Monday, September 26, 2011

Obama's Diminution on Palestinian Demand to UN

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gestures toward the audience after he addressed the 66th U.N. General Assembly at at United Nations headquarters Friday, Sept. 23, 2011. (AP / David Karp)

There is so much happening at the moment in MENA countries, and in their interactions with the US (whether overt or covert) that it is hard to know where to turn first. However, I thought that this article was a good starting place for a number of potential discussions as readers gravitate to one or more aspects that strike them as comment-worthy.

The focus is Obama's speech at the UN on the eve of the Palestinian demand, not for recognition as a state, which has been already granted, but for a seat at the table--any of the UN tables, even in the most modest of categories, pending a regular full member seat. From there, the author reviews Obama's track record on the Arab Spring as well as the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. While I agree that Obama has squandered the goodwill towards him and the US on his election and with his speeches, particularly the one in Cairo, in the honeymoon of his presidency, I don't think the author is clear enough that Obama either sat back and waited until a winner was obvious, or desperately tried to keep friendly despots in place until they had been removed by the sacrifice of their peoples. "Leading from behind" can be tantamount to not leading, or peeking out from behind the covers until the situation is settled and co-opting a "victory for American values", and America's always "standing with the people of ____" (fill in the MENA country of the occasion).

U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday. (Carolyn Cole/MCT)

MIDDLE EAST: The incredible shrinking Obama
By Mitch Potter Washington Bureau
Published On Sat Sep 24 2011 in The Toronto Star

WASHINGTON—“Misplayed,” said the New York Times. “Painful to watch,” said the Washington Post. “Et Tu, Obama,” said the Arab News, channeling the mood from the turbulent Mideast streets.

And here in Washington, a rising sense that far from throwing Israel under the bus, as circling Republican hawks continue to charge, President Barack Obama has instead thrown Pax Americana into the abyss. Tumbling, ideals-first, toward the wrong side of history as the Arab Spring surges forth, more angry than before.

How does one reconcile the Obama who lofted a new day of dignity for all twentysomething months ago in Cairo with the one that showed up at the United Nations Wednesday?

Knotted like a balloon-animal alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Obama didn't simply lay down his marker against the Palestinian drive for statehood.

More than that, the president sang verbatim from Netanyahu's hardline Likud playbook in a speech that chronicled Israel's anguish without a mention of Palestinian pain. In the view of many, the president also effectively served up whatever remained of America's “honest broker” status in Middle East peacemaking on the alter of domestic politics and the calculus of re-election.

The dust of this week's drama at the UN is far from settled.

But even as the Security Council readies for a Monday session to weigh Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' formal request for statehood — a process that could take weeks — a diplomatic failure of huge consequence seems assured.

The Palestinians came to New York believing they had sewn up the required nine votes in the 15-seat Security Council.

And in the desperate act of forcing the American to wield its veto against the backdrop of the Arab Spring, a massive moral victory would be theirs.

The Palestinian hope was to “internationalize” the peace process; to give the world a greater say in leveraging the two-state solution that has eluded 11 consecutive White Houses.

Now even that seems to be falling away, as U.S. and Israeli diplomats work behind the scenes to hive off the votes of the SC's rotating seat-warmers. Gabon, Portugal and Nigeria suddenly find themselves inadvertent players amid the pressure to shift against the Palestinian drive.

The knee-jerk meme in peace circles is to point fingers singularly at the Washington-based Jewish lobby.

But the vanishing daylight between the Republican Party and Israel's right-wing Likud is driven also by the votes of a large portion of America's Rapture-ready evangelical Christians.

Washington is home to more than one variety of Jewish lobby. There is J-Street, the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” pressure group that points to a succession of polls showing the majority of North America's Jewish diaspora favour the two-state solution, the sooner the better.

But J-Street officials were holding their heads in their hands this week, watching the UN events unfold. They opposed the Palestinian statehood drive on the grounds that unilateralism never brings peace.

