Biden Has Had the Power to Stop Israel’s War Crimes in Gaza Since Day One

[Truthout April 5, 2024] For the first time since Israel launched its devastating offensive on Gaza six months ago, President Joe Biden appears to have convinced right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to change policy. The Israeli government’s decision to open up the Erez crossing to allow more relief supplies came after a phone call between the two on Thursday, in which for the first time Biden appeared to threaten some kind of specific action if Israel did not abide by a U.S. request.
This comes following Israel’s killing of seven humanitarian workers with World Central Kitchen, including a U.S. citizen, with growing evidence that the attack may have been deliberate. This raises the question as to why the United States hasn’t taken such firm action sooner and why Biden is still unwilling to force Israel to agree to a ceasefire. [Source Link]

How Biden Immediately Undermined UN Ceasefire Vote

[The Progressive April 8, 2024] The Biden Administration is trying to seem like they’re working to bring an end to the fighting when, in fact, they are not. On March 25, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 2728 calling for a bilateral ceasefire in Gaza for the remaining two weeks of Ramadan, along with other provisions. It made headlines in large part because the United States did not veto it as it had previous ceasefire resolutions. The Biden Administration, however, had no intention for the resolution to actually take effect. 
The US was the only country in the fifteen-member UN body not to vote in favor, once again demonstrating its isolation in the international community. The Biden Administration had threatened to veto the original draft resolution calling for a permanent ceasefire, only agreeing to not cast a veto in return for dropping the word “permanent.” Source Link

Spring 2024 articles quoting Dr. Stephen Zunes

* Will Israel Defy Another Security Council Resolution? Inter Press News Service, April 9, 2024] This article examines Israel’s tradition of defying UN Security Council resolutions even when the United States allows them to pass and the U.S. refusal to allow them to be enforced: IPS source link
* Plus two recent articles in a major Swedish daily on US policy toward Israel and Palestine: March 29, 2024 & March 30, 2024

Gaza/Israel! CalMatters!

KPFA FM Radio June 2, 2021:
Stephen Zunes, internationally recognized expert on the Middle East, gives his analysis of the past, present and future of Gaza/ Israel. PLUS: we catch up with happenings in the Golden State with CalMatters. Hosted by Kris Welch. [LISTEN NOW]

Professor Stephen Zunes on Gaza, the US, and Israel

“The extreme disproportionate firepower of the Israelis is really staggering. We’re looking at a 20:1 ratio in terms of casualties and many times greater than even that in terms of physical destruction of civilian infrastructure. And, given that the United States is the provider of many of the weapons and delivery systems that were used in the Israeli offensive, the United States bears special responsibility…”
[FULL LINK]

From Aleppo to Gaza: A Handy Guide for Defending War Crimes

Foreign Policy In Focus: May 26, 2021 [FULL LINK]

The strident defense of Israel’s recent military onslaught on the Gaza Strip from members of Congress, the Biden administration, and various pundits sound remarkably similar to those put forward to defend the Assad regime in Syria during their bloody attacks on Aleppo, Idlib, and other rebel-held areas in recent years. Indeed, the talking points are so similar, I’ve written up a summary — based on real articles, interviews, and statements — in which apologists for war crimes can insert the appropriate words at the appropriate spot, depending on which government’s atrocities they are defending…

The Israel/Palestine Conflict and U.S. Foreign Policy w/ Prof. Stephen Zunes

ParallaxViews.podbean.com: [LISTEN NOW]

On this edition of Parallax Views, University of San Francisco-based international relations scholar Stephen Zunes joins us to continue our exploration of recent events involving Israeli airstrikes, the Sheikh Jarrah district of East Jerusalem, Hamas, Gaza, and U.S. foreign policy. In this conversation we discuss a number of issues with a special focus on U.S. support of Israel on Capitol Hill. Additionally, we dive into the Israeli airstrike that took down an Associated Press building, the Last Week Tonight with John Oliver segment that was extremely critical of Israel, the potential misuses criticizing AIPAC, antisemitism, claims that the recent violence was the result of a plot by either Iran or Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, the misuse of antisemitism to stifle criticism of action taken by Israel as a state, U.S. foreign policy’s long history of supporting oppressive regimes, the generational gap about views on Israel/Palestine in the U.S. states, the issue of racism and settler-colonialism, and much, much more.

