US Audacity of Hope Falters: Settlement Freeze No Longer Required

The US has decided to be 'flexible'
regarding its once touted call for a total Israeli freeze on the expansion
of its occupied territories' settlements, all illegal under international

The US has decided to be 'flexible'
regarding its once touted call for a total Israeli freeze on the expansion
of its occupied territories' settlements, all illegal under international

A senior official spoke to
reporters on condition of anonymity on August 27. "It was more important
that the scope of a settlement freeze was acceptable to the Israelis
and the Palestinians than to the United States," Reuters reported,
citing the senior official. This means that peace negotiations can resume
while Israeli bulldozers are carving up Palestinian land, demolishing
homes and cutting down trees.

It also means that the Israeli
rejection of the only US demand, which has thus far defined President
Barack Obama's relations to the Middle East conflict, has prevailed
over the supposed American persistence. In other words, the US has officially
succumbed to Israeli and pro-Israeli pressures, in Tel Aviv and Washington.

Those not familiar with the
connotation of certain terminology in this conflict may not appreciate
what it truly means that the US will no longer demand an Israeli halt
of the 'natural growth' of its settlements, especially in the occupied
Jerusalem area where tens of thousands of Palestinians are vulnerable
to Israeli ethnic cleansing. Families like the Hanoun and Ghawi family
have been evicted from their homes and thrown out on the street before
sunrise. "The police came for them at dawn on a Sunday, heavily armed,
wearing helmets and riot shields as they broke down the metal doors
of the houses and dragged the two Palestinian families out onto the
streets," reported the Guardian on August 24.

The heart-wrenching episodes
of innocent people being thrown into the street for no fault of their
own, only for the need to make room for more Jewish inhabitants took
place before TV cameras and barely required more than a few words of
bashful disapproval. That was in fact a political message, sent by Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the US administration and anyone
else who dares to question US settlement policy. It took place when
Obama's call for settlement freeze was at its pinnacle. Now, just
imagine how Israel will behave, now that the US's lonely demand is
officially retracted. The rightwing Israeli government will likely expedite
its settlement program to preclude any future demands for freeze. Many
more Hanouns and Ghawis, and their children, will find themselves on
the pavement for simply not being Jews, even if they are the rightful
owners of the land.

The Israeli logic, however,
is uncompromisingly clear. Two weeks before the evictions took place,
Netanyahu addressed his cabinet, saying that Jerusalem (including occupied
East Jerusalem) is "the capital of the Jewish people and of the
state of Israel" and that "our sovereignty over it cannot
be challenged." He continued, "We cannot accept the idea that
Jews will not have the right to live and purchase in all parts of Jerusalem."

Aside from her unusually 'harsh'
statement that the evictions were "deeply regrettable", US Secretary
of State, Hillary Clinton had no answer to the Jerusalemite families
pleading for their stolen homes. And now this, more American flexibility.

While Palestinians, and those
who support and sympathize with their rightful struggle, are accustomed
to Israel's belligerent violations of international and humanitarian
law, and direct and indirect US support of Israeli behavior, many had
the 'audacity' to hope that things might change under the new US
presidency. Obama's speech in Cairo, despite its many flaws, was seen
as a promising sign that the US will play a more conducive role in finding
a just solution to the conflict and the ongoing tragedy of the Palestinians.
It was thought that Obama was planning to start simple, by merely demanding
a freeze of the settlement expansion. It's anything but demanding
full rights for Palestinians, or even allowing cement, food and medicine
to starving Gaza, but it's a start, nonetheless.

And as Palestinians, Israelis,
the entire region and world media awaited the outcome of the Obama-Netanyahu
battle of wills, Israel carried out all sorts of harms, that also went

Externally, Israel capitalized
on the supposed US pressure, to place counter pressure on the US to
impose dilapidating sanctions on Iran, provide a timeline for the end
of diplomacy aimed at diffusing the hyped tension over Iran's nuclear
program, and more. That too was the message that Netanyahu carried with
him to the meeting with US Middle East envoy George Mitchell in London,
last week.

Still, Israel expected more,
demanding - with the blessing of the US - Arab normalization with Israel,
in reciprocation for the never actualized willingness to temporarily
halt the expansion of settlements. Mitchell was too of the opinion that
"Arab states (should) offer some gestures toward normalization of
ties with Israel," according to Reuters.

Internally, things took a dramatic
turn for the worse. It started with a bill in the Israeli Knesset (parliament)
that would jail Arabs who would commemorate the Palestinian Nakba or
Catastrophe of 1948, which saw the expulsion of nearly 800,000 Palestinians
from their land. Then, there was the new law that enforces the replacement
of Arabic lettering on road signs referring to various locations with
their Hebrew equivalent, even if these locations have been known by
their Arabic names for millennia. These are neither the first nor the
last of such fascist roles aimed at denying any trace of a Palestinian
(Muslim or Christian) identity to co-exist along with the exclusively
'Jewish character' of Israel.

But that, and much more, was
taking place as Palestinians and hopeful others held their breath, waiting
for Obama to deliver, until the most recent expression of American flexibility.
Now, Palestinians are left with one of two options: to continue to subscribe
to the illusion that the US is capable, or even willing to rein in Israel's
transgression and exact justice and human rights on their behalf, or
to cleanse their midst of self-seeking and corrupt leaders, unify their
ranks and continue their struggle for an uncompromisingly free and independent

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