actually there aren't any black jews, it's a lie.
He who "koshers" a "trefa" will pay dearly. G-d forbid Obama is re-elected; Israel will pay dearly when Obama has nobody to answer to
China is relieved to finally find itself on the right side of a Middle Eastern issue after months of dismaying news for autocrats.
While the Arab Spring was shaking the Middle East, Beijing had sent its special envoy for the Middle East, Wu Sike, in a seemingly quixotic attempt to shift the region's focus to the upcoming Palestinian vote.
In late August, well before it was a foregone conclusion that Palestinian National Authority (PNA) President Mahmoud Abbas would resist Western pressure and follow through on his promise to take the statehood issue to the UN, Wu announced in Cairo that China would "support" the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital - while cannily omitting the detail as to whether China would actually vote for the statehood measure in the Security Council.
China's geopolitical bet paid off nicely as Obama was unable to disengage himself from the cleft stick that he had been hoisted upon by the Palestinian National Authority, Israel, and his domestic political priorities.
In his address to the General Assembly, Obama went full Israel, as Ha'aretz newspaper's Chemi Shaley reported in an article with the saucy title "Obama gets a kosher seal of approval" and subtitled "In the eyes of his Israeli audience, including Netanyahu and Lieberman, Obama's speech was nearly faultless, an assessment subsequently confirmed by the harsh criticism leveled at it by Arab and Palestinian officials."
Characterizing Obama's speech as "probably the warmest pro-Israel speech ever given at an annual UN General Assembly meeting by any US president, bar none", Shaley went on to say:
US President Barack Obama certainly never dreamt that one day he would be so warmly endorsed by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, of all people. But today, following Obama's speech at the UN General Assembly, Lieberman was literally gushing with praise ... Obama will now be able to wave to his Jewish voters a kosher "seal of approval" from no less an authority than Lieberman, the "Rebbe," as it were, of the ruling Israeli right-wing coalition.
The Guardian offered a look at the other team's assessment:
Obama's speech was greeted with despair in the West Bank. Mustafa Barghouti, an independent politician and former Palestinian presidential candidate, said he was disappointed. "It clearly shows the double standards of the US when it comes to the Palestinian issue. Obama spoke about freedom, human rights, justice in South Sudan, Tunisia, Egypt - but not for the Palestinians," he said.
A Ramallah shop owner, Marwan Jubeh, said: "Israel and the US are one and the same: the US is Israel, and Israel is the US. Israel doesn't want to give the Palestinians anything and Obama can't do anything without Israel because congress is pro-Israel."
As a result, the UN meeting is not about America's desired theme: triumphantly welcoming the new Libyan regime midwifed out of the Arab Spring with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) bombs and the support of the Gulf autocracies.
Instead, America's role as promoter of democracy and human rights in the Middle East is overshadowed by the spectacle of its abject support of Israel on the matter of Palestine, and the ridiculous and highly-publicized gyrations of the Obama administration as it tries to dodge the onus of vetoing the Palestinian application in the Security Council.
Even if the Assad dynasty's doom in Syria is sealed in the upcoming days or months, the rhetoric of the United States leading the transformation of the Middle East with its democratic and human-rights ideals will be undercut.
And that's the way China - and Saudi Arabia, Beijing's lodestone for Middle Eastern matters - like it.
The conniptions over Palestinian statehood - and, more to the point, the over-the-top media hubbub accompanying it - looks very much like a self-inflicted wound for the Obama administration.
An upgrade of Palestine's status at the UN is unlikely to be the promised existential catastrophe for Israel.
The primary, if rather embarrassing, argument for denying Palestine full state recognition is that it would expose Israel to potential war crimes/genocide/crimes against humanity prosecutions at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Currently, Israel boycotts the court and the PNA doesn't have the legal standing to join. But it could, if it had state status at the UN.
However, as Colum Lynch pointed out in Foreign Policy, the PNA has already exercised a provision of the ICC treaty allowing non-member states to request an ICC investigation to bring the issue of Israeli excesses in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead in 2008/2009 before the court. So the cat is somewhat out of the bag already.
Also, Israel can take comfort from the fact that ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, in contrast to his remarkable alacrity in jumping all over Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi's alleged wrongdoings, has been mulling over the well-documented problems in Cast Lead for two-and-a-half years without reaching a decision to prosecute.