On this point, history agrees. Neither the 2005 Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip, nor its earlier retreat from southern Lebanon — both arranged unilaterally, without partners — moved the peace needle one iota.

By contrast, the two deals that have paid decades of dividends are Israel's peace pacts with Egypt and Jordan. However cold that peace may be today, it has held.

Anyone old enough to remember Israel's Yitzhak Rabin and Egypt's Anwar Sadat will recall the enormity of political courage it took to cut those deals.

The tragedy today is that Abbas, in the sunset of his political life, may well be the one Palestinian who can do it. But he is up against a White House with no courage left to spend.

“This is a new moment of desperation that screams out for historic leadership,” said J-Street's Israel director, Steven Krubiner.

Krubiner argues that what is good for the Palestinians is great for Israel because the alternative spells doom. Israel's continuing settlement expansion will soon render two-states impossible — and leave Israel in an existential demographic dilemma, with the Israel Defense Forces ultimately representing a Jewish minority ruling over a stateless Palestinian majority.

“What does Israel do when these stateless people outnumber them? You either give up democracy, you give up territory or you give up your identity as the national homeland of the Jews — you can't have all three,” he says.

“Our worry is that Israel as we know it is not going to exist unless we get to a two-state solution now. We might be looking at a very ugly 30 years. But if the Palestinians give up on statehood as hopeless . . .”

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made the same plea this week in a New York Times opinion piece. Ditto opposition leader Tzipi Livni, time and again. Ditto a group of former IDF generals and security chiefs, who launched their own Israeli peace initiative as a roadmap against chaos.

“The ultimate point is that friends don't let friends drive drunk. And right now Israel is driving off a cliff,” Krubiner told the Star.

“We believe Obama understands this. Yet he is trapped by the right-wing pandering in Washington, which in our view does not represent the majority of American Jews.”

Among the mistakes of the past 30 months is the fact that Obama himself has yet to visit Israel once during his presidency. This seems a glaring omission, given his high-profile outreach to Muslims from the lecterns of Cairo and Istanbul.

However much he showers Israel with military support, Obama has yet to look Israelis in the eyes. Many Israelis broadly interpret the love as a cold love, just like Israel's cold peace with Egypt and Jordan.

Some Israeli moderates on Saturday looked in despair to the European Union as a natural peacebroker to salvage the embers of a two-state outcome.

An EU-led process, argued Ha'aretz columnist Carlo Strenger, might “retain the glimmer of hope that reason and humanity will overcome fear, hatred and fanaticism on both sides.

“This is the moment for Europe to show leadership,” wrote Strenger. “The moment to assert the moral vision of politics beyond the pure power play that has guided Europe's unification.

“The two-state solution must be saved, because it is the only way to freedom and dignity for the Palestinians; and the only way to safeguard the dream of Israel as the democratic homeland of the Jewish people.”


President Obama addresses the 66th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Sept. 23, 2011. (Credit: AP)

Your comments, thoughts, impressions?

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas waves to supporters during his arrival at the government compound, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2011. (AP / Majdi Mohammed)

Related Posts:
The Pro-Israel Lobby: Defending Israel or Stifling Debate including of the Saudi Peace Initiative--The Doha Debates Chez Chiara
Nuclear Warheads: If Israel, why not Iran, Saudi, the GCC, or MENA? The Doha Debates Chez Chiara
Peace in the Middle East: Will Obama Do Any Better?--Doha Debates Chez Chiara
The Arab Awakening and Shifting Oil Sands: Obama's Georgetown Speech; "Ethical Oil"; Canada's Bible Belt
A Post-Modernist Reading of the Obama-Osama Entwinement in History
How Osama Transformed Obama
Find other more specific posts by regional category in the side bar (GCC, North Africa, MENA) or by country using the search function in the side bar.

Palestinians hold pictures of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the government compound, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2011. (AP / Bernat Armangue)


oby said...

