MONTREAL, Canada, Dec 18 (IPS) – The political significance of US-Israeli differences is easily exaggerated.
It is certainly true that tensions in the relationship exist. Israel is currently committing genocide against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The US would like Israel to reduce – not cease, but reduce – its slaughter Palestinian civilians,
Israel has stated its intention to indefinitely maintain a military presence within at least parts of the Gaza Strip, and rejects any role for the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the governance of the Gaza Strip. The US has indicated it would like to see Israel withdraw to the 1967 boundary and supports replacing Hamas rule with that of the PA, which it believes to be in Israel’s best interest.
Washington would like to resume bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations under US supervision, and has paid lip service to a two-state settlement. Israel has repeatedly and emphatically rejected both proposals.
Neither these nor other disagreements resulting from the current crisis have resulted in any reduction of US military, political, or diplomatic support for Israel, which remains total and unconditional. In other words, US-Israeli tensions have the political significance of a loving couple deciding whether to dine on steak or sushi for their next date.
It has been widely reported, for years, that Biden and his key lieutenants detest Netanyahu, and intensely so. If so, the Israeli prime minister must be thinking: “With enemies like these, who needs friends?”.
The US is not only complicit in Israel’s genocide, it is a full and active partner. For it to propose a “humanitarian pause” under present conditions, which in addition to the continuous, relentless bombing include measures intended to produce starvation, dehydration, and epidemic disease is tantamount to advocating for a Khmer Rouge coffee break.
A meaningless and diversionary charade if ever there was one.
If the Biden administration does take action to enforce international law during the current crisis it won’t be against Israel, but rather against Yemen for interfering with global shipping. Israeli impunity might as well be incorporated into the US constitution.
The performance of the UN Secretariat also leaves much to be desired. It has been extremely slow off the mark, hesitant to a fault, and excessively deferential to the US and Israel. It’s head of Political and Peacekeeping Affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo, has been enveloped in an impenetrable invisibility cloak.
For his part Secretary-General Guterres has been condemning Hamas in the strongest possible terms on an almost daily basis since 7 October but has yet to explicitly condemn Israel for anything.
Candidates for Guterres’s censure would include the mass killings of thousands of children; a medieval siege designed to produce widespread starvation, dehydration, and epidemic disease; an unprecedented campaign to destroy an entire territory’s health sector; the bombing of UN facilities sheltering civilians fleeing hostilities, and a record number of UN staff killed in a conflict, often together with their families.
Among senior officials only Martin Griffiths, the UN’s Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, the World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus, and to a lesser extent Philippe Lazzarini, Commissioner-General of UNRWA, have defied the echo chamber and been more explicit in framing the atrocities in the Gaza Strip.
To his credit, Guterres on 6 December invoked Article 99 of the UN Charter, thereby identifying the crisis as not only a humanitarian emergency but also a threat to the maintenance of international peace and security.
Its significance notwithstanding, history will question why Guterres dithered for two months when it came to calling out Israel for its ferocious onslaught on Gaza before suddenly reaching for his heaviest weapon.
Rather than using the stature and authority of his office during the crucial months of October and November to call for an immediate and comprehensive cessation of hostilities and accountability for all who have violated the laws of war or international humanitarian law, he instead chose to advocate for a vaguely-defined “humanitarian ceasefire”.
For Guterres, the Gaza Crisis constitutes a low point in an already unremarkable and frankly mediocre tenure. There’s a reason morale at the UN is disintegrating.
One does not require the benefit of hindsight to conclude that Guterres would have done better to align himself with the overwhelming majority of UN member states, who on 12 December, in numerous speeches from the floor, once again spoke out against the horrors of this war and called for it to end forthwith.
Mouin Rabbani is Co-Editor, Jadaliyya www.jadaliyya.com
IPS UN Bureau
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