The U.S. role
The U.S. role.
- How does the U.S. support Israel?
- What is the position of the U.S. government on Israeli settlements?
- Why should Americans care about violence in the Middle East?
- Where does U.S. aid to Israel fit in the broader scheme of U.S. foreign aid? Does the U.S. provide aid to the PA also?
- Isn’t the U.S. an honest broker that has sought to bring about peace in the Middle East?
“[O]ur ally, Israel,” writes Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times, “is using American military support to maintain an occupation that is both oppressive and unjust.”  “Whether they know it or not,” writes American Jewish activist Anna Baltzer in her book, Witness in Palestine, “Americans are deeply involved in the Israel/Palestine conflict because they are Israel’s financial sponsors. U.S. tax-payers are funding Israel’s aggression and therefore have a right and a responsibility to demand that those tax dollars not be used to violate international law and human rights.”
According to Baltzer, “The U.S. government also perpetuates the conflict by preventing the United Nations from taking decisive action against Israel’s crimes. A University of Cambridge study found that the US veto has ensured that Israel enjoys “virtual immunity” from the enforcement measures typically adopted by the UN against countries committing identical violations of international law.”
Baltzer cites this observation by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter: “The United States has used its U.N. Security Council veto more than forty times to block resolutions critical of Israel. Some of these vetoes have brought international discredit on the United States, and there is little doubt that the lack of a persistent effort to resolve the Palestinian issue is a major source of anti-American sentiment and terrorist activity throughout the Middle East and the Islamic world.” 
Nowhere is the discrepancy between established U.S. policy and Israeli actions more obvious than in Israel’s ongoing creation and expansion of settlements built on occupied land.
In an ABC News interview taped on February 18, 2011, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reiterated that “…it’s been American policy for many years that [Israeli] settlements were illegitimate….” Nevertheless, later the same day, US Ambassador Susan Rice vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning continued Israeli settlement expansion as illegal. The United States was the sole opponent to the resolution: the 14 other Security Council members voted in favor. The US veto flies in the face of the body of international law that unambiguously defines settlement construction as illegal.
Statements by Secretary Clinton and others in the Obama administration criticizing Israeli settlement-building activity have gone unheeded by the Netanyahu government, like its predecessors. Aid to Israel is not conditional on compliance. Millions of dollars in US military aid flow unimpeded while the US wields its veto in the United Nations to shield Israel from international condemnation. Such actions foster justifiable cynicism throughout the world about the ability of the US to function as an unbiased intermediary in peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis.
Phyllis Bennis writes in Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict, “When they learn about it, which is not always the case, Americans tend to care about violence and its effects on people’s lives wherever it may be. In the case of Israel and Palestine, the violence is on the front pages of our newspapers and top story on radio and television on a daily basis. Many Americans are particularly concerned about violence there because of the religious significance of the area–including historical sites holy to Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Beyond the general concern about human suffering, many Americans have a special interest in events in the region because the U.S. government is by far the most dominant outside power there, and decisions made in Washington are central to developments towards war or peace. And further, the U.S. sends billions of our tax dollars in aid to the region, including about $4 billion in annual aid to Israel alone.
U.S. policy in the Middle East also plays a major role in determining how people in that region view our government and American citizens. If we are concerned about the rise in international antagonism not only to Washington policies but towards American citizens, we need to take seriously what our government does in our name in far-flung parts of the world.” 
Elsewhere, Bennis writes, “The U.S. sends about $4 billion to Israel in military and economic aid every year, in addition to tax-exempt contributions. About $3 billion is mandated directly from Congress (the rest comes in smaller increments from specific U.S. agencies) and amounts to about one-quarter of the entire U.S. aid budget. U.S. laws require that aid to Israel remain at least above Israel’s international debt, thus insuring that U.S. tax funds act as a guarantee of all Israeli loans. Israel is among only a tiny number of countries whose U.S. aid allotments have remained steady even in recent years of economic slump.
Other U.S. laws insure specific aid commitments to Israel as a result of the first Camp David process between Israel and Egypt. Under those arrangements, Egypt, with nearly 70 million people and a per capita annual income of just over $3000, receives only about two-thirds of the funds allocated to Israel.
In 2001 Israel itself requested that the apportionment of its U.S. aid be shifted. Instead of the current balance of about $1.8 billion in military aid and $1.2 billion in economic assistance, the new plan called for a reduction by about 10 percent of the economic aid, to be matched by parallel increases in military aid. The goal would be, after ten years, to have Israel’s entire aid allocation in the form of military assistance.