Trump’s deal on Morocco’s Western Sahara annexation risks more global conflict

Stephen Zunes is a professor of politics at the University of San Francisco and is co-author, with Jacob Mundy, of “Western Sahara: War, Nationalism, and Conflict Irresolution.”

Last week, President Trump formally recognized Morocco’s annexation of Western Sahara as part of a deal to get Morocco to normalize relations with Israel. But Morocco’s claim on Western Sahara is rejected by the United Nations, the World Court, the African Union and a broad consensus of international legal scholars that consider the region a non-self-governing territory that must be allowed an act of self-determination. This is why no country had formally recognized Morocco’s takeover — until now. At the time of the Moroccan takeover of the former Spanish colony in 1975, the U.N. Security Council unanimously called on Moroccan forces to immediately withdraw and allow the people of Western Sahara to determine their own destiny. However, both France and the United States prevented the Security Council from enforcing its mandate. [FULL LINK]

Trump Recognized Morocco’s Illegal Occupation to Boost the Israeli Occupation

Truthout – On December 10, the US became the only country to formally recognize Morocco’s illegal annexation of Western Sahara, the former Spanish colony forcibly seized by Moroccan forces in 1975. Trump’s proclamation is directly counter to a series of UN Security Council resolutions and a landmark World Court ruling calling for self-determination. Trump’s decision was a quid pro quo: a reward for Morocco’s formal recognition of Israel, a country which is also an occupying power. Trump had previously broken precedent by recognizing Israel’s illegal annexation of Syria’s Golan Heights and greater Jerusalem. US recognition of the annexation of an entire country, which has been recognized as an independent state by 80 countries, is a particularly dangerous precedent. As with his earlier recognition of Israel’s conquests, Trump is effectively renouncing longstanding international legal principles in favor of the right of conquest. [FULL LINK]

The Troubling Implications of Hillary’s Anti-BDS Letter

On July 2, former secretary of state and frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination Hillary Clinton wrote a letter to Israeli-American billionaire Haim Saban, a strong supporter of the right-wing Netanyahu government, denouncing human rights activists who support boycott/divestment/sanctions (BDS) against the Israeli occupation.

In the letter, made public a few days later, Clinton made a number of statements which are not only demonstrably false but raise serious concerns regarding what kind of policies she would pursue as president.

She claimed that the BDS movement was working to “malign and undermine Israel and the Jewish people.” Though some BDS activists target Israel as a whole, most efforts on college campuses and elsewhere focus solely on the Israeli occupation, particularly companies that profit from that occupation and support illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. In any case, the BDS campaign does not “malign and undermine” Jews. This cynical effort to depict the movement as anti-Semitic could be an indication of the kind of rhetoric she would use as president to discredit human rights activists who challenge her policies elsewhere.

Clinton claims in the letter that initiatives through the United Nations critical of Israeli violations of international humanitarian law are inherently “anti-Israel,” thereby implying that those who raise concerns about a given country’s human rights record do so not because of a desire to uphold universally recognized ethical and legal principles, but because of an ideological bias against a particular country. Although some UN agencies have disproportionately targeted Israel for criticism, the vast majority of such reports and resolutions have been consistent with findings and concerns raised by reputable international human rights organizations (such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch) and Israeli groups (such as the B’tselem human rights group and the veterans’ organization Breaking the Silence.)

Clinton further argues that it is illegitimate to use sanctions to “dictate” that an occupying power should end its illegal colonization of occupied territory and withdraw to within its internationally recognized boundaries in accordance with UN resolutions and international law. Indeed, she rejects any kind of “outside or unilateral actions” against such flagrant violations of international legal norms. Instead, she insists that resolution to such conflicts be based solely on negotiations between an occupying power and those under occupation regardless of the gross asymmetry in power between the two parties and a series of UN Security Council resolutions, rulings of the International Court of Justice, and longstanding international legal principles that recognize the illegitimacy of any country expanding its borders by force and moving settlers into occupied territory.