Nevertheless, the statehood bid has attracted the kind of organized and systematic opposition in the media that so often characterizes thorny Middle Eastern issues that involve Israel.
Israel's harshness on the West Bank is generally acknowledged, and then excused by its apologists.
Nevertheless, over the past few years, the PNA has more or less dutifully established itself as a reasonable and non-violent interlocutor of Israel (its critics would say hopelessly appeasing and corrupt client) on the West Bank.
It has expended its resources and international aid building the political infrastructure - particularly the cooperative (critics would call colluding) security forces - that Israel declares is a necessary precondition for statehood.
The PNA's current eschewal of Hamas-style militancy on the West Bank has spared it the catastrophe of Israeli military operations like Cast Lead, which devastated Gaza.
The area under complete PNA civilian/security control has grown to about 40% of the West Bank. But these gains, largely in isolated towns and peripheral areas, have been offset by Israel's encroachment in the areas near Israel.
The Israeli government has exploited the NPA's reasonableness/supineness by slicing and dicing the West Bank economically, militarily and demographically with barriers, settlements, military bases, restricted roads, water grabs and arrogation of land titles.
There is considerable rhetoric thrown around to obfuscate the issue but a map prepared of Israeli encroachment on the West Bank. The territory looks like a cancerous kidney.
The PNA's acceptance of this rather unequal relationship was exposed - and undercut - by the publication of the "Palestine Papers" . In order to regain political traction with its disillusioned electorate, the PNA seized on the issue of representation at the UN.
The relative complexity of the Palestinian governance regime has offered ample opportunity for mischief and misunderstanding.
A critical analysis proffered by one Guy Goodwin-Gill, a barrister and senior research fellow at Oxford, on purported problems with the statehood bid promised to sow some dismay in the PNA's ranks by calling into question the ongoing status of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO).
The PLO already has standing at the UN as representative of all Palestinians, including those in the worldwide diaspora.
The PNA was created out of negotiations between the PLO and Israel in Oslo, and was envisaged as an interim exercise in limited self-governance by the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza under the PLO until a sovereign Palestinian state emerged.
Proceeding from the premise that the intent of the statehood application was to replace the PLO at the UN , Goodwin opined that this would displace the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people, disenfranchise the diaspora, and place "the interests of the Palestinian people are at risk of prejudice and fragmentation, unless steps are taken to ensure and maintain their representation through the Palestinian Liberation Organization".
The Goodwin-Gill opinion had the odd effect of placing arch-neo-conservative/convicted felon Elliott Abrams and Hamas on the same page in questioning the wisdom of Abbas' move.
Goodwin-Gill's area of scholarship is the legal treatment of refugees; however, he does not appear to have any deep previous involvement in Palestinian affairs. His argument seems to be something of a straw man publicized by the PNA's numerous critics and enemies.
It was slapped down by a display of jowl-quivering high dudgeon (including Portentous Capitalization) of a type rarely encountered today, courtesy of Francis Boyle, who served as legal advisor to the PLO during the Yasser Arafat years. He wrote of Goodwin-Gill:
his professor is not aware of all the legal and constitutional technicalities that were originally built into the Palestinian Declaration of Independence to make sure that his doomsday scenario does not materialize - at my advice.
All of your rights have been protected and will be protected by Palestine becoming a Member State of the United Nations, including the Right of Return.
Indeed, in the Memo I originally did for President Arafat and the PLO back in 1988, I explained how we could obtain UN Membership. All of the advice that I gave to President Arafat and the PLO in 1987 to 1989 was originally premised on the assumption that someday we would apply for UN Membership.
That day has come. Please move forward. I have been working for this Day since I first proposed UN Membership for Palestine along the lines of Namibia at the United Nations Headquarters in New York in June of 1987.
Palestine's Application for UN Membership was my idea. When my Client and Dear Friend - the late, great Dr Haidar Abdul Shaffi, Chair of the Palestinian Delegation to the Middle East Negotiations instructed me to draft the Palestinian counter-offer to the now defunct Oslo Agreement, he most solemnly told me: "Professor Boyle, we have decided to ask you to draft this Interim Peace Agreement for us. Do whatever you want! But do not sell out our right to our State!"
And I responded to Dr. Haidar: "Do not worry, Dr Abdul Shaffi. As you know, I was the one who first called for the creation of the Palestinian State back at United Nations Headquarters in June of 1987, and then served as the Legal Adviser to the PLO on its creation. I will do nothing to harm it!"
