The statehood stakes
President Barack Obama is about to veto the Palestinians’ well-supported bid in the United Nations for statehood. In doing so, he will betray the tide of the Arab spring, and the long standing commitment of the United States of promoting democracy in the Middle East and throughout the world.
How could he? Well, his reelection obviously means more to him than freedom for the brutally oppressed Palestinians who have been occupied for 63 years by the well-armed Israelis. Pro-Israeli voters might run away. Certainly the right wing, including the Tea Partiers, has already been co-opted by the pro-Israeli lobbyists.
The New York Times reported 20 Israeli left-wing intellectuals and artists had urged President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority to go to the United Nations to pursue the resolution, despite their government’s opposition. Abbas said he is willing to live in peace with Israel upon Palestine being declared a state. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is staunchly opposed to Palestinian statehood, of course, and declared it would be a setback for peace.
What peace? Israel has illegally grabbed, with U.S. support, 76 percent of Palestinian land. Palestinians would be stupid to return to the lure of negotiations.
The United States has made it clear it is ready to block statehood for the Palestinians. A group of senior American officials are on their way to Jerusalem to urge the Palestinians to drop their hopes for statehood. The Palestinians would be fools to heed that advice. With statehood, they would be on an equal footing with Israel at the negotiating table.
Obama will prove his hypocrisy if he bows to the Israelis once again, par for the course. No doubt he faces a dilemma — to do the right thing or play ball for his own political gain. If his mother was alive, she would undoubtedly tell him to do the right thing and let his conscience be his guide.
I believe if a segment of Americans are so sympathetic to the needs of Israel for housing, they should give up their own land, homes and resources here. As an American I would say that is their individual right, but they have no right to give up what does not belong to them. Most Americans must know that.
Pro-Israeli lobbyists in the United States put the pressure on Americans to forget their ideals of freedom and self government. Recently congressmen have been wined and dined in Israel to persuade them against supporting statehood for the Palestinians.
It would be a great step for Obama to show his support by not vetoing Palestinian yearning for statehood. Courage is not easy.
Republican President Dwight Eisenhower had courage. In 1956, when he was running for reelection against Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson, an intellectual and idealist, Eisenhower ordered Britain, France and Israel to get out of the Suez Canal, which they were invading. With the clout of the United States, and even though his reelection was at stake, Eisenhower took that heroic stance. It was a blow for ally Britain, especially considering that Prime Minister Anthony Eden’s government fell as a result of Eisenhower’s righteous stance, and Eden never recovered.
The American people understood, and Eisenhower was reelected to his second term. Generals do understand war sometimes. It was a proud moment for the United States in history.
Eisenhower showed the same courage in his first presidential campaign when he promised to get out of the no-win Korean War. He did what he promised and wound up with a demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. The major fighting stopped and South Korea prospered in its U.S.-backed independence. So there are some good and worthy lessons in history.
President Obama should take the giant step and practice what he preaches about democracy. When it comes to his own personal political fate, though, perhaps the Arab longing for freedom from the brutal occupation of the Israelis may be too much to ask.
But Obama would make America look great in supporting those seeking freedom, rather than selling out on America’s ideals. Millions around the world count on America and have been sold on our ideals of freedom and democracy. It behooves us to live up to those aspirations. In that way, we will exemplify true leadership in the world.Helen Thomas' posts appear here courtesy of the Falls Church News-Press.