National Commentary

White House Wimpy on Arab Upheaval

The Arab world is in flames with the people demanding their human rights and democracy, and what does the United States do? It casts a veto against a resolution condemning Israel for building illegal settlements on Palestinian land.

The Arab world is in flames with the people demanding their human rights and democracy, and what does the United States do? It casts a veto against a resolution condemning Israel for building illegal settlements on Palestinian land.

U.S. Representative to the U.N. Susan Rice raised her hand and cast the veto in a 14 – 1 vote. All of the major powers, including Britain, France, Russia and China, supported the resolution.

President Barack Obama was on the phone for one hour, begging Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to withdraw the resolution. He also reportedly threatened Abbas that the U.S. would cut off aid to Palestinians if the resolution prevailed.

Wikileaks had already revealed the concessions to Israel that Abbas had made in a series of secret negotiations with Israel, jeopardizing his position with many of the Palestinian people.

Israel is instilled with fear, having to deal with revolutionary changes in Egypt, a friend and ally, and possibly Jordan, where King Abdullah is making changes in his own cabinet to catch up with the demands for reforms.

After the U.N. veto, Rice made the rounds on the TV talk shows. She gave hypocrisy a new name when she kept insisting the U.S. was against Israeli construction of new settlements, but contended it would have hardened positions on both sides if the resolution had passed.

Clearly Rice was uncomfortable as she tried to explain the rationale for the U.S. veto. She was defending the indefensible. The U.N. charter bars annexation of occupied land. Rice should have called in sick.

Is the White House so tone-deaf to the dramatic developments and upheaval in the Mediterranean region?

With Arabs hitting the streets with demands that their autocratic leaders – from Tunisia to Libya – step down from their thrones, Abbas would have been finished if he had listened to Obama. The Palestinian leader is very conciliatory and has made many concessions in secret talks with the Israeli leaders, but he could not have gone too far without losing his own leadership position.

So far the White House has been all talk, but is said to be considering sanctions against Libya, for the violent tactics against its people. Britain, however, has taken concrete steps to halt the brutal Muammar Gaddafi by refusing to ship orders for arms and canisters of tear gas to Libya. The opposition to the Libyan leader is urging the international world to declare Libya a “no-fly zone” and bar any future commercial dealings with oil-rich Libya.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday strongly denounced the violence in Libya and declared it was “unacceptable,” but neither she nor Obama have taken any stronger actions than just words. Granted, however, the U.S. has very little leverage with Libya. The two countries only resumed diplomatic relations in 2009.

In the meantime, the U.S. is keeping an eye on Yemen and Bahrain, where there have been strong outbreaks against their governments.

Obama and the U.S. Congress are dealing with a brave new Arab world. They have to get used to it. Clinton keeps urging the embattled Middle East and North African nations to hold their fire and use caution, but it is too late now. Even Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and possibly Morocco are falling to the people’s will. Gadafi, in a 75-minute speech on Libyan television, vowed he would not step down and he would die a martyr.

The revolutionary Arabs have nothing to lose but their chains. And the western world has to deal with them with concrete steps, and show support for the crowds who are seeking human dignity and the rights that the American Revolutionaries fought for over 200 years ago.

The U.S. can only be happy with the revolutionary changes sweeping the Arab world. Obama made a major speech in 2009, in Cairo, urging democratic reforms, and the people have taken him up on his challenge.

Obama who campaigned for change, is certainly seeing change in the international world today. The question is, is he up to coping with it?

The change, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, has come about from the young people and social media. It was unexpected and has taken the world by surprise. So it is back to the drawing board for Obama and U.S. officials, who have been behind the curve. Now Obama must make positive moves to practice what he preached.

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