JJJerusalem ... HOLY FU KKK
By Noam Chomsky
The Israeli government agreed that Palestinians can call
whatever fragments of Palestine are left to them "a state" if
they like -- or they can call them "fried chicken."
Yet again the flashpoint is East Jerusalem, seized by Israel in
the 1967 war -- this time, a proposed 1,600-apartment complex
in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood. And yet again the aftermath
has led to the death of Palestinians by Israeli gunfire.
On March 9, the Israeli interior ministry announced the new
project during U.S. Vice President Joseph R. Biden.s visit to
Israel. President Obama had called for curbing settlement
expansion in occupied territory.
Reaction was immediate and intense. Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu publicly apologized for the announcement.s
"regrettable" timing but insisted that Israel could build
freely in East Jerusalem and elsewhere in the territories it
intends to annex.
Biden had a private, angry exchange with Netanyahu, invoking
U.S. military concern about the failure to resolve the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to the Israeli press.
"What you.re doing here undermines the security of our troops
who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan," Biden
reportedly told Netanyahu. "That endangers us and it endangers
On March 16, Gen. David H. Petraeus, chief of the U.S. Central
Command, voiced those concerns to the Senate Armed Services
Committee: "The conflict foments anti-American sentiment due to
a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel."
A week later, Netanyahu and Obama met at the White House for
talks later characterized as "contentious."
Netanyahu maintains a hard line on the settlements. And he
makes no show of recognizing the viability of a Palestinian
state. This intransigence reflects badly on U.S. credibility.
A similar, settlement-related contretemps flared up 20 years
ago, leading President George H.W. Bush to impose limited
sanctions on Israel in reaction to the brazen, insulting
behavior of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who was quickly
replaced. The question remains whether the Obama administration
is willing to take even the mild measures invoked by Bush
The situation is now more serious. Within Israel,
ultra-nationalist and religious sectors have risen with a
narrow, parochial perspective. And U.S. forces are engaged in
unpopular wars in the region.
Last May, in Washington, Obama met with Netanyahu and Mahmoud
Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority. The meetings,
and Obama.s speech in Cairo in June, have been interpreted as a
turning point in U.S. Middle East policy.
A closer look, however, suggests reservations.
The U.S.-Israel interactions -- with Abbas on the sidelines --
hinged on two phrases: "Palestinian state" and "natural growth
of settlements." Let.s consider each in turn.
Obama has indeed pronounced the words "Palestinian state,"
echoing President George W. Bush. By contrast, the (unrevised)
1999 platform of Israel.s governing party, Netanyahu.s Likud,
"flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state
west of the Jordan River."
It is also useful to recall that Netanyahu.s 1996 government
was the first in Israel to use the phrase "Palestinian state."
The government agreed that Palestinians can call whatever
fragments of Palestine are left to them "a state" if they like
-- or they can call them "fried chicken."
Last May, Washington.s position was presented most forcefully
in U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.s much-quoted
statement rejecting "natural growth exceptions" to the official
U.S. policy opposing new settlements.
Netanyahu and virtually the whole Israeli political spectrum
insist on permitting such "natural growth," complaining that
the U.S. is backing down from Bush.s authorization of such
expansion within his "vision" of a Palestinian state.
The Obama-Clinton formulation is not new. It repeats the
wording of Bush.s Road Map to a Palestinian State, which
stipulates that in Phase I, Israel "freezes all settlement
activity consistent with the (former U.S. Sen. George J.)
Mitchell report, including natural growth of settlement."
In Cairo, Obama kept to his familiar "blank-slate" style --
with little substance but presented in a personable manner that
allows listeners to write on the slate what they want to hear.
Obama echoed Bush.s "vision" of a Palestinian state, without
spelling out what he meant.
Obama said, "The United States does not accept the legitimacy
of continued Israeli settlements." The operative words are
"legitimacy" and "continued."
By omission, Obama indicated that he accepts Bush.s "vision":
The vast existing Israeli settlement and infrastructure
projects on the West Bank are implicitly "legitimate," thus
ensuring that the phrase "Palestinian state," referring to the
scattered remnants in between, means "fried chicken."
Last November, Netanyahu declared a 10-month suspension of new
construction, with many exemptions, and entirely excluding
Greater Jerusalem, where expropriation in Arab areas and
construction for Jewish settlers, as at the Rabat Shlomo
project, continues at a rapid pace.
These projects are doubly illegal: Like all settlements, they
violate international law -- and in Jerusalem, specific
Security Council resolutions.
In Jerusalem at the time, Hillary Clinton praised Netanyahu.s
"unprecedented" concessions on (illegal) construction,
eliciting anger and ridicule in much of the world.
The Obama administration advocates a "reconceptualization" of
the Middle East conflict, articulated most clearly last March
by Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair John Kerry.
Israel is to be integrated among the "moderate" Arab states
that are U.S. allies, confronting Iran and providing for U.S.
domination of the vital energy-producing regions. Within that
framework some unspecified Israel-Palestine settlement will
find its place.
Meanwhile the bonds deepen between the U.S. and Israel. Close
intelligence cooperation goes back over half a century.
U.S.-Israeli high tech partnerships are flourishing. Intel, for
example, is adding a gigantic installation to its Kiryat Gat
facility to implement a revolutionary reduction in size of
Ties between U.S. and Israeli military industry remain
particularly close, so much so that Israel has been shifting
development and manufacturing facilities to the U.S., where
access to U.S. military aid and markets is easier. Israel is
also considering transfer of production of armored vehicles to
the U.S., over the objections of thousands of Israel workers
who will lose their jobs.
The relations also benefit U.S. military producers -- doubly
so, in fact, because supplies of U.S. government-funded weapons
to Israel, which are themselves very profitable, also function
as "teasers" that induce the rich Arab dictatorships
("moderates") to purchase great amounts of less sophisticated
Israel also continues to provide the U.S. with a strategically
located military base for pre-positioning weapons and other
functions -- most recently in January, when the U.S. army moved
to "double the value of emergency military equipment it
stockpiles on Israeli soil," raising the level to $800 million.
"Missiles, armored vehicles, aerial ammunition and artillery
ordnance are already stockpiled in the country," Defense News
These are among the unparalleled services that Israel has been
providing for U.S. militarism and global dominance, as well as
for the U.S. high-tech economy.
They afford Israel a certain leeway to defy Washington.s orders
-- though Israel is taking a big risk if it tries to push its
luck, as history has repeatedly shown. The Ramat Shlomo
arrogance clearly hit a nerve.
Israel can go only as far as the U.S. permits. The U.S. has
long been a direct participant even in Israeli crimes it
formally condemns -- but with a wink. It remains to be seen
whether the charade will continue.
Adapted from Hopes and Prospects, published by Haymarket Books,