Netanyahu's Tantrum Continues, But Arab Americans Must Remain Committed to Palestine
BY: Nisreen Eadeh/Staff Writer
President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continue to exchange blows in the aftermath of the United Nations Security Council resolution on illegal Israeli settlements that took place on Friday. The UNSC resolution was introduced by New Zealand, Venezuela, Malaysia, and Senegal a day after Egypt succumbed to pressure from the U.S. and Israel to withdraw it from the table.
The nonbinding measure, hailed as a victory by Palestinians and the international community, demands that Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.” The resolution also declares that Israel’s settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories have “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.”
After lashing out at UNSC countries, cutting of aid, and recalling ambassadors and diplomatic envoys, Prime Minister Netanyahu claimed he had intelligence proving that the Obama administration orchestrated the resolution’s pass. The Obama team has fervently denied the accusation, but the sides seem braced for further tensions until President-elect Trump’s inauguration on January 20.
“Israel is a country with national pride, and we do not turn the other cheek,” the Israeli prime minister said in an apparent string of tantrums aimed at the United Nations – the international body which created Israel. “This is a responsible, measured and vigorous response – the natural response of a healthy people that is making it clear to the nations of the world that what was done at the U.N. is unacceptable to us.”
Israel, however, has nothing to lose from the measure but symbolic, diplomatic standing in the international community. Despite comments from Israel and its far-right politicians, the country seems undeterred by the loss. Only a few days after the vote, an Israeli official confirmed plans to build 600 new settlements in a Palestinian area of East Jerusalem. The homes will be the first installment of 5,600 new settlements coming in the future.
While the UNSC resolution is significant, it is a toothless measure that cannot hold Israel accountable for its actions by any means. A more punitive resolution would have included financial sanctions or a halt on settlement exports as consequences to Israel’s settlement activity. And yet, President Obama is being applauded for his courageous decision to allow the resolution to pass only three months after signing a 10-year deal giving $38 billion of military aid to Israel.
For eight years, Arab Americans have sat on the edges of their seats, waiting for President Obama to stand up for Palestinian rights. But for eight years, Israel has acted with impunity, building more settlements and receiving more American tax dollars than ever before. President Obama’s willingness to step away from the “special relationship” only during his last days in office signals just how weak his administration was in the face of Israeli pressure. Viewing Palestinians as people who deserve full human and political rights should not be a controversial opinion, but it has spurred more concern and statements from members of Congress and lobbyists than most domestic issues ever have.
For decades, America’s disillusioned perception of the conflict has made it impossible to build a Palestinian state or end the crushing occupation, and the United Nations has not been helpful, either. On numerous occasions, both the U.S. and the U.N. have called out Israel for its illegal activities and human rights violations, but no tangible mechanism has been put in place to create a Palestinian state or, at the very least, slow Israel’s colonization projects.
Not even Egypt displays the bravery required to stand up to Israel and assist Palestinians in the international community. After Egypt’s falter, who is left for the Palestinians to count on?
The Arab American community – bridged together by shared experiences and passion for the Palestinian cause – needs to remain Palestine’s best friend now and in the tough days to come. Groups such as the Arab American Institute, the American Federation of Ramallah, Palestine, United Palestine Appeal, various Palestinian refugee agencies, and others make Palestine a priority each day. They sit down in front of congressmen and ask them what they’re doing to help Palestinians. They reach out to the administration to remind them that America’s policy – the two-state solution – has yet to be achieved and they ask what’s being done to fix that.
The Arab American lobbying force is unparalleled to pro-Israel organizations, namely AIPAC, but by remaining vigilant in the defense and discussion of Palestine, the community will eventually find itself on the right side of history.
Resembling a child caught in a lie, Netanyahu will continue to hold loud tantrums in the General Assembly and U.S. Congress hoping to get his way. Meanwhile, this is the time that Arab Americans should ignore the theatrical distraction; get back to their work for Palestine; and remain confident in a bright future for Palestinians.