Monday, January 26, 2009

A "Swiss cheese," "Bantustan" Palestine. A Recidivist America.

President Obama has just given an interview to Al - Arabiya Saudi/UAE TV which is being celebrated as "a sign that [he] is extending th[e] hand of friendship to the Arab world" (CNN International anchor, Jan. 26, 2009, US eastern time).

He said "I can't respect terrorist organizations that would kill innocent civilians, and we will hunt them down" -- hunt them down and give them money, weapons, and training, if his actions so far are any guide, since Obama appears to be continuing the US practice of backing organizations that kill innocent civilians (ie., commit terrorism), eg., the Saudi, Egyptian, Jordanian, Iraqi, and Israeli armed and security forces, and the compliant elements of the Palestinian Authority's various armed wings .

But perhaps more remarkable than this repetition of an old sound-good work-bad US formula was his implication that he was prepared to flaunt the law more defiantly than Bush did.

Though the World Court has ruled that all Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories are illegal, Bush, like Clinton, had maintained the fiction that most of the settlements are OK but that there is a small fraction of them -- some newer outposts -- that are "illegal" and have to go.

But when asked about settlements, Obama did not even stand by this Bush nano-concession to legality, instead stating merely that a Palestinian state would have to be "contiguous," ie., that the pieces would have to be attached, a formula consistent with what Bush once called a "Swiss cheese" Palestine (which Bush said would be bad), or, in more precise terms, what Ariel Sharon once called a Palestine of Apartheid-style "Bantustans" (which Sharon said would be good). (See Khaled Abu Toameh, "'Palestine can't be Swiss cheese'," Jerusalem Post [Israel], Jan. 10, 2008 for a report of Bush's press conference; Akiva Eldar, "People and Politics/ Sharon's Bantustans Are Far From Copenhagen's Hope," Haaretz [Israel], May 13, 2003 for a report of prime minister Sharon's Bantustan discussion with former Italian prime minister Massimo D'Alema).

It's unclear whether the US bureaucracy will stand by this apparent small escalation of Bush's law-defiance (Washington's dictatorial Arab clients already have enough trouble from their oppressed publics), but it is what Obama said, and he's a lawyer who often speaks carefully.

It just indicates that, as on other big matters, the US government tends to be recidivist, feeling that it can pick and choose whether to respect or break the law.

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