At UN, Obama Struggles to Defend Opposition to Palestinian Statehood

'Universal Right to Live in Freedom and Dignity,' But Not in the West Bank

With Moammar Gadhafi no longer holding a seat at the UN General Assembly, one may have briefly hoped rambling, irrational speeches would have fallen out of fashion. Then President Obama got up and spoke.

Clocking in at just under 50 minutes, the president started with his usual self-congratulatory tone, launching into a rundown of how great his assorted wars are going and again went on record promising the Iraq War would be over in December. A promise made to be broken, and it won’t be the first time.

Segueing from America’s assorted military conquests (which again, he assured, were going swimmingly), Obama decided to tackle the Arab Spring, praising it unequivocally, and proudly declaring that “more individuals are claiming their universal right to live in freedom and dignity.” Oh, sure, he praised Bahrain for crushing its protests with the help of Saudi troops then offering largely illusory “reforms,” but the soundbite is always what people remember.

And it was his celebration of people wanting to live in “freedom and dignity” that ran afoul of the whole reason for the speech, which was insisting that the Palestinians cannot be allowed independence and must remain under Israeli occupation until Israel says otherwise.

Only last year, at the same UN General Assembly, Obama was predicting that the peace talks between Israel and Palestinian Authority officials, which everyone knew would collapse four days after his speech when Israel ended their settlement freeze, would mean that this year the UN would be voting to welcome an independent Palestine as a member nation.

The talks didn’t happen, but the UN vote still is, and most of the world is still on board with 2010-Obama’s vision of an independent Palestine. Except for 2011-Obama, who has promised to veto it.

The “why” of this, at least from the speech perspective, was some multi-paragraph ramble about the burden of the Jewish people and the memories of the Holocaust, and something to do with Iran’s nuclear program. Not only did this convince no one, but it left many, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, with their faces buried in their palms shaking their heads.

The real, ever-unspoken reason, is political. Former President Bill Clinton blamed a recent Democratic loss in the House on Obama not being a sufficient shill for Israel internationally, and possible opponents in the 2012 Presidential Election are already focusing their foreign policy campaigns on really sticking it to the Palestinians. This has convinced the president that the road to a second term is paved with hypocrisy. How lucky for him he has no shortage of that?

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Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.