Clinton’s lack of concern for international law is also evidenced in her reference to the predominantly Palestinian Old City of Jerusalem as being part of Israel, even though it was seized by Israeli forces in the 1967 war and is recognized by the UN and the international community as being under foreign belligerent occupation.

She also proudly references her condemnation of the 2009 report by the UN Human Rights Council—headed by the distinguished South African jurist Richard Goldstone (a Zionist Jew)—which documented war crimes by both Israel and Hamas. In the letter, she implies that the report denied Israel’s right to self-defense, when it in fact explicitly recognized Israel’s right to do so. The report’s only objections to Israeli conduct were in regard to attacks on civilian targets, not its military actions against extremist militias lobbing rockets into Israel. The implication, therefore, is that Hillary Clinton believes killing civilians can constitute legitimate self-defense.

Her reference to Israel as “a vibrant democracy in a region dominated by autocracy”—while certainly true on a number of levels—ignores Israel’s denial of democratic rights to Palestinians under occupation. Furthermore, it ignores her history as a senator and secretary of state of backing Arab dictatorships in the face of pro-democracy struggles by their own peoples, which has contributed to the predominance of autocratic rule in the Middle East.

In the letter, she also reiterates the romantic Western myth that Israel is “a vibrant bloom in the middle of the desert.” Although Israelis are certainly responsible for impressive advances in irrigation technology in the Negev region and elsewhere, it ignores centuries of agriculture and urban settlement in what is now Palestine, Lebanon, and the western parts of Jordan and Syria, long known as the “Fertile Crescent.” Indeed, Israel originally seized much of its fertile lands by force from Palestinian farmers.

There are other troubling aspects of the two-page letter as well: She boasts about her efforts to block UN recognition of Palestinian statehood. She pledges to work with Republicans to fight BDS activists, who are mostly registered Democrats. She links anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism and the terrorist attacks against Jews in France. In addition, by denouncing BDS because it “singles out Israel,” she is implying that any human rights group that focuses on one country (i.e., Tibet, Burma, Western Sahara, Syria, or Iran) is thereby illegitimate.

Finally, her pledge to “defend Israel at every turn” and that as president she will “always stand up for Israel” is particularly troubling, given her propensity to equate “Israel” with the policies of its right-wing government.

Taken altogether, this letter raises very troubling questions regarding the kind of president Hillary Clinton would be, not just in regard to Israel and Palestine, but in relation to human rights and international law overall and her reaction to those who support such principles.

Israel’s settlements outside official border flout international law

In mid-December, Israeli officials approved plans for the construction of more than 2,600 new homes to be built on Givat Hamatos, a hill on the outskirts of Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem. This settlement would be the first major new Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem outside of Israel’s internationally recognized borders since 1997, effectively completing the encirclement of Arab East Jerusalem by cutting it off from the rest of the West Bank.

Like a number of other new settlements announced by Israel’s right-wing government, this latest initiative appears designed to divide up the land in the occupied territory in such a way as to make the establishment of a contiguous Palestinian state impossible.

In face of near-universal international condemnation for this latest Israeli provocation, however, the United States rushed to Israel’s defense.

All of the Israeli settlements outside of Israel’s internationally recognized borders are illegal. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention — to which both Israel and the United States are signatories — prohibits any occupying power from transferring “parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” The United Nations, with such measures as Security Council Resolutions 446, 452, 465 and 471, has repeatedly recognized that Israel is in violation of this critical international treaty.

In addition, a landmark 2004 decision by the International Court of Justice also confirmed the illegality of the settlements.

On Dec. 19, however, the Obama administration blocked a U.N. Security Council vote on a resolution condemning Israel’s announcement of the new settlement. The U.S. then blocked an effort for a joint statement by the Security Council president. In response, all 14 other members of the Security Council issued individual statements condemning the illegal Israeli actions.

