American impotence and the ‘Born in Jerusalem’ law
The Mideast’s destroyed pottery barn is America’s to fix
Americans born in Jerusalem will not be able to list “Israel” as their country of birth. This U.S. Supreme Court-handed victory, last week, to the American administration has many layers, most obvious and relevant of which authorizes the U.S. Department of State to deny any requests by passport applicants to list "Israel" as their place of birth. If it were to list “Israel” it would implicitly confirm the status of Jerusalem as an Israeli city. Consecutive American administrations are committed to holding the fate of Jerusalem to negotiations over final status between the Palestinians and Israelis. In a world of heightened sensitivities to America’s language and gestures, such a policy has lived ramifications on the ground for both Palestinians and Israelis.
The perpetual Palestinian-Israeli conflict became fatigued a generation or two ago, its subjects weary of chasing an illusive mirage. It has over the decades morphed from a free for all wrestling match of sorts, with multiple parties engaging on military and diplomatic fronts, to one akin to a boxing match “limited” to two contenders. The travesty is the flagrant disparity between the two contending parties. It is unjustifiable to remain in the stands watching the continued humiliation of the weaker party, the Palestinians, by the much stronger and well-equipped Israelis, knowing full well the inevitable conclusion. In fact, unsavory terror organizations such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS have used the injustice befalling the Palestinians as a rallying cry. Yet, this is exactly the policy the U.S. chose to publicly adopt, all the while imposing it upon the world stage under the guise of neutrality.
Neutrality is a euphemism for impotence
This so called “neutrality” is a mockery, leading to practical support for Israel. Since Israel’s inception in 1948, Palestinians have lost their historic land and are now negotiating for less than 22% of the land that remains. With Israel’s continued expansion; confiscation of lands and illegal settlements, Palestinians continue to vie for an independent state that would be, for all practical purposes, dead on arrival. If the U.S. would loosen the political shackles it imposes upon the process it would open the field up for a possible, although improbable, two state solution steered by the U.N.
Although the U.S. doesn’t hold the key to resolving the conflict, it plays the role of the gatekeeper, preventing the process from reaching such resolution. This political stance is not an arbitrary one, nor a proactive one. Be it Democrat or Republican, this conflict is one which both parties tiptoe around, playing it safe and attempting to strike a delicate balance between personal political gains and U.S. national interest. To that end, neither personal nor national aspirations are adequately satisfied. For one, the annual pilgrimage to gain the blessing of the American Israeli Political Action Committee’s (AIPAC) is a degrading spectacle as many politicians are willing to utter words of support that don’t emanate from a personal belief, but rather from a “conviction” for personal advancement. Having AIPAC bestow its blessing upon a politician running for election in the US prompts its supporters to contribute financially to the said candidate. Although money doesn’t win elections, votes do, a candidate will not be able to convince potential voters of his or her worthiness without serious amounts of money. The 2012 presidential elections had a reported price tag of $7 billion for the presidency and congressional races - this is especially important as we come upon an election year.
The Mideast’s destroyed pottery barn is America’s to fixWalid Jawad
The power and influence wielded by the U.S. makes it as much of a party to the Mideast conflict, as the primary players; its policies having immediate ramifications on the outcome of the conflict. Regardless of consecutive administrations’ attempts to move the conflict closer to a just and peaceful lasting resolution, the stance of false neutrality adopted by the U.S. has and continues to do more harm than good. Although at face value the accepted wisdom of a two state solution looks “just”, it will never yield a fair outcome for the Palestinians, and will inevitably generate new grievances, eventually spilling over beyond any new Palestinian borders. Palestinian sovereignty will not be complete, their economy never flourishing, and their security a faraway dream, handicapped, beholden to Israel and the whims and fancies of its regime.
The State of Isralestine
The most worthy elements that should be taken into consideration includes the fact that Palestinians (along with other Arabs) have lost to the Israelis in numerous military confrontation over the last century (including those prior to the creation of the Jewish state); that Israel has displaced untold numbers of Palestinians along with their stateless offspring. Yet, Jerusalem is a holy city for the Palestinians; Muslims and Christians. By zooming out to bring the entire Mideast into focus, we find a region in a state of utter disarray. Thousands of miles away and across the Atlantic, here in the States, American Jews are more diverse than ever before, and many continue to actively lobby for peace and a balanced resolution to this devastating conflict. All of these points lead to one conclusion no administration can escape if it is willing to be truthful and courageous enough to preserve America's national interest and its founding ethical and moral principles: a one state solution.
There will be a price to pay, but that price will not be any more costly than the recurring price tag of war (Afghanistan, twice in Iraq, Libya, ongoing military basis in the Mideast and supplying/assisting groups in Syria), or the cost incurred by the instability of global energy prices, or resources expended in fighting terror threats by organized violent groups and/or lone wolves, not to mention increasing cyber attacks. The Mideast’s destroyed pottery barn is America’s to fix. There is no reason to tread lightly when all the eggs are cracked and in pieces. It is time for the American administration to stop straddling the fence, hiding behind an impotent concept of neutrality.
The White House must take a practical stance, even if the short-term consequences are upsetting to both Arabs and Jews alike. Israel must choose to be a democratic state as it claims, and be responsible toward the people it conquered. As such, the U.S. must return to its founding principles of not supporting religious exclusionary systems of governance. The U.S. needs to stop paying for the inadequacies and incompetence of other parties to the conflict and cease from passively contributing to the suffering of Palestinians; it is the moral and practical way forward.
Walid Jawad is a former Senior Policy Analyst at U.S. Department of State and a former Washington, DC correspondent. He covered American politics for a number of TV outlets since 1997. Walid holds an undergraduate degree (B.A) in Decision Science and Management Information Systems and a Masters in Conflict Analysis and Resolution. You can follow him @walidaj