Krubiner argues that what is good for the Palestinians is great for Israel because the alternative spells doom.

I am not a politician but that is exactly what seems right to me. Marginalization of the Palestinians cannot go on forever particularly in the light of the Arab Spring...they want their piece of the pie (and rightly so)and in my mind it is a powder keg waiting to blow.

It is crazy NOT to have a solution because the alternative is unthinkable to me. I am damn sick of war and if the Israelis go to war America will go too.

For god's sake just give them what is rightly due them. They like anybody else needs a homeland. I think it would have been wonderful if the Palestinians didn't have to create their own country and could have had a single state solution with equal rights the same as any israeli, you know..a country already formed, but I guess with Hamas et al that was not to be.

Both sides have to give up something they cherish...otherwise we will wind up with a big hole where the Holy Land used to be.

As an aside...I read this in Newsweek a week or so ago. Israel has issues besides the Palestinian problem: I believe it was reprinted word for word.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

It is painful to see Obama, once again on the wrong side of history. He need to find courage to oppose the dead end policies of the Lakud Party. I wonder how much this party and its allies still represents the Israeli people. Currently, a vast majority are rejecting their economic policies and a large number still hope for a two nation solution as the best hope for Israel. If the Palestinians give up on this view they will be demanding Israeli citizenship and then a Jewish state would be doomed.

Wendy said...

Obama's first mistake was not taking office with a firm conviction that he was the new leader and it would be his way or the highway. Things went downhill from there. So many people pinned so many hopes on him but he succumbed to pressure and now it seems it's too late for him to grow some cajones. The Republicans will block him at every turn and I'm sure that if Obama said he thought the Republicans should win the next election they'd veto that comment as well because it came from Obama. He sold his soul.
When I was a teen in Calgary I remember the PLO parades through the street and my interest in Palestine began at that point. We were still being fed the 'poor Jew'/'bad Arab' story and people were still in shock from the Holocaust but I still felt that the Palestinians were in trouble even at that young age.

Oby, it's no wonder that Canadians worry about US politics because whatever happens in your country affects so many others whether we like it or not. Our PM follows along behind the US like a dog in heat. Argggghhhhh.
The two links were very interesting. Maybe it's time to start listening to China and India.

oby said...


IN THEORY Obama's plan might have been a good one. After Mr unilateral himself, George Bush,I think Obama was trying to set the "we're all in this together" tone and was reaching out across the table to make everyone feel included and hoping that by doing so he could avoid the exact position he is in now. I doubt he saw this unbelievable partisanship coming down the pike. Now I think it is too late to correct that course. What makes it worse IMO is that the Democrats have floated no one else as a possible candidate for it is Obama or the Republicans. That is the choice. And given that choice I don't think the Dems will win another term. If they want a chance I think they need to have another option on the ballot but I don't see that happening without breaking ranks...

Wendy said...

So what you are saying is that your people will vote for 'the devil' rather than give that "1/2 black Muslim" a chance to set things right?
Can he set things right if he does a second term? Was he really a republican in disguise all along? Can he ever stand up to the Jewish political $$$$ and do the right thing??? That's what this whole Palestine/UN issue is about isn't it?

Wendy said...

BTW, I have a day off which explains that I am here in the middle of the afternoon when I should be vacuuming but this is so much more interesting!

oby said...

I think those that voted for Obama did so because they wanted change on many levels. They were sick of Bush and his Lone Ranger mentality...they envisioned a more united govt. But what many people feel they got instead is a president who was ineffectual. In many sys this was not his fault despite what I think were honest efforts to unite both sides. He approved millions in bailouts to banks. This I think is a major issue for people who wanted help. I think the little guy felt angry that the banks got a handout and they were still struggling. Pissed a lot of people off. There are many examples of issues. Some created by Obama himself and many others that he did not create and got hamstrung with.

