Although both Arafat and Sharon are key obstacles to peace in the Middle East, many fail to make a critical link with a third party that is also responsible, the United States. The truth of the matter is that, without the U.S.’s unwavering support, Israel would have compromised and ended its occupation long ago. I remain regrettably convinced that the U.S.’s unconditional support for Israel has made, and continues to make, a bad situation much worse. I am writing this article in the spirit of peace, and my criticisms of Israel are not aimed at “scoring points” and playing the blame game. If there is anything you should know about the Middle East, it should be the fact that both sides have done their share in contributing to the cycle of violence and revenge
Suffice it to say that as far as the U.S. is concerned, no other country comes close to Israel in receiving more military, economic or political support. Even though Israel has a well-advanced economy, it continues to receive more U.S. aid than all of Sub-Saharan Africa. This support has nothing to do with Israel being a democracy, especially since there are more than three million Palestinians under occupation with no citizenship or voting rights whatsoever. Neither is Israel in desperate need of military assistance, that is unless it really needs those F16s and advanced Apache helicopters against a civilian population armed with a few Kalashnikovs? Yet even if we choose to ignore the fact that American-supplied Apaches and F16s are illegally being used to collectively punish the Palestinian population as a whole, the argument still holds.
What is imperative is the unequivocal political backing that Israel enjoys from the U.S. The implications go far beyond what five billion US dollars do every year; they extend to the heart of the Israeli political posture as well. Israel is less likely to compromise or end the occupation when it knows that the world’s superpower is right behind it. From vetoing U.N. resolutions condemning Israel and its occupation, to blocking any sort of international intervention or fact-finding commissions, the U.S. has consistently ensured Israel a politically cost-free occupation.
The U.S. has given Israel the green light to take revenge collectively on the whole Palestinian population, from house demolition and tank bombardments to endless sieges and inhumane curfews to the house arrest of its leaders. The Israeli policy of harsh retaliation and collective punishment has only further enraged an already desperate Palestinian population. It is truly astonishing that the U.S. is still fully backing Israel, even as it fully knows that Sharon’s policies are counterproductive and embody no formula for peace whatsoever. Even as the Israelis themselves are beginning to understand that the use of force will not solve the current conflict, the U.S. nevertheless continues to unequivocally support Israeli policies and counter-reprisals. Just to get a sense of how deep American support for Israel runs, I urge you to pick up any American newspaper that you believe is respectable and read a story about the events in the Middle East. First, you will quickly notice the extreme disparity of attention/coverage given to Israeli casualties over the Palestinian ones. But what is perhaps more bewildering is that if you were to compare coverage with that of any major Israeli newspaper, you will find that the Israeli reporting is much more critical of their government and its policies against the Palestinians than any American newspaper.
Now, take this already skewed situation and add the world’s only superpower to the already more powerful side and you will precisely see the picture of how things are today. The unequivocal American support has allowed Israel to explore and maintain policies that are mainly held by rightist elements and which are clearly not conducive for peace. Expropriating land and building settlements in the midst of Palestinian towns serve as excellent examples. The U.S., after strong international pressure, only went as far as prohibiting Israel from directly using American aid toward the building of settlements. Does Israel really want to annex the West Bank and Gaza with more than three million Palestinians living in them? What about the Jewish character that Israel consistently uses to argue against allowing the 1948 refugees from going back to their homes? The implicit goal of the occupation, at least as advanced by the right, is to make life so difficult for the Palestinians that they will simply pack up and leave. Yet regardless of whether you think that the Israeli policy is morally right or wrong, the fact that its success is highly unlikely is sufficient to warrant its end. If the United States truly wants to see peace in Palestine, it should no longer accept the zero-sum analysis that is consistently advanced by Israel and carried through by the powerful Israeli lobby.
Laith Rabadi is a political science major, and Fadi Amir is a UCLA student.