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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Obama and the Saudis

Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal has thrown down the gauntlet in front of newly inaugurated US President Barack Hussein Obama. This is from an op-ed written by the Prince in Thursday's Financial Times.
The incoming US administration will be inheriting a “basket full of snakes” in the region, but there are things that can be done to help calm them down. First, President Barack Obama must address the disaster in Gaza and its causes. Inevitably, he will condemn Hamas’s firing of rockets at Israel.

When he does that, he should also condemn Israel’s atrocities against the Palestinians and support a UN resolution to that effect; forcefully condemn the Israeli actions that led to this conflict, from settlement building in the West Bank to the blockade of Gaza and the targeted killings and arbitrary arrests of Palestinians; declare America’s intention to work for a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction, with a security umbrella for countries that sign up and sanctions for those that do not; call for an immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from Shab’ah Farms in Lebanon; encourage Israeli-Syrian negotiations for peace; and support a UN resolution guaranteeing Iraq’s territorial integrity.

Mr Obama should strongly promote the Abdullah peace initiative, which calls on Israel to pursue the course laid out in various international resolutions and laws: to withdraw completely from the lands occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem, returning to the lines of June 4 1967; to accept a mutually agreed just solution to the refugee problem according to the General Assembly resolution 194; and to recognise the independent state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital. In return, there would be an end to hostilities between Israel and all the Arab countries, and Israel would get full diplomatic and normal relations.
I'm going to stop there for one second. For those of you who believe that the 'Saudi plan' doesn't include flooding a dismembered Israel with 'Palestinian refugees,' please note the part I highlighted above.
Last week, President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad of Iran wrote a letter to King Abdullah, explicitly recognising Saudi Arabia as the leader of the Arab and Muslim worlds and calling on him to take a more confrontational role over “this obvious atrocity and killing of your own children” in Gaza. The communiqué is significant because the de facto recognition of the kingdom’s primacy from one of its most ardent foes reveals the extent that the war has united an entire region, both Shia and Sunni. Further, Mr Ahmadi-Nejad’s call for Saudi Arabia to lead a jihad against Israel would, if pursued, create unprecedented chaos and bloodshed in the region.

So far, the kingdom has resisted these calls, but every day this restraint becomes more difficult to maintain. When Israel deliberately kills Palestinians, appropriates their lands, destroys their homes, uproots their farms and imposes an inhuman blockade on them; and as the world laments once again the suffering of the Palestinians, people of conscience from every corner of the world are clamouring for action. Eventually, the kingdom will not be able to prevent its citizens from joining the worldwide revolt against Israel. Today, every Saudi is a Gazan, and we remember well the words of our late King Faisal: “I hope you will forgive my outpouring of emotions, but when I think that our Holy Mosque in Jerusalem is being invaded and desecrated, I ask God that if I am unable to undertake Holy Jihad, then I should not live a moment more.”
Not very subtle, is he?

Unfortunately, it seems that the Obama administration may accede to 'our friends the Saudis.'
Nadia Hijab, senior fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies in Washington, said the "choice of Mitchell sends a clear signal that the United States is going to be back to being an honest broker and will move away from being Israel's lawyer."

During the campaign, Obama was viewed with suspicion by some Jewish groups, so he took pains to repeatedly emphasize his strong support of Israel and its need for security. But, in an unguarded moment captured on tape during a private gathering in Cleveland a year ago, Obama challenged Jewish groups to allow for greater debate on Israeli actions.

"This is where I get to be honest, and I hope I'm not out of school here," Obama said in a transcript published by JTA, a respected news service on Jewish issues. "I think there is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel that you're anti-Israel, and that can't be the measure of our friendship with Israel. If we cannot have an honest dialogue about how do we achieve these goals, then we're not going to make progress."


Still, Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator, was struck by language that he felt conveyed "genuine empathy for the Palestinian predicament and for Palestinian dignity," because Obama addressed "the suffering of Palestinian civilians as an issue in its own right rather than as a derivative of Hamas behavior." Levy cited, as a contrast, a long list of statements by then-President George W. Bush and his secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, that repeatedly blamed Hamas for Palestinian suffering.

Levy said that with an Israeli election set in February, Obama is unlikely to tip his hand on the evolving U.S. policy toward the region. After the election, he said, "the first thing they might do is get tough on settlements."

New polls show the right-wing Likud party in position to win the most seats in the Israeli parliament, but Levy said paradoxically that might make it easier for Obama to put pressure on the Israeli government. A left-center government claiming to be eager to make peace usually wins a pass from U.S. presidents on settlements, while right-wing governments resistant to negotiations do not, he said.

In an interview from Jerusalem, Diana Bhutto, a former Palestinian Authority adviser, was pleased by the Mitchell appointment but said she found Obama's comments on the Palestinians wanting.

Obama said that "a future without hope for the Palestinians" is "intolerable." Bhutto said she was disappointed that he spoke of "hope" rather than "freedom," which she said would have made it clear the Palestinians are under occupation. Other oppressed peoples are always promised freedom by American officials, she said, "but Palestinians only get 'hope.' "
Daniel Levy, the son of Tony Blair's Middle East envoy, has zero credibility when it comes to reflecting Israeli positions. He was the only 'Israeli' interviewed for that article (the other 'Israeli' was ADL's Abraham Foxman who is clearly not an Israeli).

Had the Post bothered to interview someone who truly reflected Israeli positions they would have - probably off the record - expressed deep concern over where the Obama administration is heading. After spending eight years accusing the Republicans of being the party of big oil, it seems that the Democrats are the party of big oil after all and are preparing to do the Saudis' bidding. Why am I not surprised?

It will be interesting to see how Obama relates to Israel if we manage to install a right-wing government.


At 10:23 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl - my guess is the Obama Administration will use every device in the book and then some to undermine another right-wing Israeli government like the Clinton Administration did in the mid 90s to bring Labor back to power. Clinton was very popular in Israel. I just wonder how Israelis are going to react to Obama if he uses the Clinton strategem.

At 1:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I read crap like that Sado Arabian bilge, I react by thinking that Nuking The Cube may really be the only solution.


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