It hasn’t happened.
The second time, he did so despite US President Joe Biden’s valiant effort to interpret Netanyahu’s first “no” into a “yes.”
The US has said it opposes any buffer zone in Gaza.
It has been ignored.
The US has said it opposes any Israeli plans to resettle Gaza.
Tell that to the thousands of people – including 11 Israeli ministers and 15 parliamentarians from Israel’s ruling coalition – who danced the night away on Sunday at a conference in Jerusalem called to plan new Israeli settlements in Gaza.
Embarrassed and humiliated
The US has also been vocal that there must be no “resettlement” of Palestinians in Gaza outside the territory.
But that hasn’t stopped the Israeli military from pursuing ethnic cleansing in Gaza, with loud encouragement from senior officals, whether directly, under weasel concepts such as “voluntary migration,” or in the kind of indirect language Netanyahu has increasingly couched his intentions behind.
It is a startling case of tail wagging dog. And in a country that styles itself as the world’s preeminent superpower, the question has to be: How long will Washington allow itself to be embarrassed and humiliated by an ally that is effectively on trial for genocide?
It is certainly a poor look for a superpower whose moment bestriding a unipolar world is fast receding.
But does this divergence between Tel Aviv and Washington suggest a meaningful rift? Will the US administration start moving from “conversation” to more robust measures to bring Israel to heel?
Might Washington seize on the International Court of Justice ruling that Israel has a genocide case to answer as an excuse to finally put its murderous ally back in its box?
Or will Netanyahu’s defiance of his main supporter be brushed under the carpet as it has been for decades, not least since the Oslo accords were signed 30 years ago, a period in which Israel has vigorously pursued a settlement project in occupied territory that is intended to undermine the very possibility of an independent Palestinian entity that Washington says it wants, and which the US has simply ignored.
Is it even defiance?
The US response to the ICJ ruling certainly suggests that there is little Israel can do that will cause Washington to waver even slightly.
The breathtaking arrogance with which America’s top diplomat Antony Blinken dismissed South Africa’s genocide case against Israel as “meritless” is just one example.
Spokesperson after spokesperson has stood in Washington press briefing rooms to defend, deflect or ignore even blatant Israeli breaches of the rules of war.
On Tuesday, it was the turn of the State Department’s Matt Miller who had no opinion on an undercover operation in which Israeli troops dressed like doctors and nurses (perfidy) entered a a Jenin hospital (protected building) and executed (extrajudicial killing) three people asleep in their hospital beds (protected persons), one of whom was half paralyzed from an earlier Israeli assault.
But allegations that go the other way are readily accepted and quickly acted on.
Thus, and based merely on Israeli allegations against 12 staffers that the US conceded it had not itself examined, the US promptly decided to defund UNRWA, the UN agency that caters to Palestinian refugees and the one organization that is best positioned to deliver the humanitarian aid the US itself says it is eager to see increased to 2.3 million starving people in Gaza.
Of course, US officials are aided in their defense of Israel by a compliant US media that fails to ask even the most basic questions of Israeli allegations, and allows presidential candidates, like Nikki Hayley to openly advocate for ethnic cleansing without consequence.
There is very little Israel has said that hasn’t been taken at face value by US officials and US media. Remember this?
The US can of course comfort itself with its legal cover against international accountability.
Should, for instance, the ICJ eventually find Israel guilty of genocide following a full trial, and the US thus be found complicit, America could simply invade the Netherlands to save any Israeli or American officials on trial in The Hague.
A most unlikely scenario, to be sure. But entirely possible.
Under the 2002 American Servicemembers’ Protection Act – better known as the Hague Invasion Act – the American president is granted “all means necessary” to free any US military personnel – and any allied personnel, including Israeli – should they go on trial at the International Criminal Court.
This is not the only legal means by which the US supports Israel.
Stringent restrictions on US arms supplies to foreign countries suspected of human rights abuses – the so-called Leahy law – have been set aside when it comes to Israel, because, according to the bilateral agreement, Israel has a “robust, independent and effective” legal system, a provision no other country enjoys.
It’s certainly robust. Israel’s military court rule, to which Palestinians are answerable, has a 95 percent conviction rate.
Such Israeli exceptionalism, and the double standards that come with it, are increasingly obvious, however.
And despite the best efforts of the US to promote and support the Israeli narrative, the manipulation of public perceptions has failed globally and is failing domestically.
The US has become increasingly isolated at the UN – where Washington has wielded its Security Council veto 45 times for Israel since 1972.
Even the US judicial system is waking up. While a court in San Francisco dismissed a lawsuit against Biden for “enabling genocide,” it also found that there is strong evidence that Israel’s “military siege in Gaza is intended to eradicate a whole people and therefore plausibly falls within the international prohibition against genocide.”
And though confronted with the double whammy monolith of opinion from US officialdom and US media, 35 percent of Americans nevertheless believe Israel is committing genocide in Gaza, according to a recent Economist/YouGov poll, just one percent less than those who say it isn’t.
Such public sentiment has yet to make an impact in the US Congress, where blind support for Israel is still very much the order.
But it makes a difference to the White House in a presidential election year. The Economist/YouGov poll found that among younger generations and among Democrat voters nearly half (49 percent in each case) believe Israel is committing genocide.
And it also suggests that if the management of public perceptions – the “manufacture of consent” in Noam Chomsky’s terminology – is key to Washington’s foreign policy, it has been a stark failure.
Back in 2017, a Department of Defense report entitled At Our Own Peril, identified “hyperconnectivity” as the “most transformative characteristic of the contemporary environment,” an environment it characterizes as “post-primacy,” i.e., with the US positioned as a global power but only a dominant one, rather than the dominant one.
In this environment, the report suggests, “individuals, groups and states are now able to access imagery and sensitive open source information that once was tightly controlled by governments.”
Hyperconnectivity – the importance of which “cannot be overstated” – can then become “a vehicle for the rapid, viral transmission” of “disruptive information, emerging more organically and triggering unanticipated, seemingly leaderless security challenges.”
“In the end,” the report argues, “senior defense leaders should assume that all defense related activity from minor tactical movements to major military operations would occur completely in the open from this point forward.”
And something like this appears to have happened in Gaza where, despite Israel banning foreign journalists from the territory and censoring foreign broadcasters, journalists, aid workers, healthcare professionals and civilians from Gaza have been highly successful in transmitting – in part through independent online publications like this august organ – the reality of Israel’s assault to the outside world.
People, in other words, have been able to see with their own eyes what has happened in Gaza. They’ve been able to read about it in South Africa’s carefully assembled and very impressive genocide case against Israel at the ICJ.
And no amount of “strategic manipulation of perceptions” can compete with facts.
Perhaps this realization explains UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron’s sudden comments about Palestinian statehood recognition.
The UK long ago ceded any independent Middle East policy to the US. Cameron will have been unlikely to have stuck his neck out without a green light from Washington.
Indeed, reports suggest the US might follow suit.
After all, who wants to invade the Netherlands?
Omar Karmi is associate editor of The Electronic Intifada and a former Jerusalem and Washington, DC, correspondent for The National newspaper.