Biden gets a royal diplo-kickin’

2668626 So, what’s Joe Biden to do except make sure he’s late for dinner by at least an hour and a half—keep Bibi and his chiffoned wife waiting. Snub for snub. Course, late for dinner vs. the announcement of 1600 more Israeli housing units in Arab East Jerusalem is not quite proportional fare—or proportionally fair.

Even the Jerusalem Post was juiced, sputtering, "a staggering example of diplomatic obtuseness." 

Netanyahu for his part threw up his hands saying he had been “blindsided by extremists in his coalition, who control the interior ministry.” No Bibi, it was more like you got nipped by the horse that feeds you.

He wasn’t, couldn’t have been unaware of the settlements, just, perhaps, the announcement. Which means that Netanyahu’s still full-speed ahead on the colonization front, but somewhat flushed over the headlines. He probably would have preferred to curb the glee while hosting visitors from Capital Hill. But then, who knows, another game of chicken with Barak might be fun since the outcome is assured.

And that’s the sadness: Obama started his presidency demanding a settlement freeze and promising fair play for Palestinians. But a few sleeps and the thing collapsed when US ceded to Netanyahu’s offer of a 10-month building moratorium in the West Back. Ten months? That was the best they could do? No one heard the word temporary in the speech, but that was the upshot.

But it’s more than this. The main point about the settlements, outposts, housing units, says Prof. Iain Scobbie, who eats and sleeps international law,

is not that they obstruct diplomacy — which they do — but rather that they are illegal. Occupied territory is not under the sovereignty of the occupant. It cannot treat the territory it occupies as it sees fit. An occupant’s powers are circumscribed by international law, which unequivocally prohibits the settlement of part of its population, whether forcible or voluntary, in that territory. While this prohibition arises from Article 49, Article 1 requires parties not merely to respect the terms of the convention in their own conduct but also to ensure that others do. All states are party to the Geneva Conventions, therefore all states have the duty to ensure that Israel’s illegal policy of creating settlements in occupied Palestinian territory ceases without further delay.

With Israel having broken the Oslo agreement, the Geneva Convention and not a few UN resolutions, was Obama just a tad optimistic, or just naive when he called for reassurances from B.N. concerning a freeze on settlements?

Back to that game of chicken: Could it happen that Pres. Obama will be so vexed by the flagrancy of the rebuff that he’ll straddle the white line with nary a flinch? Spilling Benjamin and the Lekud boys into the ditch? And why not, why not give Israel their “independence”? Stop the aid, at least cut it back.

usaidLast year the U.S. gave 3 billion dollars to Israel in Foreign aid, and they gave .5 billion to Palestine. But it’s military aid that’s telling.  The U.S. gives Israel $7.0 million each day in military aid.

And what can we do back here in the alpines? Well, we can boycott Israeli products for one. (Check here as well. And here: Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods) Admittedly the companies that have ties to Israel and support Israel are legion. But every wise consumer choice counts.

Boycott, divestment, and sanctions are important, and so is your voice. I have faith that Israeli and American governments are capable of shame. And that means our voices, our nonviolent actions, can be effective. There are, in Israel (Jews for Palestinian Justice) and America, and in our own country, organizations that call for justice for Palestinians. The voices are growing stronger.


  1. Even though I don’t understand all the details of this issue I certainly know that Israel and America (possibly other nations as well) are acting in an anti-Christ way. They should feel shame! Thank you for bringing this issue some clarity and some direction towards non-violent action. If South Africa apartheid can fall so can Israelie apartheid.

  2. Oh wise sage, you have been fastidious in your ressearch, contemplative in your analysis, and succinct in your summary.
    You have, however, omitted the only salient point regarding Israel as held by many in the US. They are the chosen people, and exceptions must be made in the application of [mere mortal] law to their situations.
    (Ouch!, I may have bitten my tongue which was firmly pressed against my cheek during the preceding remark)

  3. Fred, you have definitely bitten more than your cheeky tongue; you will have stepped on the toes of all literalists who believe the Israelies to be the chosen people. I like accident-prone people though, they make me feel more at home.

  4. Ne’er did I doubt ’twas with intent you posted with point unwritten.
    I’m ever pleased to just comprehend what you’ve writ.

  5. Connie: I just finished reading “In Search of Fatima” a little while ago and it was really good. It helped me to step into the shoes of a Palestinian refugee and in that sense highlights the difficulty that millions of Palestinian refugees face. They rarely feel completely accepted or settled in the countries in which they reside because they are still culturally tied to Palestine and waiting for the day when they will return home. At the same time they have to accept, on some level, that they may never return home and that Palestine is now so fragmented and oppressed that that it barely resembles the home they knew. And for those actually living in the West Bank and Gaza the situation is much worse. In the West Bank Palestinians are continuously harassed, stopped at checkpoints for hours and therefore denied timely access to healthcare, obstructed from obtaining an education or holding down employment, although many Palestinian’s continue to do so, to wake up at 4:00am in the morning just to make it to school or work on time. And Gaza is not a scene that anyone wants to talk about: food shortages, blackouts, inadequate healthcare… essentially a giant prison. I had the privilege of hearing Anna Baltzer speak at the university a couple of weeks ago. She is a Jewish American descended from Holocaust survivors and a very outspoken critic of Israel. I’m reading her book “A Witness in Palestine” but she has also appeared on television many times, most recently on the Daily Show. Check out

  6. I try to follow the blog of a lady named Laila el-Hadad, a Palestinian refugee living in the U.S. who returned to Gaza as a journalist for several years with her two young children. I just read this after writing that last comment and it definitely illustrates what I was trying to say, but in the words of a Palestinian.

  7. Ok I’m breaking my promise. In case you can’t tell, this is an issue I am passionate about. I just wanted to make a correction to my previous comment about Laila el-Hadad. I said that she was a Palestinian refugee to simplify things, but in fact, she is not a refugee herself although her husband is. Her parents left Gaza to live in Kuwait before she was born. I wanted to clarify this because it is important to know that Palestinian refugees are denied the right of return. Refugees that have left Gaza are not allowed to return to Gaza, which is why she had to leave her husband back in the U.S. when she became a journalist there.

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