U.S. and Israel play-fight for the media

According to Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz last week, while American and Israeli diplomatic tensions seem to be publicly deteriorating, the two countries have been negotiating massive arms deals behind closed doors.

Earlier last month, American Vice-President Joe Biden was in Israel to apparently recommence the indirect Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Just as he arrived, one of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s interior ministers announced the Israeli government’s proposal to build 1,600 new settlement homes in illegally-occupied East Jerusalem. This set off a public feud between the two countries that took the media spotlight for several weeks, as the United States called these plans an insult to the U.S. and an obstacle to attempts for peace.

While this public charade of hostility has been taking place in the spotlight of the media, behind the scenes the two governments couldn’t seem friendlier. Netanyahu had been in the U.S. last week, where he supposedly received the full wrath of the Obama administration for having proposed new settlements.

Meanwhile, behind closed doors, the Pentagon and the Israeli defense establishment were finishing up massive arms deals.

According to Ha’aretz, Israel will purchase three new Hercules C-130J airplanes. The deal for the three aircrafts designed by Lockheed Martin is worth approximately US$250 million. These agreements are just the start.

Although most media outlets in North America have stressed the American government’s anger over Israel’s call for new settlements in East Jerusalem, few commented on the illegality of said settlements, and the destruction of Palestinian homes in the process.

Documentation of the illegality of Israel’s settlements in occupied-Palestine is readily available. The fourth Geneva Convention states specifically that “the occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” In 2004, the International Court of Justice in the Hague declared that “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, are illegal and an obstacle to peace and to economic and social development.” The list goes on.

The U.S. government’s criticism of Netanyahu’s settlement plan is quite hypocritical and in no way should one believe that that it was anything more than a publicity stunt. The U.S. continues to undermine the Israeli-Palestinian process by selling arms to the Israelis, which undoubtedly will go towards further oppression of the Palestinian people (one can assume those newly purchased planes won‘t be used for tourism). The sincerity of the Obama administrations’ criticism of the Israeli settlement plan in Palestinian lands should only ever be taken seriously if they ever decide to mention the seemingly important fact that they are illegal, and that serious action needs to be taken to stop further destruction.

Ian Hunter is a first-year global political economy student at the University of Manitoba.