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Bibi goes ballistic

December 28, 2016

ONE of the all too few redeeming features of the exceptionally dismal year now passing into history has been Benjamin Netanyahu’s relentless tantrum over a United Nations Security Council resolution.

All that he wanted at this gift-giving time of year was a wretched veto, which has been the norm for close to 40 years. But this time Uncle Sam unexpectedly said no, providing the cue for an almighty gnashing of teeth and stamping of feet, with tears and swears and indignant blobs of snot flying in every direction.

The reaction should not have surprised anyone. After all, Israel has long behaved like a spoilt child, and its favourite uncle has invariably been excessively indulgent. Lethal toys have flowed its way for decades, and more than half the vetoes the US has deployed in the Security Council since the UN’s inception were aimed at deflecting international criticism of its delinquent nephew.

Notwithstanding the personal tensions between Netanyahu and Barack Obama, unprecedented military assistance has flowed to Israel under the latter’s administration — just as it has, mind you, to Saudi Arabia. But then, lately the two nations have been increasingly less reluctant to acknowledge that they are effectively on the same page in many ways, notably in seeing Iran as the main regional threat and not giving a damn about Palestinian rights or aspirations.

The passage of Resolution 2334, with 14 votes in favour and one crucial abstention, has meanwhile afforded a new lease of life to the beleaguered Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, a steadily mounting number of whose constituents have lately favoured a change at the helm.

Israel has long behaved like a spoilt child.

Now he is suddenly garnering gratitude and praise from his militant rivals, after the Palestinian delegation to the UN continued lobbying hard for a resolution even after a key sponsor, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s Egypt, got cold feet last Thursday, following entreaties (and possibly threats) from Israel. Four other Security Council members from different continents were persuaded to step up to the mark.

Israel has consequently called back its ambassadors to New Zealand and Senegal (it doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Malaysia and Venezuela), and cut off aid to the latter. What’s more, the ambassadors of all the Security Council member states represented in Tel Aviv were summoned to the foreign ministry for a Christmas Day dressing-down, except for the US envoy, who had earned the privilege of a personal diatribe from Netanyahu.

The envoy’s days are anyhow numbered. President-elect Donald Trump intends to replace him with David Friedman, a financial contributor to Israeli settlements in occupied territories who stands several paces to the right of Netanyahu, and who has been unstinting in directing his bile at American Jews who do not blindly back the Zionist project. Trump has, at the same time, indicated that he is keen to impose an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. But then, the man’s delusions know no bounds.

After being approached by the Israeli lobby, he strove assiduously to prevent an American abstention in the Security Council. Having failed, he declared via his favoured policy-pronouncing platform, Twitter, that things would be different from Jan 20.

That’s inevitable, and it ought to be a monumental worry. This does not mean, however, that Obama’s depressing record on the Israeli-Palestinian issue should be glossed over on account of a partially welcome but largely meaningless gesture from a lame-duck administration. As Aluf Benn, the editor-in-chief of the redoubtable Israeli news­­paper Haaretz, pointed out last Saturday, “Obama is worthy of honorary membership in the Yesha Council, the Israeli settlements’ umbrella organisation, as well as the Likud central committee…

“Obama assumed the presidency with lofty declarations against the settlements, calling the Israeli-Palestinian peace an ‘American interest’. But beyond partial steps that achieved nothing and pointless speeches, he didn’t even once use his presidential clout to realise the two-state solution.”

It is fairly obvious that the settlements, which have expanded exponentially since the US last backed a Security Council resolution condemning their illegality — back in 1980, when the president was Jimmy Carter, who last week called on the Obama administration to formally recognise the Palestinian state — have pretty much thwarted any prospect of a two-state solution. The only alternatives are a meaningful multinational democracy, or an apartheid state whose contours are already well established.

Can the UN resolution, which the US could not muster the courage to vote for, make a difference? Will it make Israel more culpable in the eyes of the International Criminal Court at The Hague? Will the overwhelming majority of the world’s nations that recognise the settlements as illegal proceed to the kind of sanctions that signalled the demise of South African apartheid?

Don’t hold your breath. But relish the spectacle of an unnerved Netanyahu’s histrionics.

Published in Dawn December 28th, 2016