Since the creation of the Palestinian Authority, the U.S. has provided some economic aid to the Palestinians. But unlike European and Japanese aid to the Palestinian Authority, or U.S. aid to Israel, U.S. financial support for Palestinians is provided only to non-governmental organizations working in the occupied territories—none goes directly to the PA. While the PA, like so many fully sovereign governments that the U.S. supports, certainly has serious problems of corruption, bypassing it only insures the PA’s continued weakness and inability to even begin to function as a government.” 
Bennis also writes, “The U.S. calls itself an honest broker, but that is correct only in a very particular context. The parallel is not that of a baseball umpire, independent and impartial, but rather that of a real estate agent who deals with both parties—honestly— but whom it is known represents the interests of one side because her own economic (or in this case strategic) interests depend on it.
Perhaps more dangerously, the U.S. position has never placed international law and UN resolutions at its center. If it did, the necessity of a complete end to Israel’s occupation would be understood as the starting point of any kind of future peace for Israel as well as for the Palestinians.” 
Jeremy Hammond, editor of Foreign Policy Journal, argues that “…[T]he U.S. supports Israel’s policies, including its illegal occupation and other violations of international humanitarian law. It supports Israel’s criminal policies financially, militarily, and diplomatically.
The Obama administration, for example, stated publically that it was opposed to Israel’s settlement policy and ostensibly “pressured” Israel to freeze colonization activities. Yet very early on, the administration announced that it would not cut back financial or military aid to Israel, even if it defied international law and continued settlement construction. That message was perfectly well understood by the Netanyahu government in Israel, which continued its colonization policies.
[B]oth the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate passed resolutions openly declaring support for Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, despite a constant stream of reports evidencing Israeli war crimes. On the day the U.S. Senate passed its resolution “reaffirming the United States’ strong support for Israel in its battle with Hamas” (January 8, 2009), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) issued a statement demanding that Israel allow it to assist victims of the conflict because the Israeli military had blocked access to wounded Palestinians – a war crime under international law. That same day, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement condemning Israel for firing on a U.N. aid convoy delivering humanitarian supplies to Gaza and for the killing of two U.N. staff members – both further war crimes.
On the day that the House passed its own version of the resolution, the U.N. announced that it had had to stop humanitarian work in Gaza because of numerous incidents in which its staff, convoys, and installations, including clinics and schools, had come under Israeli attack.
U.S. financial support for Israel surpasses $3 billion annually. When Israel waged a war [against] Gaza, its pilots flew U.S.-made F-16 fighter-bombers and Apache helicopter gunships, dropping U.S.-made bombs, including the use of white phosphorus munitions in violation of international law.
U.S. diplomatic support for Israeli crimes includes its use of the veto power in the U.N. Security Council. When Israel was waging a devastating war against the civilian population and infrastructure of Lebanon in the summer of 2006, the U.S. vetoed a cease-fire resolution. As Israel was waging Operation Cast Lead, the U.S. delayed the passage of a resolution calling for an end to the violence, and then abstained rather than criticize Israel once it finally allowed the resolution to be put to a vote. When the U.N. Human Rights Council officially adopted the findings and recommendations of its investigation into war crimes during Operation Cast Lead, headed up by Richard Goldstone, the U.S. responded by announcing its intention to block any effort to have the Security Council similarly adopt its conclusions and recommendations. The U.S. Congress passed a resolution rejecting the Goldstone report because it found that Israel had committed war crimes.
Through its virtually unconditional support for Israel, the U.S. has effectively blocked any steps to implement the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The so-called “peace process” has for many decades consisted of U.S. and Israeli rejection Palestinian self-determination and blocking of any viable Palestinian state. 
 Baltzer, Anna. Witness in Palestine. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers, 2007, 379. Print.
 Bennis, Phyllis. Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer. Northampton, MA: Olive Branch Press, 2007. 4. Print.
 Bennis, Phyllis. Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict – A Primer. Northampton, MA: Olive Branch Press, 2007. 96-98. Print.
 Bennis, Phyllis. Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict – A Primer. Northampton, MA: Olive Branch Press, 2007.85 . Print.
 Hammond, Jeremy R. “Top Ten Myths about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.” The Palestine Chronicle. 18 June 2010. Web. August 16, 2010. http://palestinechronicle.com/view_article_details.php?id=16069