It couldn’t get any worse…could it? – Gregory Harms on the US elections and foreign policy

Gregory Harms

Writing in Counterpunch, Gregory Harms, co-author of the best-selling The Palestine-Israel Conflict: A Basic Introduction (which is releasing again this month in an updated and expanded third edition) considers the stance of Republican US Presidential candidate Mitt Romney towards the Middle East:

On June 16, Romney addressed the Faith and Freedom Coalition in Washington, DC, via video link, and during the Q&A session commented on the subject of Israel and Obama…Romney’s message on Israel suggests an ultra-hawkish position on the Middle East and is worth a thought…He went on to raise a number of points including:

(1) criticizing Obama for “castigat[ing] Israel for building settlements”;

(2) alleging that the president seems “more frightened that Israel might take military action than he’s concerned that Iran might become nuclear”;

(3) lamenting Obama’s “insistence that Israel return to the ’67 borders, [which are] indefensible borders”;

(4) condemning Obama for being “disrespectful of Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu”; and

(5) urging the further arming of the Syrian opposition.

Harms then tackles these points one-by-one:

First, the Obama administration has indeed been critical of Israel’s settlement program, which is standard White House policy and has been for decades. But being critical minus actual pressure equals consent. It should be pointed out that Israel’s building of settlements in the occupied Palestinian West Bank is in contravention of international law. What is more, Obama has done nothing to stop Israel’s settlement activity.

Second, Israel attacking Iran is precisely a frightening proposition. A number of US and Israeli security and defense elites have said as much. Therefore, fright is the appropriate response. Whether this is what Obama is experiencing is another matter. The president’s handling of Iran thus far has been irresponsible, illegal, and has likely inspired Tehran to at least further weigh the benefits of joining the nuclear club. Into the bargain, Israel has been allowed a great deal of latitude on the issue and has been afforded ample room in the American press to set the tone for discussion (see New York Times Magazine, Jan. 25, 2012). And it bears repeating that there is no evidence that Iran is heading toward a weapons program.

Third, the June 1967 borders – also called the Green Line – are the internationally recognized borders between Israel and the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza, and have been the diplomatic point of departure for 45 years. Obama’s position is not new, and again, the White House has done absolutely nothing on this point.

Fourth, Romney’s stated concern for how the president of the United States has treated Israel’s prime minister is more strange than anything else. Israel is a US client and is actually expected to be recalcitrant to a degree. When Israel goes too far, its leash gets jerked. Tel Aviv’s diplomatic embarrassment of Vice President Joe Biden in spring 2010 with an announcement of major settlement expansion was just such a case, for which Netanyahu was roundly reprimanded. There have been many other instances. Former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir was brought to heel by George H. W. Bush in 1992, when documents thoroughly embarrassing to Israel started to get “leaked” after the prime minister crossed the line concerning, again, settlements. It is doubtful Romney knows this history. It is doubtful he even cares how one leader treats another. It is also doubtful his national allegiance is split (it being uncertain he has any to begin with), but one could possibly be within bounds to question him on this point.

Finally, the fact that segments of the opposition in Syria armed themselves in the first place explains much of the destruction and bloodshed. This in no way excuses Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s brutality. But further arming the Free Syrian Army and others – which the Obama administration is indirectly involved in vis-a-vis Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar (Independent, June 13) – can only inflame matters. Former UN secretary general Kofi Annan’s peace initiative is a sensible path. Romney’s is not.

Visit Counterpunch to read the article in full.

The Palestine-Israel Conflict – Third Edition

A Basic Introduction

Gregory Harms with Todd M. Ferry

Fully updated and expanded edition of the classic best-selling primer on the Israel/Palestine conflict.

“This superior and remarkably thorough, if brief, study of the Holy Land enigma is strongly recommended as an introduction.” – CHOICE

“An indispensable, basic introduction.” – Gabriel Kolko, Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus at York University in Toronto and author of The Age of War

£14.99 only £13.00 on the Pluto site

Israeli Rejectionism

A Hidden Agenda in the Middle East Peace Process

Zalman Amit and Daphna Levit

An analysis of the Middle East ‘peace process’ showing that peace has never been in the interest of the state of Israel.

£18.99 only £17.00 on the Pluto site

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