“A New Day” in U.S. Israel/Palestine policy?

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during an event sponsored by Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts October 13, 2015. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Secretary Kerry spoke last week at Harvard, candidly assessing the latest escalation of violence in Israel and Palestine: “There’s been a massive increase in settlements over the course of the last years and now you have this violence cause there’s a frustration that is growing.”  This was followed by Ambassador Samantha Powers telling the UN Security Council that the US was “concerned” by “continued acts of violence against Palestinians and Israelis, ongoing settlement activity, and the high rate of demolitions of Palestinian structures.”  

Such candor is welcome.  But the Obama Administration is obviously unready to acknowledge what Amnesty International has called Israel’s “escalation in the use of excessive force”, “an intensification of collective punishment”, “unlawful killings” and at least two possible instances of “extrajudicial executions.”  And while ready to caution Palestinian authorities against “inflammatory rhetoric”, the US has yet to denounce the bellicose – sometimes racist – comments of Israeli government officials or their provocative campaign to open up Islam’s Noble Sanctuary (Temple Mount) to Jewish prayer.

Moreover, the “massive increase in settlements” that Kerry cites is a direct consequence of US hypocrisy.  Mild criticism of “ongoing settlement construction” has rung hollow for decades.  As the saying goes, “money talks”, and in US-Israeli relations money has been talking at a rate of over $3 Billion a year in US support for the Israeli military.  Next month, the US will up the amount by almost 50% in a another 10-year funding package.  Are we again telling our “Major Strategic Partner” that no matter how it works to frustrate US foreign policy – from blocking a “two state solution” to subverting an international nuclear agreement with Iran – all will be forgiven and we’ll go on aiding and abetting the illegal and brutal occupation of Palestine?

Or is there now some hope – given the increasingly partisan tactics of the Israel Lobby in Congress and the unmistakable discord between Netanyahu and Obama – for a meaningful change of direction?  Can we work to advance a “New Day” in US policy, bringing us closer to justice and peace in Palestine/Israel?

Join Massachusetts Peace Action and more than a dozen allied organization throughout Massachusetts for a half-day conference to address this question on Nov. 14.