What you may not understand is that people were excited for change. That is why they voted for him. He ran a genius campaign IMO and was welcomed wholeheartedly by a tired and seriously jaded country. He could not have gotten into office without the white vote. The minority vote was a given. That "black muslim" could not have gotten elected if the whites didn't believe in him.

He may not reelected due to people feeling he is not able break this stalemate and they want some action to be taken. If the majority see him as impotent and ineffective particularly those that might have voted otherwise (meaning nondemocrats) they very well might go in another direction. I think the democrats should float another candidate. Otherwise those that voted for Obama may look elsewhere.

In the interest of openness I did not vote for Obama. NOT because he was black or supposedly Muslim. But IMO he was too young and didn't have enough experience in the cutthroat world of politics and I was concerned. He would lose his way. Also, he was THE MOST liberal of all the democratic senators and I was concerned it would come back to haunt him. I thought many even other dens might view that negatively. But I also didn't vote for Bush either time. I thought he was too much of a cowboy which proved to be true. Personally, I vote the candidate and the issues regardless of affiliation.

Wendy said...

If I had been able to vote I would have voted for him. Experience doesn't necessarily mean anything so that wouldn't have been an issue with me. His platform was great but his first and biggest mistake was not taking control of the White House. I guess that comes down to experience and not knowing that you can't please everybody and get what needs to be accomplished, done. He did do some very good things regarding the banks, health care and so on. His tax on the wealthy is a compromise but at least it's going to bring in some $$$ and the wealthy are not opposed to it. I think he's really let everybody down over the Palestine issue. It's too bad. I think he could actually do some good if he got a second term and some backbone but I kinda doubt that will happen.
The question is what is going to happen now with Palestine and Israel?

oby said...

part 1....

What's going to happen to Palestine???? Darn good question and I too worry about it. I pray it doesn't come down to force. In the end both sides are going to have to have a little give and take.

Prior to the White House Obama was a lawyer with a specialty of "community organizer". That was his genius in both running his campaign, his eloquent speeches and how he approached the White House. Except it didn't work because politics is not about egalitarianism...not on either side. The whole trajectory of his presidency has been one of "community organizer" IMO. He had a brief tenure as a senator. He wasn't even a mayor or governor before taking office which would have at least given him a hint of what it was to have a budget,have to cut here and there, anger some people when their special interests are not met, make some tough choices, dodge some major mine fields etc. Most voters did not worry about his lack of experience, but it did bother me...he wasn't even a senator that long. He was a fantastic orator, but what did he bring to the table in hard won knowledge?Pretty speeches are nice and they enthrall people but they don't protect you or prepare you for the pitfalls of daily life and the fantastically hard choices a President has to make..this was my opinion. Obviously most did not agree.I didn't vote for him but once he was in office, I hoped the best for him.

As far as taxing the wealthy goes in the USA we have a progressive tax. So the more you earn the more you are taxed. The highest federal tax bracket is 35% for anyone over $379,000. He wanted to tax $200,000 and higher...those guys pay 33% tax. This is federal only. Then one must pay state tax. There are a few states that have no tax but the majority do. Low to high is 2%-7% (off the top of my head). On top of that in some cities there is city tax. So the top earners can wind up paying 45%+ of their income. By anyones standards 200K is a very healthy salary, but if you tax those guys at that rate (give or take for deductions) that is a lot of income for people to fork over. Now add in ALL the other taxes people have to pay on top of all that (sales tax is on most everything)and that 200K gets whittled away quite fast. and IMO there aren't even enough "wealthy" people in the country to support the health care proposal. That was my major problem with it. It did not seem fiscally sound. There are a very small amount of people that wealthy when compared to everyone. How can such a small majority sustain health care to the uninsured and medicare/medicaid AND social security? I am no accountant but it just didn't sound as if it was workable. But it sells really well to people so of course they agree to it. What I think would have happened and I don't think Obama was honest or maybe not informed well is that ultimately to support a growing senior population everyone will have to be taxed. But that doesn't sell well so he wanted to tax only the "rich".

oby said...

