Friday, February 18, 2011

Among U.S. political and media elites the pressing question for the past two weeks has been will freedom for Egyptians be bad for Israel?

This concern particularly extends to the notion that the Muslim Brotherhood, or any other group that is critical of Israel be permitted to share power in Israel.  This concern misses the point that many, but by no means all Egyptians, are deeply critical of Israel.  Even Egyptians well distant from the Ikhwan are often prone to underline that Egyptian cooperation with Israel probably reduced Israel's incentives to pursue a resolution of the conflict that would end the occupation.  Whether the Ikhwan is in or out of government, Egyptians' distaste for Israel's policies is likely to remain.

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's rhetoric is illustrative of a tendency to imagine that is only groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood that condemn Israel for its actions.  

"We must also urge the unequivocal rejection of any involvement by the Muslim Brotherhood and other extremists who may seek to exploit and hijack these events to gain power, oppress the Egyptian people, and do great harm to Egypt’s relationship with the United States, Israel, and other free nations."  Read more: 
The influential congresswoman's concerns illustrate what a strange planet is when it comes to Middle East matters.

Closer to earth, there is an interesting moment approaching in the Security Council:

On Feb. 18, 2011, it is likely that the Security Council will vote on the resolution that will underline the illegality of Israeli's colonization of the West Bank with settlements.  The Obama administration is being lobbied very hard by some of Israel's friends in Congress.  It would very impolitic for the U.S. to cast a veto, as it has so often [not "rarely" as David Sanger oddly claims]; bad timing doesn't begin to capture how counterproductive that would be.  Instead, the U.S. is trying to get by with a statement by the President of the Security Council, one that underlines the consensus that the settlements are "illegitimate". That was the formulation that Obama used in his 2009 Cairo speech. The resolution already has 14 of 15 votes, incidentally.  Of course, a mere statement would have little diplomatic heft, whereas the resolution would increase the pressure on European governments to act, and further undermine Israel's specious claims that it has the right to build in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and to deny the applicabilityy of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

[Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, yet again demonstrates her penchant for challenged logic.  She argues that condemning the illegal settlements would be “a major concession to enemies of the Jewish state and other free democracies.”]

This will be a real gut-check for President Obama.  Let's hope he makes the right call, one that speaks loudly to the need to bring the ocucpation to an end.

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