CAIRO, Jul 31 (IPS) - For decades, the U.S. has jealously guarded its role of sole arbiter of the Arab-Israeli dispute. In light of recent shows of support for Israel by U.S. presidential hopeful Barack Obama, however, many Arabs fear that Zionist influence on the U.S. body politic — across the political spectrum — has made the notion of ‘U.S. even-handedness’ a contradiction in terms.
“When it comes to the Middle East conflict, the Arabs no longer see any difference between Republicans and Democrats,” Ahmed Thabet, political science professor at Cairo University told IPS. “Both parties vie with one another in expressing total support for Israel.”
In a speech before Israeli parliament in May, U.S. President George W. Bush went further than any of his predecessors in voicing praise for the self-proclaimed Jewish state. Referring to Israelis as a “chosen people”, Bush pledged Washington’s unwavering support against Israel’s traditional nemeses, including Iran and resistance parties Hamas and Hezbollah.
In statements heavy on “Judeo-Christian” religious references, Bush went on to describe Washington’s alliance with Israel as “unbreakable”.
Similar sentiments have been echoed by Bush’s would be Republican successor, Senator John McCain, who has also pledged “eternal” U.S. support for Israel.
“Israel and the U.S. must always stand together,” McCain declared before the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in early June. “We are the most natural of allies. And, like Israel itself, that alliance is for ever.”
Calling Israel “an inspiration to free nations everywhere,” McCain barely addressed longstanding Palestinian aspirations for statehood. Like Bush, he denounced regional actors opposed to Israel’s occupation of Arab land, referring to Hamas as “the terrorist-led group in charge of Gaza.”
Neither Bush nor McCain so much as mention — let alone criticise — Israel’s inhumane treatment of Palestinian populations in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. This treatment includes frequent military assaults often targeting civilians, the use of ‘targeted assassinations’, the ongoing siege of the Gaza Strip (which has brought that territory to the brink of starvation), continued construction of Jewish-only settlements on occupied Palestinian land, and the forced removal of non-Jewish, Arab inhabitants from the city of Jerusalem.
Arab analysts, meanwhile, express little surprise at such blatant pro-Israel bias, coming as it does from a political party thoroughly influenced by the so-called “neo-conservative” movement, of which Israeli ascendancy is a central tenet.
More disturbing to Arab critics of U.S. policy is the fact that Democratic presidential contenders have shown just as much zeal for Israeli supremacy as their Republican rivals.
In his own speech to AIPAC in early June, Obama stressed the need for a “more nuanced” approach to U.S. Middle East peacemaking. He stunned many, however, when he went on to state that Jerusalem would “remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.”
Although Israel has occupied East Jerusalem since 1967, its claim to the city has never been recognised by the international community. Officially, the status of Jerusalem — which Palestinians also want as capital of their future state — is supposed to be determined in long-awaited “final status” negotiations.