Obama’s efforts to undermine international law in regard to Israeli colonization are not new. In February 2011, a nearly unprecedented majority of U.N. members co-sponsored a Security Council resolution that reaffirmed previous Security Council resolutions acknowledging that Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands occupied since the June 1967 war were illegal and constituted a major obstacle to peace. Unlike these previous resolutions, however, which called on Israel to withdraw from already existing settlements, this resolution simply insisted that Israel cease additional settlement activity in Palestinian areas.

Despite the moderate wording, however, the United States vetoed the resolution. All 14 of the other members of the Security Council voted in favor, situating the United States as an extreme outlier in the international community and placing President Barack Obama to the right of the conservative governments of Great Britain and France.

Given that the 2004 ruling by the International Court of Justice enjoined the United States and other signatories to “ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law,” the U.S. veto of a U.N. Security Council resolution attempting to encourage compliance indicates that Obama is willing to have the United States violate the decision by the World Court as well.

The official State Department position, in effect for nearly 33 years and never formally repealed, states categorically, “While Israel may undertake, in the occupied territories, actions necessary to meet its military needs and to provide for orderly government during the occupation, for the reasons indicated above the establishment of the civilian settlements in those territories is inconsistent with international law.” Obama, in vetoing this resolution, demonstrated his willingness to undermine even his own State Department.

Refusing to recognize the illegality of Israeli settlements at the United Nations was not always the position of the U.S. president. The Nixon, Ford and Carter administrations were quite willing to do so when Israel’s colonization drive began in the 1970s. However, despite his distinguished legal background, Obama has demonstrated — on this issue, at least — that he has even less respect for the law than Richard Nixon had.

As late as the presidency of George H.W. Bush, the United States tried to pressure Israel to halt settlement expansion. However, under the Clinton administration — with the backing of both parties in Congress — the United States succeeded in blocking efforts by Israeli peace activists and the international community to freeze settlements, which at that time were only half as large as they are now. The United States even used taxpayer dollars to subsidize the settlements’ expansion. These policies contributed directly to the collapse of the peace process in 2000 and the rise of extremist Palestinian groups like Hamas.

In 2001, the U.S. Mitchell Report called on Israel to “freeze all settlement activity, including the ‘natural growth’ of existing settlements,” emphasizing that without such a freeze, “a cessation of Palestinian-Israeli violence will be particularly hard to sustain.” Neither the Bush administration nor Congress pressured Israel to abide by this recommendation, however.

Similarly, when the George W. Bush administration — along with Russia, the European Union and the United Nations — put together a three-part “road map” for Israeli-Palestinian peace two years later, the first phase included a freeze on the expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, “including natural growth of settlements.” However, while the United States pushed the Palestinian Authority hard — and largely successfully — to live up to its obligations under the road map, both the Bush and Obama administrations have refused to go beyond mildly worded expressions of concern about Israel’s settlement policy.

It is no secret where U.S. acquiescence to Israel’s settlement policy will lead. As Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon once told Secretary of State Colin Powell, “We learn a lot from you Americans. We saw how you moved West using this method.”

California State Assembly Seeks to Stifle Debate on Israel

The California State Assembly has just passed a bipartisan resolution (HR 35) by voice vote which constitutes a serious attack on academic freedom and the rights of students and faculty to raise awareness about human rights abuses by U.S.-backed governments. While purporting to put the legislature on record in opposition of anti-Semitism on state university campuses, it defines anti-Semitism so widely as to include legitimate political activities in opposition to Israeli government policies.

The resolution was opposed by a wide variety of groups, including the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Asian Law Center, Jewish Voice for Peace, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, yet the Republican-sponsored measure received wide bipartisan support in the Democratic-controlled legislature.

The non-binding resolution – which was sponsored by 66 of the 80 members of the lower house – demands that what it calls “anti-Semitic activity” should “not be tolerated in the classroom or on campus, and that no public resources be allowed to be used for anti-Semitic or intolerant agitation.”

