Breaking Up with Israel

Alex Kane Jan 21, 2013

Alex Kane
Special Envoy to
Palestine and Israel

What a tangled mess I’ve inherited. As special envoy to Palestine and Israel, I have my work cut out. It will be a hard journey, but I’m determined to forge a better way for the people of Israel, Palestine, the Middle East and the United States.

I assume office at a time of great upheaval in the Middle East. The Arab revolutionary wave has swept governments from power in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, while the Syrian civil war grinds on with catastrophic consequences. There are those who say that this unstable political climate means that we must postpone action on the Israel/Palestine front. But those people are wrong. If anything, the Arab revolutionary wave has exposed Israel’s regional weakness. It would in fact be in Israel’s best interests to address the roots of the Arab-Israeli conflict before it creeps up on them with consequences the state cannot shape.

On the Israel/Palestine front specifically, the challenges remain daunting. I have to deal with a number of vexing developments that have pushed the possibility of a just settlement between Israelis and Palestinians to the farthest reaches of the mind. Nobody thinks peace is possible with a divided Palestinian polity, settlement-boosting right-wing Israeli government and a U.S. government determined to back Israel and shield it from the consequences of its actions.

Where do I come in? Coming from an outsider, my attempts to address internal political developments in Palestine and Israel will likely fail. But my appointment has already shown that possibilities exist for a radically different U.S. path on this issue. The Israel lobby raised its ugly head to smear me, but the President bucked them for the first time.

So my role will primarily address U.S. involvement and complicity in the perpetuation of the conflict. For decades, the United States has backed Israel unconditionally as it systematically violated international law by building West Bank colonies that sliced and diced the territory slated to be a Palestinian state. This will change when I take the helm as special envoy to the region.

The main policy plank I plan on pursuing is to extricate the United States from its deep complicity with Israeli war crimes. I will send a message to the prime minister of Israel saying that if you do not take steps to stop the growth of settlements, ease the blockade of Gaza and begin a process of dismantling illegal colonies in the West Bank, U.S. military aid and diplomatic protection will be in jeopardy. If the United States is continually rebuffed, I will lobby Congress to support legislation that would cut aid to Israel and encourage the United States to support efforts for a peaceful solution based on international law at the United Nations. Whether this will be a one-state or a two-state solution is up to the international community, and ultimately the Israelis and Palestinians. But the time for U.S. leadership on this issue is now — and we’ll begin with looking at Israel’s criminal behavior.

These policies are no panacea — there is no magic bullet to solve the Israel/Palestine conflict. But the festering wound of Palestinian statelessness and displacement harms Americans as well as Palestinians and Israelis. The U.S. image in the Middle East will remain dismal as long as we continue to support Israel unconditionally. This affects the region’s instability and Washington’s ability to lead in other areas. And it provides fuel to Islamic extremists who are outraged at Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

For all those reasons, it is important to shift U.S. policy to a more even-handed approach. The time to end U.S. complicity with Israel’s land-grabbing machine is now.

Alex Kane is an associate editor at the news website Mondoweiss and the World section editor for AlterNet.

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