Friday, March 06, 2009

Clinton rebukes Israel over demolition plan.

Nothing says that the days of the Bush regime are truly over more than this:

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticised Israel's plans to demolish more than 80 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem as "unhelpful" and a violation of its international obligations.

In the first public rebuke of a specific Israeli policy since the new US administration took office, Mrs Clinton indicated the plan contravened the provisions in the five-year-old internationally agreed "road-map" that calls for a halt to all settlement activity.

The Bush administration appeared to take it's orders directly from Tel Aviv, it certainly never rebuked the Israelis, even when their actions were blatantly outside of international law.

Well, the new administration are certainly not playing by those same tired rules and have condemned Israel's plans to demolish Palestinian homes within East Jerusalem.

Israel regards itself as having annexed East Jerusalem after the Six-Day War but that is not accepted by the international community – including the US. The authorities say many of the multiple-occupied Palestinian homes affected were built without permits, but residents say it is all but impossible for them to secure the necessary paperwork from the authorities.

The demolition orders have been issued on the houses to make way for a wide-ranging development plan featuring a network of archaeological sites and national parks, which the municipality and the government have devised in co-operation with settler organisations.

I am very pleased that Clinton is stating what we all know to be true, that Israel's ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from East Jerusalem must be brought to a stop. East Jerusalem is not a part of Israel, and if there is to be any chance of a two state solution then Israel's attempts to remove Palestinians from this area must be halted.

Clinton appears to be willing to ask that the Israelis adhere to the agreements which they signed up to under the road map to peace, a document which Bush introduced, but one which he ignored every Israeli transgression of.

Indeed, Bush's blatant pro-Israeli stance made any chance of peace between the two sides almost impossible, as he was acting almost as an Israeli cheerleader rather than as an Honest Broker.

Clinton is, at least, asking that Israel stop expanding it's borders at the expense of the Palestinians. That should be the most obvious thing to any reasonable observer but, after eight years of Bush, Clinton's condemnation is really rather striking.

Before the Clinton meeting, the senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Mr Abbas was seeking a tougher US stance towards Israel and would be raising specific settlement construction projects with the Secretary of State. He added: "The main point is that the Israeli government needs to accept the two-state solution and... that it stop settlement expansion."

I thought Obama would change the US stance towards this conflict and I thought that he had hired Clinton as Secretary of State because she had a pro-Israeli clout which he lacked and that she could push the Israelis where he could not.

So far, I have seen nothing which tells me that my reading of this was wrong.

In order for there to be any progress towards peace, the US must show the Palestinians that it is prepared to ask that both sides adhere to international law. Under Bush, there wasn't even a pretence of that.

Clinton is changing this. It is a change that is long overdue. Good for her.

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