The resolution lists a number of examples of genuine anti-Semitic activities, such as painting swastikas outside Hillel offices. However, much of the text is focused upon criticism of the state of Israel. Among the examples given of “anti-Semitic activities” included in the resolution are:

accusations that the Israeli government is guilty of “crimes against humanity”
This would mean that a speaker from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other reputable human rights groups which have documented such violations of international humanitarian law by the Israeli Defense Forces could not be provided space or honoraria to talk about their research.

accusations that Israel has engaged in “ethnic cleansing”
This would mean that Israeli scholars who have studied and published documents from Israeli archives pertaining to the 1947-49 conflict in Israel/Palestine which demonstrate that there was a calculated policy of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian population in some regions would similarly be barred.

“student and faculty-sponsored boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns against Israel”
This would prohibit efforts to boycott goods made in illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, support international sanctions on Israel over its ongoing violations of a series of UN Security Council resolutions, or have the university divest from its endowment stock in companies supporting the Israeli occupation.

The resolution also declares a number of other political activities that, while clearly objectionable – such as disrupting a speech by a supporter of the Israeli government – as “anti-Semitic,” based on the assumption that hostility toward such a speaker is not based on opposition to policies of Israel’s right-wing government, but because the country is Jewish.

Indeed, throughout the resolution, opposition to Israeli government policies is equated with bigotry towards Jews. There’s no question that some pro-Palestinian activists do sometimes cross the line into what could reasonably be called anti-Semitism, which should indeed be categorically condemned, as should all manifestations of prejudice. Unfortunately, this resolution makes no distinction between this tiny bigoted minority and the majority of activists who oppose the Israeli occupation and other policies of that country’s right-wing government on legitimate human rights grounds.

Not only does this constitute an attack on academic freedom, it compromises legitimate efforts against the scourge of anti-Semitism which – while not as widespread a phenomenon on California campuses as the resolution implies – is still very real.

College campuses, particularly those in California’s large public university systems, have long been a center of agitation for human rights and in opposition to U.S. policies which support violations of human rights, whether it be the war in Vietnam, investment in apartheid South Africa, intervention in Central America, or support for Israel’s wars and occupation.

This bipartisan effort appears to be an attempt to stifle this tradition. Indeed, if the California state legislature succeeds in shutting down debate regarding U.S. policy toward Israel and its neighbors, it will only be a matter of time before debate on other aspects of U.S. foreign policy will be suppressed as well.

University of California Takes Aim at Human Rights Activists

From the Vietnam War to the Central American revolutions to apartheid South Africa to the East Timor occupation to the invasion of Iraq, university campuses have been an important venue for concerned scholars and activists to raise issues regarding human rights, international law and US foreign policy.

However, in an effort to stifle this tradition, University of California President Mark Yudof has launched a campaign targeting human rights activists and others challenging the Israeli occupation and colonization of the West Bank and other policies of the right-wing US-backed Israeli government.

In March, Yudof posted a recent public letter in which he referred to protests on UC campuses against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza as “hateful incidents” on par with defacing LGBT centers, hanging nooses to intimidate African-American students and painting swastikas on campus buildings.

As UC Davis Professor Bob Ostertag noted, under the University of California administration’s new criteria, “student protests against the segregationist policies of southern states during the civil rights movement would be considered ‘hateful events’ against whites, while protests against Serbian policies in Bosnia would be considered ‘hateful events’ against Serbs.” Indeed, the conflating of the right-wing Israeli government with the Jewish people is dangerous on a number of levels, including its apparent objective of invalidating any criticisms of any policies of this key Middle Eastern ally of the United States.

This campaign is already having an impact. UCLA Professor David Shorter, who teaches a course in Indigenous Studies, had curated on a course site available only to students in his class scores of links to possible references for a number of proposed topics for term papers. They included links to essays and other reference materials supportive of various indigenous struggles as well as some that were in opposition, including essays critical of the BDS campaign (boycott/divestment/sanctions) over Israel’s occupation policies. However, because it included a link to a group supportive of BDS, Professor Shorter was publicly reprimanded by the chair of the Academic Senate. This is believed to be the first time the University of California has ever admonished a professor for simply including a link by a human rights group.