Part 2....


"For simplicity, we’ll just focus on the over-$250,000 group. Those reporting adjusted gross income of more than $250,000 to the IRS are projected to make up 2 percent of households next year (2009), when the new president will take office. Those folks will earn 24.1 percent of all income, and pay 43.6 percent of all personal federal income taxes, the Tax Policy Center figures. Under either Obama or Clinton, they might pay even more."

So I could not understand how 2% of the country could support 100% of the increase. It doesn't seem like the numbers add up. That 2% is earning 25% of the income and already paying almost 50% of all income taxes...seems to me that to ask them to support 100% of the increases is not sustainable.

Also from

Q: Did Bush propose more costly regulations in his last two years than Obama did in his first two years?
A: Yes. But Obama’s regulations are far more costly than those of Bush’s first two years, and the yearly average is higher than that of the Bush administration.

Here is the website I used. I love it because whenever I had a question as to who was fudging I would check here and often got an answer.

BTW...I have really enjoyed our exchange...thanks!

Wendy said...

Here's an interesting article by Fidel Castro regarding Obama's UN Palestine speech.

On the subject of taxes - Bill Gates among many are very much in support of the tax increase they will have to put out.

I think one issue for those in higher tax brackets are the tax loopholes and lawyers who can get around the tax laws so that some can pay almost nothing. Lower income people either don't have access or can't afford access to the same loopholes. Tax lawyers and loopholes are the same in Canada.
Canada has a wonderful medicare system supported by our taxes. We are certainly not suffering at all here.

Federal tax rates in Canada
* 15% on the first $41,544 of taxable income, +
* 22% on the next $41,544 of taxable income (on the portion of taxable income between $41,544 and $83,088), +
* 26% on the next $45,712 of taxable income (on the portion of taxable income between $83,088 and $128,800), +
* 29% of taxable income over $128,800.
Provincially it varies but for my province it is
5.06% on the first $36,146 of taxable income, +
7.7% on the next $36,147, +
10.5% on the next $10,708, +
12.29% on the next $17,786, +
14.7% on the amount over $100,787

oby said...

Thanks Wendy...

I think there is a lot of truth in his article.

OMG! I thought US taxes were complicated! LOL!

I have long thought that in the USA tax law there needs to be more transparency. ( that will happen anytime soon) I have wondered if there was a flat tax on everyone or starting at a certain level of income that disallowed any deductions or any of the loopholes how would the tax situation look in the USA. If everyone paid the same flat percentage then as you went up in salary you would naturally pay more. so at 10% the guy earning 100K pays $20,000 and the guy earning 1 million pays $200,000. No more deductions, no more excuses for getting out of paying x,y or z. No more fudging or cheating and calling an income something else that qualifies for a deduction. But I guess that kind of simplicity is too much to hope for. Not even sure it would work. But it has never made sense to me why I pay the govt. money and then in the end there ar deductions to get it back. Why not just lay out the parameters up front and work from there?

so mr. gates at 52 billion...if he earns a few billion a year he pays 10% (or what ever percentage) on his several billion...with no deductions. I wonder which way he would wind up spending more in tax.

oby said... figures are wrong... I meant to calculate by 10% but mistakenly used 20% while stating 10%.

oby said...

me again...sorry...while thinking about this flat tax thing I looked it up. I found this fairly comprehensive explanation. It shows various possibilities, but ti seems one thing is evident. It seems to be healthy for economic growth. America could use that right about now. really interesting possibilities.

One thing of interest I read is Instant Wealth Creation. According to Harvard economist Dale Jorgenson, tax reform would boost national wealth by nearly $5 trillion.It would do this in part because all income-producing assets would rise in value since the flat tax would increase the after-tax stream of income that they generate.

Susanne said...

Interesting post and comments - thanks!


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