As I promised Dr Haidar, I (did) nothing to harm Palestine and the Palestinians."
As a result, if the General Assembly grants statehood and full de jure UN membership in September, the rights of all Palestinians worldwide will be preserved. Claiming otherwise is entirely false.
Interestingly, Goodwin-Gill's apparently specious opinion received the widest conceivable circulation, including detailed discussions at al-Jazeera, the Guardian and the LA Times, while Boyle's reply survives only in the remotest crannies of the Internet.
Contrary to Goodwin-Gill's well-meaning concern, the PLO does not hold the current observer seat at the United Nations, so it is actually not there to be displaced. The official name of the seatholder is Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations.
In a lengthy rebuttal on its website, the mission dismissed assertions that recognition of the state of Palestine as a full member would "terminate" the PLO.
The PLO's status as representative of the Palestinian people was affirmed by the UN General Assembly in 1974 and remains senior to the various organizations and authorities it has established.
The mission points out that the PLO's supreme authority in things Palestinian (and its role representing all Palestinians including the diaspora) had been reaffirmed at the UN after the declaration of independence in 1988 and the establishment of the PNA in 1994, and would continue if the Palestinian presence was upgraded to full state of Palestine recognition.
Under this formulation, Abbas is presumably applying for recognition of the state of Palestine in his capacity as chairman of the PLO executive committee as well as president of the PNA.
There is widespread support for at least paying lip-service to the idea of a state of Palestine as the creature of the PLO. One hundred and twenty eight countries have recognized "Palestine" since its declaration of independence in 1988. As a result, PLO offices were upgraded to missions and, in some cases, embassies, and the local PLO representative became either chief of mission or ambassador. Nations that don't maintain a presence in Ramallah accredit their ambassadors to the relevant PLO overseas mission to engage in dealings with the PNA.
The Palestinians were assured of a favorable hearing in the UN's General Assembly, and the disposition of forces inside the Security Council indicated that the council might vote nine to six in favor of the bid, forcing the US to exercise its veto.
It turned out that the Palestinians even had the option of turning to the General Assembly to take action if two thirds of the General Assembly deemed that the Security Council was not doing right by the Palestinians.
The enabling resolution, 377, is, with requisite irony, a peace of American legerdemain originally employed to do an endrun around the Soviet Union in 1950, when the USSR was blocking the US-led action on the Korean Peninsula in the Security Council. In a more unnerving precedent for Israel, 377 - aka the "Uniting for Peace" resolution - was also invoked in 1981 in the case of Namibia to put pressure on the apartheid regime of South Africa.
Given the facts on the ground, the US might have been better served by tossing the PLO a bone of state recognition for Palestine at the UN instead of opposing the bid.
After all, according to the original Oslo timetable, the PNA should have been superseded by a Palestinian state 10 years ago. A largely symbolic kick-start via the statehood recognition might have generated some more forward motion on the Israeli side, as well as widespread goodwill in the Muslim world.
Alternatively, the US could have stood firmly on principle, gritted its teeth, and insisted that there could be no recognition of Palestinian statehood at the UN until Israel and the PLO had negotiated all their differences or hell froze over, whichever came first.
Typically, the Obama administration tried to split the baby and instead inflicted on it the torture of 10,000 cuts, trying to reconcile the image of honest broker with the fact of siding with Israel.
It allowed itself to appear anxious as well as intransigent, engaging in frantic, high-profile discussions and initiatives whose main purpose seemed to be to avoid the embarrassment of vetoing the application in the Security Council, instead of confronting the underlying issue of Palestinian and Israeli aspirations.
The US is engaged in the usual sordid armtwisting at the UN, with the reported objective of denying the Palestinians the nine votes on the Security Council necessary to advance their statehood request, so that the US would be spared the embarrassment of exercising its veto.
Some proposed solutions - like getting the Palestinians to abandon the request to the Security Council and accept a virtually meaningless upgrade to special observer status through the General Assembly - seem to ignore the effect such a humiliating concession would have on Abbas' shaky political standing.
Another proposal - getting the Palestinians to acquiesce to yet another negotiation timetable - seems to ignore the fact that the PNA was looking for active intervention on the Palestinian's behalf in order to advance negotiations with the Israeli government.
A third proposal - that the Security Council accept the application but then just sit on it until the whole problem went away - is simply insulting.
