Revolution #234, May 29, 2011

The U.S.: Sticking By and Stuck with Israel

Much is being made of the fact that in his May 18 speech on the Middle East, Barack Obama said, “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.”

Immediately after Obama’s speech, Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu publicly expressed outrage and reminded Obama that successive U.S. administrations, Democrat and Republican, have not called for Israel to withdraw from territory beyond “the 1967 lines.”

Obama’s statement does illustrate tension between the U.S. and Israel. But it is critical to dispel dangerous illusions about the nature and potential in those tensions. They are within a framework of a highly interdependent relationship between U.S. imperialism and Israel. And there is no real justice of any kind for the Palestinians within the confines of what tension does exist between the U.S. and Israel, or within the U.S. ruling class over Israel policy.

For starters, the modifier “with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states,” means that whatever “authority” is recognized by the U.S. and Israel to supposedly represent the Palestinians is free to be bullied and bribed into giving up territory Israel wants in exchange for territory Israel might deem better handed over to this U.S./Israel-approved Palestinian authority.

Beyond that, “the 1967 line” refers to Palestinian territory seized by Israel through war. There would be nothing just about Israel maintaining control over territory up to that line, even if an Israeli withdrawal to that line occurred.

And Israel, as is noted elsewhere in this issue, has consistently arrogated for itself the “right” to invade, bomb, blockade, carry out assassinations within, and generally terrorize people in countries and territories beyond, its formal borders, including the Palestinian Authority-administered West Bank and Hamas-ruled Gaza. In 2009-2010, Israel massacred over a thousand people in a devastating one-sided “war” on Gaza.

Obama endorsed this whole situation in his speech. Immediately after his reference to the “1967 line,” he said: “As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself—by itself—against any threat. Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism; to stop the infiltration of weapons; and to provide effective border security. The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state. The duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated.”

And Obama reiterated that as a bottom line for any negotiations, “Israelis should know that their basic security concerns will be met.”

In short, even as there are real tensions over how to maintain Israel and its oppression of the Palestinians, there is agreement between every significant figure in the U.S. ruling class and the rulers of Israel that the present-day status quo, the state of Israel sitting on the blood and bones of displaced Palestinians, enforced by overwhelming Israeli military force, must continue.

As we wrote in our special issue on Israel, “It has not proven easy for the U.S. to broker a settlement that would integrate the Palestinians into some semblance of a stable situation, and, at the same time, satisfy what the Israelis see as their need for unchallenged domination and a thoroughly Zionist state. This has remained a sore point in the region and around the world, and as Israel resorts to more and more extreme measures to lock down the Palestinians, this contradiction becomes sharper.

“And yet, in profound ways, the U.S has not only stuck by Israel—it is stuck with Israel. Despite real problems and even significant differences at times, the unique ‘strategic relationship’ between the U.S. and Israel continues because, from the perspective of U.S. imperialism, there is no real alternative on the chessboard in terms of the role Israel plays in the Middle East and throughout the world.” (Revolution #213, October 10, 2010)

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