Netanyahu’s response to Obama’s speech reveals Israel’s unconditional defiance of international law

In response to President Barack Obama’s statements concerning American strategy and outlook in Middle East, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected Obama’s stance on the conflict with the most illogical of arguments. Haaretz published a short article outlining his general response. Provided is the Haaretz article in full, supplemented by the reality that Netanyahu’s administration chooses to ignore.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday Israel would object to any withdrawal to “indefensible” borders, adding he expected Washington to allow it to keep major settlement blocs in any peace deal.

The first sentence of this article reveals Israel’s true role in the ‘peace process’. While the anti-Palestinian narrative involves blaming Hamas’ existence for the repeated failures of the most recent peace talks, it has purposely ignored Israel’s continued defiance of both humanitarian law as well as American policy. The United States has repeatedly called on Israel to end all settlement building within the West Bank on the basis that it directly contradicts humanitarian and international law. Striking up a peace deal does not elevate Israel above the law. Settlement building is illegal and it is clear that it remains a source for continued conflict. Even if peace talks continue to fall through, Israel should comply with the law and Netanyahu’s administration should not expect to keep any settlement blocs.

In a statement after President Barack Obama’s speech outlining Middle East strategy, Netanyahu said before heading to Washington that “the viability of a Palestinian state cannot come at the expense of Israel’s existence”.

Establishing a formally-recognized Palestinian state does nothing to Israel’s existence, especially if relegated to the 1967 borders. However, unless Israel’s existence is predicated on occupation, illegal land grabs, and the destruction of a Palestinian identity, than yes, a Palestinian state will come at the expense of Israel’s existence because the occupation, the land grabbing, and the destruction of Palestinian culture and identity will be forced to end, most likely under threat of UN-regulated sanctions.

“That is why Prime Minister Netanyahu expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004,” the statement added, alluding to a previous letter from Washington suggesting Israel could keep larger settlement blocs as part a peace deal with the Palestinians.

In 2004, Obama wasn’t President. He has yet to show the clear initiative toward justice and peace in the Middle East that many voters expected from him, but that does not mean that he is forced to abide by previous American agreements, especially those before his administration’s formation and specifically those that support the proliferation of international law abuses.

“Israel appreciates President’s Obama commitment to peace,” Netanyahu said, but stressed that he expects Obama to refrain from demanding that Israel withdraw to “indefensible” 1967 borders “which will leave a large population of Israelis in Judea and Samaria and outside Israel’s borders.”

Again, there shouldn’t have to be a withdrawal to 1967 borders. The Fourth Geneva Convention states that it is illegal for an occupying entity to transfer any of its population into occupied land. The “large population of Israelis” (otherwise known as settlers) that Netanyahu alludes to should not have been allowed to establish virtual Israeli colonies in the West Bank. Israel, which claims to be the beacon of democracy and the most moral and law-abiding country in the region, should have ensured that none of its citizens would be in violation of the law.

The tough stand could set the stage for a tense meeting Friday when Netanyahu goes to the White House.

I suppose that during the meeting, Netanyahu will make a case in support of the settlements. The most problematic aspect is that the White House continues to grant him the platform to further his appeals that otherwise necessitate blatant humanitarian law violations.

In his speech, Obama said a future Palestinian state must be based in territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, with minor adjustments reached through negotiations.

If these “adjustments” involve the acceptance of illegal settlements, what else will stop Israel from dominating and punishing the Palestinian people? The creation of an internationally-recognized Palestinian state does not mean anything when the rights of its citizens must continue to face U.S.-sanctioned human rights abuses and international law violations.

Sami Kishawi

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