But at press time, it looked like Abbas had decided to admit defeat and surrender in the face of this bureaucratic obstructionism - with the obligatory face-saving proviso. The Guardian reported:
The Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, is said to have told Barack Obama at a meeting on Wednesday evening that he would agree to delaying a security council vote by several weeks, although the Palestinians are maintaining the line in public that any delays will be "procedural not political".
One suspects that the US team is not enthralled with the ignominious hand they are trying to play on Israel and Obama's behalf.
A commentary in al-Jazeera by Robert Grenier, former head of the Central Intelligence Agency's Counter-terrorism Center, on the occasion of Obama's knuckling under on the Palestine statehood issue, was titled "The Humiliation of Barack Obama". It concluded:
[I]t is worth giving some consideration, as the US again undermines its security and its global position, pointlessly and gratuitously, in blind allegiance to an ungrateful and self-destructive ally, that we will also be watching something else, something far more personal: The public mortification of Barack Hussein Obama.
One could posit that Obama's humiliation is, from the point of view of the Netanyahu administration, a feature, not a bug.
The United States' dream is to present itself as the "honest broker" in Middle East politics. In the uninspiring aftermath of Obama's Cairo speech, the dream faded. But it returned as the Arab Spring celebrated Western democratic and human-rights values, and NATO's crowd-pleasing pummeling of Gaddafi's forces in Libya renewed the case for Western relevance in the region.
From the point of view of the Netanyahu administration's champions, it became important to reaffirm that the United States could not oppose Israel's preferences, let alone compel Israeli concessions - it could only deliver support to Israel.
This sort of appeal works best in an environment of manufactured crisis, eliciting the calculated hysteria, dire warnings, invocations of existential peril and inflammatory threats - such as the promise of the US Congress to cut off all aid to the PNA if it dared submit its application - that characterized the run-up to this rather inconsequential vote.
Therefore, as the Palestinian initiative played out in the public sphere and became the preferred plaything of the right-wing media and Republican presidential candidates, the Obama administration found itself pushed into the unwelcome role of Israel's sole, isolated patron.
Business as usual, in other words, a victory of Israel and a relief for China.
Certainly, China was happy to see the world's focus shift away from the awkward theme of democracy-loving masses hating on arrogant autocracies, and back to what one might term Middle East geopolitics classic: the use of the Palestinian plight as a pawn in regional and global rivalries.
When the standard of national comparison is democratization in the Arab Spring, China comes off quite badly, in terms of its support for status quo autocrats, its fear of democracy, human rights and popular expression anywhere, and its diplomatic and material support, including arms sales, for dictators and their instruments of oppression.
As a geopolitical actor dealing with the dog's breakfast of democracies, autocracies and theocracies in the Middle East, on the other hand, China's record as a promoter of stability and economic development is rather admirable. It does its best to thread the needle between its two main oil suppliers, Iran and Saudi Arabia, who are at each other's throats; and it maintains good relations with Israel while offering some aid and comfort to the Palestinians.
In contrast, US policy toward the region is a baffling mixture of the illegal, immoral and illogical, apparently driven by an opportunist convergence of interests between right-wing forces in Israel and the United States that has turned whole-hearted support for Israel into a dreaded political litmus test.
Distortion of US foreign policy in the Middle East deprives the Obama administration of a free and effective hand in dealing with the key challenge facing the Middle East.
That challenge is not Palestine. It is Syria.
Regardless of what happens to Palestinian status at the UN, it looks like the grinding economic and political subjugation of Palestinians by Israel will continue, its rate determined by political tactics but its eventual conclusion preordained.
Syria's future, on the other hand, is very much in play as it has emerged as a key opportunity for Saudi Arabia in its boiling rivalry with Iran.
Saudi prince Turki al-Faisal, the Cardinal Richelieu of the Saudi security establishment, penned a high profile op-ed declaring that US veto of the Palestinian application would turn relations between the US and the kingdom "toxic". As to why unconditional US support of Israel - a fact of life for decades - would suddenly become an existential irritant in US-Saudi relations in 2011, Faisal wrote:
The only losers in this scenario would be Syria and Iran, pariah states that have worked tirelessly - through their support of Hamas and Hezbollah - to undermine the peace process. Saudi Arabia recently played a leading role in isolating Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's brutal government by demanding an end to the killing of protesters and recalling the Saudi ambassador from Damascus. The impending fall of Mr Assad's barbarous regime provides a rare strategic opportunity to weaken Iran. Without this vital ally, Tehran will find it more difficult to foment discord in the Arab world.
