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Obama Belatedly Says No to Israel

By       Message Marjorie Cohn     Permalink
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Building illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territories is not the only war crime Israeli leaders have committed. In 2014, Israel invaded Gaza and killed more than 2,000 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians. Nearly 10,000 Palestinians were wounded, more than 2,000 of them children. Tens of thousands of Palestinians lost their homes and infrastructure was severely damaged. Numerous schools, U.N. places of refuge, hospitals, ambulances and mosques were intentionally targeted.

Israel used the "Dahiya doctrine" to apply "disproportionate force" and cause "great damage and destruction to civilian property and infrastructure, and suffering to civilians populations," as defined in the 2009 U.N. Human Rights Council (Goldstone) report. Those acts constitute evidence of war crimes under Article 8 (2)(a) of the Rome Statute.

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The ICC can investigate and prosecute these crimes. Yet, in order to prevent such investigation and prosecution, the United States consistently opposed Palestine becoming a party to the Rome Statute. Palestine, which was recognized as a non-member observer State by the U.N. General Assembly, acceded to the Rome Statute in January 2015 and asked the ICC to investigate Israel for building illegal settlements and committing war crimes in Gaza.

In January 2015, Fatou Bensouda, the ICC prosecutor, opened a preliminary investigation into the illegal settlements and Israel's 2014 bombing of Gaza. Netanyahu is upset because the new Security Council resolution bolsters the case for ICC war crimes prosecution of Israeli leaders.

Violating U.S. Law

The United States' unwavering support for Israel violates U.S. law. Under the Leahy Law, military units that commit human rights abuses cannot receive U.S. training or weapons, and individuals who commit human rights abuses are denied U.S. visas. The State Department's annual report has documented Israeli violations. And the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 prohibits assistance to any country "which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights."

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President Barack Obama stands with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the President's official arrival ceremony in Tel Aviv, Israel, in 2013.
President Barack Obama stands with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the President's official arrival ceremony in Tel Aviv, Israel, in 2013.
(Image by (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza))
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Yet, throughout his presidency, Obama has unconditionally supported Israel and shielded it from accountability for the war crimes of building settlements and targeting civilians in Gaza.

In September, Obama promised Israel a record $38 billion in military assistance over the next 10 years, becoming the strongest financial supporter of Israel ever to occupy the White House. Obama, whom Israeli journalist Gideon Levy dubbed "the patron of the occupation," increased the amount of money the U.S. provides Israel each year from $3.1 to $3.8 billion.

Netanyahu called the increase in U.S. aid "unprecedented" and "historic," characterizing it as "the greatest accomplishment since sliced bread," according to Aaron David Miller, vice president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. "The bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable," Obama declared, as he and Netanyahu shook hands.

The annual $3.8 billion, more money than the U.S. gives to any other country, will fund the continuing Israeli military occupation of Palestinian lands, now in its fifth decade. Obama, however, is to be commended for finally standing up to Israel, albeit at the 11th hour. We cannot expect President-elect Donald Trump to follow suit.

Trump intervened unsuccessfully to prevent Resolution 2334 from coming to the council floor. He stated he will move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, even though, as Resolution 2334 states, East Jerusalem is occupied Palestinian territory. David Friedman, Trump's incoming ambassador to Israel, is notorious for funding the rightwing orthodox Beit El settlement near the West Bank city of Ramallah.

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A Voice of Reason

We can hope Trump will listen to Gen. James Mattis, his nominee for Secretary of Defense. "I paid a military security price every day as a commander of CENTCOM because the Americans were seen as biased in support of Israel," Mattis said at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado in 2013.

Retired Marine General James Mattis, President-elect Donald Trump's choice to become Secretary of Defense.
Retired Marine General James Mattis, President-elect Donald Trump's choice to become Secretary of Defense.
(Image by Wikipedia (commons.wikimedia.org))
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Mattis criticized Israel for building settlements in the occupied West Bank, saying they "are going to make it impossible to maintain the two-state option." He added that the settlements might weaken Israel as a Jewish and Democratic state and could lead to Israel becoming an "apartheid" state.

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http://www.marjoriecohn.com

Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and immediate past president of the National Lawyers Guild. She is author of  'The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse, and 

Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law (more...)
 

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