One of the incidents which prompted Yudof’s initiative took place on the Davis campus when representatives of the Israeli military gave a public presentation during which they denied and rationalized for well-documented war crimes and criticized reputable human rights organizations. In response, a coalition of student groups – including Students of Justice and Peace in Palestine, Jewish Voices for Peace and the Latino/a student group MECHA – engaged in a silent walkout followed by “a small, peaceful discussion outside the building where they discussed the realities of life under occupation.” A university employee unaffiliated with those groups and their protest heckled the speakers and was appropriately removed from the room by campus security, but – according to faculty members present – the student protesters “did not disrupt the event, nor did any members of this diverse coalition interrupt the speakers.”

Yudof’s letter nevertheless characterizes the silent non-disruptive student protest as “verbal attacks,” comparing them to hate crimes against Jewish, African-American and GLBTQ students.

Yudof also announced that the university is now working with two organizations allied with the Israeli government – but notably no human rights groups or organizations supportive of the Israeli peace movement or the Palestinians – “to improve campus climate for all students and to take full advantage of our marvelous diversity.”

It is particularly ironic that Yudof has brought in the right-wing Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which – while originally a reputable civil rights group – has in more recent years placed much of its energy on defaming legitimate critics of Israeli policies. Given that the ADL has lost a number of court cases regarding spying, harassment and libel in recent years, the decision to bring them in as consultants on this sensitive matter is particularly disturbing. Those who have been victims of such ADL attacks have included scholars who categorically support Israel’s right to exist in peace and security and who have spoken out against unfair attacks against Israel, but happen to object to particular policies of the Israeli government which violate international humanitarian law. Other professors have been singled out simply for research which included evidence that happened to contradict positions taken by the Israeli government.

(For example, despite my consistent and categorical opposition to terrorism and advocacy of nonviolent forms of resistance, the ADL put out a widely circulated article about me entitled “professor justifies terrorism” following my 2005 article on the Lebanese Hezbollah movement. Though the article fully acknowledged the group’s sordid history of terrorism and extremist ideology, I noted – based on reports from the US State Department and the Congressional Research Service – that they had not engaged in any terrorist attacks during the previous decade and had refocused their energies on their network of social services and on electoral politics.)

Despite personally informing President Yudof of the ADL’s lack of credibility on such matters, he has declined to reconsider the university’s decision to grant the right-wing group this important consultative role.

Yudof also organized a meeting with the Hillel Foundation directors from the UC’s campuses – who are generally acknowledged to be well to the right politically relative to most Jewish students in the university system – to discuss their “observations regarding how Israel is faring on campus, how the Jewish community perceives the university’s actions and inactions and, most important, how Jewish students are feeling about the situation.” It appears he has not made any comparable initiative to learn how Palestine is faring on campus, how the Palestinian or the human rights community perceives the university’s actions and inactions, or how Palestinian or other Arab students feel about the situation.
The University of California’s bias toward allied right-wing governments of the United States and opposition to human rights activists who challenge them is further illustrated by the university administration’s tolerance of actions by right-wing groups allied with the Israeli government, including attacking bystanders with pepper spray, wielding stun guns at a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Berkeley and fabricating quotes by moderate professors who support human rights in the Middle East to falsely depict them as anti-Israel extremists.

Anti-Jewish bigotry (“anti-Semitism”) – like racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression – is unfortunately ubiquitous in contemporary society and sometimes does raise its ugly head among a minority of activists involved in movements supporting Palestinian rights. Whenever it does, it should be challenged forcefully and unreservedly condemned.

This is not what these recent actions by the University of California administration are about, however. These are nothing short of McCarthyistic attacks to suppress debate and free speech on human rights abuses by governments allied to the United States. And it is ironic that it this is taking place on university campuses, traditionally a center of such discourse – particularly at the University of California.

U.S. policy undermines moderate Palestinians

The Palestinians declared an independent state back in 1988, which has been recognized by more than 130 of the world’s nations. The Obama administration, however, insists that it is still too early for Palestine to be admitted into the United Nations.