Today, there is a chance for the United States and Saudi Arabia to contain Iran and prevent it from destabilizing the region. But this opportunity will be squandered if the Obama administration's actions at the United Nations force a deepening split between our two countries.
In other words - and I don't believe I am paraphrasing excessively here - Faisal is saying that, if the United States is not seen as continually and single-mindedly advancing Israeli interests in the Middle East, then regime change in Syria (presumably resulting in an anti-Iranian Sunni-based regime with a strong pro-Saudi flavor) is a foregone conclusion.
According to this formulation, Saudi Arabia might find it awkward to mobilize its financial, operational and diplomatic resources (including its influence within the Gulf Cooperation Council - GCC- and the Arab League) to bring down Assad, if this was perceived as a cheap and painless victory for Netanyahu's regime and reinforcement of the unsatisfactory US/Israeli security nexus in the Middle East.
Prince Faisal would like the United States, by supporting the Palestinian application, make a practical demonstration of an understanding that opposing Iran across the board takes priority over support of Israel's narrower interests.
That's not going to happen, as Obama's speech demonstrated.
But whether the Saudi security establishment actually expected such an outcome is doubtful. In any case, the United States' overload of Israeli baggage pushes it towards militancy on Iran, not away.
Faisal's statement is best taken as a declaration that Saudi Arabia has decided that the Obama administration lacks both the will and capacity to play the leading role in the anti-Iranian campaign.
Therefore, Saudi Arabia will take the lead, behaving something like Israel's analog in the Arab world - a nation that sets the agenda in its part of the Middle East and forces the US to go along by invoking the dangers posed by its own self-identified existential bogeyman.
For Saudi Arabia, the designated enemy is Iran, its allies in Iraq and Syria, and the Shi'ite fifth column Riyadh professes to see permeating the Arab world. As Faisal indicated in his op-ed, Plan A would be to go after Assad's vulnerable regime hammer and tongs.
China is undeniably uncomfortable with the spectacle of the Assad regime in Syria succumbing to a combination of popular unrest, sanctions and regional power intervention.
Then again, Beijing did not view the NATO and GCC-assisted collapse of Gaddafi's regime with equanimity either.
However, its predicament is relieved by its realist allegiance to the understanding that China's energy security - and its energy cooperation with Saudi Arabia - must take precedence over its ideological scruples.
With Iran - at least, President Mahmud Ahmadinejad - pulling away from Syria, China can console itself with the observation that it is following the strong desires of its number one energy supplier, Saudi Arabia, and largely in step with its number two, Iran.
China's energy and economic security take priority over its support for that devalued political commodity, enlightened authoritarianism.
It can only be grateful that Obama, forced by political exigencies to once again proclaim US ownership of Israel's oppressive policies on the West Bank and Gaza, has helped shift Assad's anticipated fall in Syria out of the category of triumph for Western democratic values ... and into the column of great power geopolitics as usual.
That's a framing that China finds much more comfortable.
1. China supports establishment of Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as capital, People's Daily, Aug 29, 2011.
2. Obama gets a kosher seal of approval, Ha'aretz, Sep 22, 2011.
3. Palestinians ready to put statehood on backburner in favour of peace talks, Guardian, Sep 21, 2011.
4. Should Israel fear ICC war crimes prosecutions if Palestine becomes a state?, Foreign Policy, Sep 12, 2011.
5. See the map.
6. Palestine Papers: Why I blew the whistle, Aljazeera, May 14, 2011.
7. Legal opinion on the Palestine statehood bid , Jadaliyya, Aug 10, 2011.
8. Follow-Up Comments on Palestinian Statehood Vote, OpEdNews, Aug 27, 2011.
9. United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3236, WikiPedia.
10. Memorandum prepared by the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations, Sep, 2011.
11. Shalev: UNGA ‘Palestine' resolution may have real impact, Jerusalem Post, Mar 25, 2011.
12. Palestinians ready to put statehood on backburner in favour of peace talks, Guardian, Set 22, 2011.
13. The humiliation of Barack Obama, Aljazeera, Sep 20, 2011.
14. Veto a State, Lose an Ally, New York Times, Sep 11, 2011.