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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

The real issue: Obama

Tuesday marked the 62nd Israeli celebration of its own Independence Day. Its anniversary is important to more than its citizens, and it is not my aim to make any sort of the typical moral judgments about either Israelis or Palestinians. Rather, I am concerned with 1948’s relevance to Americans, which may soon be forced by President Barack Obama’s policies into the lives of Americans. The event stimulates different memories and reactions. It awakens feelings ranging from joy to sorrow and everything in between.

For the Zionists, Tuesday represented the establishment and political independence of the State of Israel. It also marked its subsequent survival in the 1948 War against anti-Zionist militaries aimed at conquering Palestine as the last piece of territory for a nation comprised of the former Ottoman provinces in Iraq and Syria. For those disadvantaged by that war, the day represented multiple unfortunate events and the establishment of a status quo consisting of an Israeli state and no Palestinian state — in sum, al-Nakhba, “”the Catastrophe.”” For the “”Western Powers,”” however, it was the incomplete conclusion of an effort to unburden itself of the political administration of Palestine. As the same powers can now attest in Iraq, such political commitments are costly indeed.

Western powers are still affected by this incomplete conclusion. Unfortunately, what is a remote concern for most Americans may fulfill its potential as a very serious problem as a result of some less-than-diplomatic diplomacy from both Washington and Jerusalem. This has developed into Obama’s explicit insult to Prime Minister Netanyahu, the solidifying White House position that East Jerusalem — land Great Britain, the League of Nations and Jordan all took over and lost control of — is unequivocally Arab land. The danger is that the Palestinians rightfully see this as de facto legitimacy and are likely to use it as a baseline for negotiations. It is doubtful anyone will be able to reverse this international concession of part of Jerusalem to the hands of an unconsolidated Palestinian infrastructure under what one would presume to be a Hamas-dominated government allied with, at least, Syria and Iran.

It’s no secret that Obama is willing to bargain softly with these regional players, so it would be foolish of them not to push for more concessions. Obama has already sacrificed multiple American friends in Eastern Europe and Taiwan in the name of fashionable “”diplomacy,”” so he might as well give up Israel in the same trendy vein.

But let’s return to a historical slice of Israeli independence. In 1948, under British passivity, anti-Zionist forces masked by pan-Arabism pushed the Arab states to war with Israel. Israel has legitimate fears that the fading of American power in the region, a Russia and China-backed nuclear Iran and a staunchly anti-Zionist international bloc could combine with these same anti-Zionist forces beneath the mask of newer fundamentalist ideologies to push regional states to war. True, the governments of these states are incomparably more secure than they were in 1948, but in the wake of two intifadas and the strongest delegitimization campaign Israel has faced since its establishment 62 years ago, it is quite arguable that anti-Zionism is more fervent than ever.

The issue is not about the merits of Zionism. Nor does it assert that Israel is facing impending doom, or that Iranians are bound to use their nuclear weapons for anything but deterrence and prestige. The point is that Obama’s explicit turn against an Israeli Jerusalem could ultimately push America towards militarily supporting Israel more than ever before in an escalating conflict in the center of the Eastern hemisphere.

In other words, what Obama has done with his staccato of unwise actions is spoil the ability of either side to reach an effective peace agreement. One should view his tactics not as an assertion of American interests in the face of some mythical ultra-Zionist lobby, but as presidential rhetoric — a limited tool for leverage in the conflict — designed to establish Israel generally and Netanyahu specifically as lightning rods for anti-Western sentiment. The sad fact is that Obama needs someone to blame for a plethora of foreign policies largely devoid of American success, when the only entity really willing to go along with the White House is Congress. Today, Israel is a small issue to the average American. Let us hope that things do not get worse over the following years.

—Guest columnist Dan Greenberg is a near eastern studies senior.

 He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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