Wednesday, June 6, 2012

45 Years of Israeli Military Occupation and No End in Sight

Josh Ruebner is National Advocacy Director at the US Campaign. 

In the aftermath of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, President Lyndon Johnson, in a clear nod toward countering Israeli territorial aggrandizement,
stated that "no nation would be true to the United Nations Charter, or to its own true interests, if it should permit military success to blind it to the fact that its neighbors have rights and its neighbors have interests of their own."

Johnson was right to be concerned that Israel's military conquests would threaten the prospects for Arab-Israeli peace and degrade the human and national rights of Arab populations falling under its rule. The war had resulted in Israel establishing a military occupation of the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula (which was not returned to Egyptian sovereignty until after the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty), the Syrian Golan Heights, and the Palestinian West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip (occupations which persist to this day). Although Israel dismantled its illegal settlements and removed military bases from the Gaza Strip in 2005, its land, air, and sea blockade of the coastal enclave, along with its border closures of the territory, is proof positive of Israel's ongoing effective control over, and thus military occupation of, the Gaza Strip.

It was in this spirit of preventing Israeli territorial expansion that the Johnson administration played a leading role in drafting and passing
United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 in November 1967. The resolution, which has formed the cornerstone of Israeli-Arab peacemaking efforts ever since its adoption, emphasizes the "inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war" and calls for the "withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict."

In his
speech to the U.N. Security Council explaining his vote in favor of the resolution, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Arthur Goldberg noted that it is "entirely consistent with the policy of the United States." He pledged "that the diplomatic and political influence of the United States Government will be exerted in support of the efforts of the United Nations special representative" to implement the resolution's goals.

The Johnson administration's relatively evenhanded policy, including the president's call for "justice for the refugees," hearkens back to a bygone era in which the United States could still plausibly claim to be an "honest broker" in attempting to resolve the Israeli-Arab conflict. Sadly, that period is now but a distant memory, jettisoned in favor of unconditional U.S. diplomatic and military support for Israel that plays such a key role in cementing Israel's military occupation of Arab territories and preventing the implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 242.

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