them about $3 billion a year, can’t we force them to take the most basic step necessary to keep the possibility of a two-state solution alive?” Obama should have more than “words” to fall back on when dealing with the Israelis. Obama and Hillary just need to kick the Israelis in the ass a little bit and then they’ll be forced to comply with our demands. Indeed, the US uses financial and military aid to impose its agenda all over the world.
But I think that Robin Benosf of Teaneck helps to show why it isn’t that simple. Many Americans (and not only Jews) support the Israeli right-wing’s agenda. A politician from New York was right beside Benosf at the founding of the new settlement. Reuters reports:
Dov Hikind, a member of New York state’s assembly, looked out over Jerusalem’s Old City and dismissed the “extreme” view on the matter taken by his party’s president.
He urged fellow American Jews to buy homes on occupied land rather than in traditional U.S. vacation spots.
“I’m trying to get a whole bunch of my friends to actually buy,” said Hikind during a tour of settlement housing projects for several dozen potential U.S. investors.
“Rather than buying second homes in Florida, we want people to buy in Israel,” he said, having watched a foundation stone laid for an extension to the Nof Zion, or Zion View, settlement.
Palestinians, whose leaders declared this week’s Israeli government approval for more settlement building near Jerusalem a killer blow to peace, reject Hikind’s description of Nof Zion as “Israel,” as it lies on occupied land they want for a state.
But his views, shared by significant numbers of American Jews, many of them Democrat voters, are an indication of Obama’s difficulties in holding to his demands that Israel halt its expansion of settlements in the interests of a peace agreement.
With that kind of attitude holding sway in American politics, it’s understandable that Obama and his team are kind of impotent when it comes to pushing the Israelis. I don’t say this just to defend Obama. I’m generally disappointed in his lack of decisiveness across the board. But I think that this helps to contextualize the lack the of progress.