Apr 08 2015

Working against a link

Published by at 1:07 pm under Articles,Palestinian politics


Following appeared in the Jordan Times newspaper

By Daoud Kuttab

Israel is heavily engaged in two international cases. The international efforts to curtail Iran’s nuclear program, and world’s desire to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.

While the nuclear issue appears to be on its way to being resolved, there is concern that a trade off between the two might take place. All sides deny that the two cases are linked but there is worry that the fierce Israeli opposition to the US and European frame work agreement with Iran could force Washington to make an unethical trade off.

US president Barack Obama is facing a stubborn opposition to the framework agreement from his Republican opponents in congress and even from some of his own fellow democrats. There is no doubt that the opposition in congress could be eased if the Israelis were to suddenly see the light and realize that the P5+1 agreement is not a bad deal but much better than no deal. Both Israel and the US have repeatedly said that they prefer no deal with Iran rather than a bad deal. US Secretary of State John Kerry and  his team have worked tirelessly to produce the frame work agreement that applies the strictest monitoring regime every created against a potentially nuclear country. The framework accord will be expanded to a full agreement by next June. In return the world community agreed that once a full agreement is signed the international boycott of Iran will be totally lifted.

The extended negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program has produced an unholy alliance between right wing US republicans and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This alliance was heighted last month by a controversial speech made by the Israeli leader to the joint houses of congress in opposition to the White House. Major pro Israel and pro Republican American donors like casino billionaire  Sheldon Adelson are among the financial backers of both Netanayahu and Obama’s republican opponents. The speech in Washington alientated many Democrats especially Black Democrats who felt that the Israeli leader was disresepectful to America’s first African American president.

The victory of Netanayhu’s Likud party in Israel’s parliamentary elections last month has widened the gap between the White House and the Israeli Likud leader. During the hotly fought elections, Netanyahu vowed to his supporters that if elected there will be no Palestinian state during his term in office. While Netnayahu backed off from his electoral promise the day after being elected, this had done little to soften the Obama Administration’s anger at the Israeli leader’s anti peace position. The US is leading a coalition of Arab and Moslem countries against the extremists groups that have been destablising the Middle East and north African region. The US believes that the continuation of the Israeli occupation adds to the frustration of the peoples of the region.

As the US congress gears up to oppose the framework deal with Iran, the white house is ralling the US public behind its posisiton that tha agreement is the best one possible with the current Iranian regime.

In capital Hill though the republicans who are a majority in both houses are trying to convince enough democrats to join them in opposing the deal. Republican need a veto busting super majority of votes in order to frustrate what could be a major legacy for the two term president. While it is clear that African American democrats will not agree to join this anti Iran effort, there is no such guarantee for other democrats especially some of the pro Israeli legislatures. One such democrats is the pro Israel senator from New York Chuck Schumar who is reportedly wavering between standing with his fellow democratic president or opposing the Iranian deal. The high ranking NY senator who is among a handful of American Jewish congresspersons is under immense pressure to join Republicans in opposing a deal that Israel’s leader is also opposing.

If the attempt to reach this super 2/3 majority is close and the White House is desperate to stop the movement of democrats towards the other side, will the Obama Administration attempt to sway some of the hesitant pro Israeli democratic members not to join the republicans in return for the White House refraining from pressuring Israel on the Palestine issue?

Politics makes strange bedfellows and political trade off are common in all arenas. While the Palestinian issue is a just cause, there is no guarantee that in their zeal to seal the Iran agreement, the Obama administration will soften its currently tough stand against Netanayhu regarding the need to end Israeli occupation. Arabs and other supporters or Palestine, must make sure that such a link between support for Iran and opposition to Palestine does not bear fruit in the crucial coming months.

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