Obama must stand up to Netanyahu on Israeli settler violence
The US State Department recent called Israeli settler violence against Palestinians 'terrorist incidents.' Though a step in the right direction, the label fails to highlight the Israeli government's responsibility for these human rights violations. Washington must take a bold stand.
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Designating settler violence as “terrorism” is definitely the first step toward a solution. However, the Obama administration can do more to address the problem. The time has come for Washington to bluntly inform Israel that the US is no longer willing to be associated with its violations of human rights in the Palestinian territories. It must make clear that in the future, Israeli policymakers will have to take full responsibility for their actions regarding settlements, without the guarantee of unconditional American protection.Skip to next paragraph
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Further, the US should resist behaving in a hypocritical manner by labeling the phenomenon as “terrorism” when it has vetoed resolutions condemning Israeli settlements in the Security Council. Financial leverage is another tool the US could certainly use to end a situation whereby American taxpayers’ money is indirectly funding settlement activities. The US should make its financial aid to Israel conditional on the Israeli government’s compliance with international law and ending its settlement activities. A number of European countries have made progress on this front by boycotting settlement products on the basis of settlers' involvement in human rights violations against Palestinian farmers in the West Bank.
Defining the phenomenon as settler terrorism also presents a further challenge for the US. Failing to fully act on the implications of this terminology could exacerbate America’s perpetual dilemma: being accused of “double standards” in the Middle East. Washington’s historic position on terrorism is well known for its zero tolerance – where terror is involved, actions follow words. A failure to apply those standards in this case will beg the question across the region: Are all terrorists created equal?
Ibrahim Sharqieh is a foreign policy fellow at the Brookings Institution, deputy director of the Brookings Doha Center, and adjunct professor at Georgetown University in Qatar. Follow him on Twitter: @sharqieh.