Opinion / Han Dongping

American arrogance in display again

By Han Dongping (chinadaily.com.cn) Updated: 2012-12-02 14:14

American arrogance in display againThe United Nations voted on Thursday to give the Palestinian Authorities UN nonmember observer status by a vote of 138 versus 9, with 41 abstentions. Last year, the US used its veto power to kill the Palestinian application for UN membership.

This year the Palestinian authorities circumvented the US veto by applying for the nonmember observer status, which does not require a UN Security Council resolution, and thus the US was unable to exercise its veto power to stop it.

Looking at the vote tally, it is clear that the overwhelming majority of nations believe that the Palestinian people deserve recognition, and that Palestinian statehood would be conducive to Middle East peace.

Nevertheless, Hilary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, refuses to entertain this possibility. She has declared the UN vote unfortunate and counterproductive. Instead, she insisted that the Palestinian people should negotiate with Israel first, before attempting to gain statehood, which would give Israel greater leverage in the negotiating process.

In an article last year, I suggested that it would be wiser for Israel to negotiate with the Palestinian authorities on an equal footing, forsaking short term advantage in return for better prospects of peace in the future. It can accomplish this by first allowing the Palestinian people statehood and then negotiating for the settlement of borders afterwards.

The UN vote on Palestinian observer status indicated that the majority of the world feels the same way.

It is unfortunate that people like Hilary Clinton in the United States cannot see that sometimes it is better to give an inch in the short term in order to gain a foot in the longer term. American’s record of intransigent support for Israel, irrespective of the situation and who is at fault, has given Israel a false sense of security.

It has emboldened them to behave in a reckless manner. For example, as a response to the UN vote, Israel has announced a new Israeli settlement expansion plan which will only increase tensions between the two groups of people. This plan, has even received strong opposition and condemnation from the US, with White House spokesman Tommy Vietor declaring such action as counterproductive.

The Israeli government needs to understand that it cannot rely on the US for its protection forever.

The US, in complete defiance of world public opinion, supported South Africa’s apartheid regime for roughly fifty years. But eventually, when the US finally abandoned the Apartheid Regime, its collapse was swift.

Israel, with its population of 5 million, is surrounded by 200 million hostile Arabic people. The only way to peace will be through good intentions and willingness to give and take.

I think that time is on the Palestinian side, and therefore it is in the interest of Israel to make peace while they still enjoy some advantage, and show its willingness to give and take.

US foreign policy since the end of the WWII has been one that has defied world public opinion. As a result, the US has had to use its veto over two thousand times. What is the difference between a leader and a bully?

A good leader would go with the majority most of the time, and when it has to assert itself in rare occasions, it does so with respect and wisdom. A bully on the other hand, defies the majority’s opinion wantonly, and shows little respect for the opinions of the majority. Is that one of the reasons that the US is in decline?

In the past, it has squandered its own resources and the good will of others far too lightly. It is time for the US to show its respect for world public opinion.

The author is a Professor of Warren Wilson College in the US.

The opinions expressed here do not represent the views of the China Daily website


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