Latest update: January 10th, 2013
Over the past several months President Obama has generally focused his attention away from the Middle East “peace process.” It is fair to ask, therefore, whether his core preferences for a settlement – carving a Palestinian state out of the still-living body of Israel and “a world free of nuclear weapons” (a world in which Israel would no longer be able to deter certain existential attacks) – still remain a matter of reasonable concern.
From the start, the Obama plan for a road map to peace in the Middle East has revealed that in matters concerning Israeli rights under international law, there is essentially nothing new on the horizon. Fundamental Israeli rights, including even the right of Jews to live and construct homes anywhere in the land of Israel, are still being subordinated to the presumed rights of all others. This includes the annihilatory claims of a wrongly and an imprudently legitimized Palestinian Authority.
To be fair, Obama is not the originator of our misconceived U.S. foreign policy toward Israel. Oddly enough, already back in the 1990s Palestinian terrorist militias were being trained by the CIA in “counter terror tactics.” A key component of the Obama administration’s Palestinian policy had been the training of “moderate” Fatah-led Palestinian security forces. U.S. Lt. General Keith Dayton had supervised this self-defeating training in neighboring Jordan, an indefensible process of assisting sworn terrorist enemies of Israel and the United States.
If ever there has existed an irrefutable strategic oxymoron is “Palestinian counterterrorist forces.” The president, embracing a so-called Arab Peace Plan (previously, the “Saudi Plan”) seemingly still expects Israel to retreat to indefensible 1949 armistice lines, and, ultimately, to expel hundreds of thousands of Jews from their homes in Judea/Samaria, Jerusalem, and possibly the Golan Heights.
In essence, the Arab Plan that has been favored by Obama effectively demands that Israel incrementally cease being a Jewish state by allowing literally millions of foreign Arabs to become Israeli citizens within the country’s intentionally shrunken borders.
There is still another distressing layer of irony and illegality here. Each and every day Arab and Iranian media are filled with graphic calls for violence against all Jews, not “just” against Israelis. These explicit entreaties to aggression and genocide are not simply indecent or impermissible on moral grounds. They also stand in unassailably stark violation of codified and customary norms of international law. Indeed, as these particular norms are “peremptory” – that is, norms permitting absolutely “no derogation” – the relevant legal violations are ones of utmost seriousness.
Now that the American presidential election is on the horizon, we should inquire: Where are the expected demands of the president and his likely opponent for Arab/Iranian cessation of cries to “slaughter the Jews?”
The answer may have less to do with Washington than with Jerusalem. There will never be any such indispensable demands until Israel first begins to speak up for itself. In this connection, it is time for Israel’s representatives in all international organizations and forums to remind the world more plainly and consistently of their country’s incontestable rights to self-defense. Significantly, this can never be accomplished when Prime Minister Netanyahu is willing to agree to any idea of a Palestinian state, even one that will purportedly be “demilitarized.”
International law is not a suicide pact. Israel is under no obligation to disappear in order to satisfy undisguised cravings of genocidal hatred in various portions of the Islamic world. For its part, the United States, finally, should cease prodding Israel toward complicity in its own disappearance.
We can recall Jimmy Carter’s genuinely insidious motives in the Middle East. Although Obama may be substantially better intentioned toward Israel, he is still quite naïve concerning the inherently perilous synergies of Middle Eastern religion, culture, and politics. Hopefully, the most portentous consequences of this naiveté will be mitigated or removed after the coming presidential election.
In December 2004, after the then latest African genocide had already been “completed,” the world legal order dealt with a glaring case of organized hatred involving Rwanda. In that case, the particular venue was the International Criminal Tribunal in Rwanda (ICTR). More precisely, three African media executives were found guilty by ICTR of genocide, incitement to commit genocide, and crimes against humanity.
About the Author: Louis René Beres (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is professor of political science and international law at Purdue University and the author of many books and articles dealing with international relations and strategic studies.
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