Though the U.N. has been the arena in which international conflicts — including those between Israel and its neighbors — have historically been addressed, the Obama administration insists that this should no longer be the case. Instead, they argue, Palestinian statehood can only be recognized following an agreement resulting from negotiations between the Israeli occupiers and the Palestinians under occupation, facilitated by the United States, the primary military, economic and diplomatic supporter of the occupying power.

Unfortunately, while the leadership of the Palestinian Authority under President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is the most moderate leadership the Palestinians have had, the current Israeli government is the most hard-line in that country’s history.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists that Arab East Jerusalem — the largest Palestinian city and historic heart of Palestinian cultural, economic, religious and academic life — should be permanently annexed into Israel, as should the Jordan Valley, on the eastern border of Palestine. Furthermore, his government has declared that large swaths of territory in between should also be annexed into Israel to incorporate its illegal settlements.

The result would be that the only land left for the Palestinians to have their “state” would be a series of tiny noncontiguous cantons surrounded by Israel.

Despite two and a half years of pressure from the Obama administration, Netanyahu has not budged on his position at all. Still, President Obama insists that Palestinian statehood must not be recognized except under conditions agreed to by the current rightist Israeli government.

Back in 1948, the United States did not demand that the Jews in the British Mandate of Palestine refrain from going to the U.N. or that they reach a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians on their boundaries and related issues in order to have their state recognized. Israel achieved its independence through a U.S.-backed U.N. General Assembly resolution and was accepted, with U.S. support, as a member state the following year. Indeed, the United States was the very first country to recognize Israel.

More recently, the United States recognized Kosovo’s unilaterally declared independence and has supported its application for U.N. membership without demanding a negotiated agreement with the Serbs, despite Kosovo legally being part of Serbia.

U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 — long seen as the basis of Israeli-Palestinian peace — calls for security guarantees from Israel’s neighbors as a prerequisite for Israel’s withdrawal from occupied Arab territories. However, the Palestinian Authority, under the leadership of Abbas and Fayyad, has already agreed to such security guarantees as part of a final agreement, including demilitarization of their new state, the disarming of militias and opening their country to Israeli and international monitors. Meanwhile, there have been virtually no attacks against civilians inside Israel from areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority since Abbas became president in 2005.

Furthermore, Resolution 242 reiterates the long-standing international principle recognizing the illegitimacy of any country expanding its territory by military force. A series of subsequent unanimously adopted resolutions have called on Israel to rescind its illegal annexation of greater East Jerusalem and to withdraw from its illegal settlements in East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank. As territories under foreign belligerent occupation, the Palestinians living on these lands have a legal right to self-determination under international law.

The Palestinian Authority has also made clear in its application for U.N. membership that it is not demanding any Israeli territory inside the pre-1967 borders. The state Palestinians wish to be recognized, therefore, would constitute only 22 percent of historic Palestine. Unfortunately, the Obama administration apparently believes this is too much. The U.S. veto of this historic diplomatic initiative in which the elected Palestinian leadership is permanently renouncing its claims to 78 percent of Palestinians’ historic homeland will only embolden Hamas and other Palestinian extremists who can now argue that compromise and diplomacy does not work and that armed struggle for all of Palestine is the only means for achieving statehood.

Obama still claims he supports a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel and has eloquently expressed his support for the legitimate aspirations of both sides. Unfortunately, like the “white moderates” described in Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail” who similarly professed to support the goals but not the methods, Obama insists on negotiations with oppressors who refuse to compromise and “believes he can set the timetable for someone else’s freedom.”

Obama’s anti-Palestinian position will severely damage the standing of the United States in the Arab world just when we can least afford to alienate the new generation of pro-democracy activists nonviolently trying to reshape the region.

It is unlikely that Obama will gain much domestically from his hard-line stance either, given that most people who support the Israeli occupation will presumably vote Republican anyway. Indeed, Republicans will call him “anti-Israel” despite the veto just as they call him “socialist” no matter how much he kowtows to Wall Street. Instead, he has simply eroded further the support of his liberal base that believes Palestinians, no more or less than Israelis, have the right to national self-determination.