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Illustration by Josh Rose

America needs to get tough with Israel

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The defeats suffered by the Democrats in the recent American midterm elections have undeniably shifted the balance of power in the country. This, coupled with the new Republican house majority leader Eric Cantor's commitment to the "special relationship" between Israel and America, has many concerned for the future of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Despite appearances to the contrary, this shift in American politics changes nothing -- the peace process is just as dead as it was when the Democrats held the majority. Here's why.

The notion that the Democratic and Republican parties are somehow intrinsically different and don't represent the same set of vested political interests is absurd, especially when it comes to foreign policy. When current President Barack Obama was elected to the White House in 2009, he and the Democrats were seen as a fresh start, change you could believe in, if you will. The dark days of the Bush regime were over and justice and equality would reign supreme. The fulfilment of certain promises, the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, for example, would signal the emergence of this new moral golden age.

Of course, the Democrats never followed through with many of these heartwarming pledges, from the timely removal of troops in Iraq to prosecuting the illegal wiretapping of the previous administration. But most relevant to the situation at hand was Obama's statement that "the United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement." One might hope a statement as uncompromising as this, paired with America's long history of making its displeasure clearly felt, could only result in Israel being forced to stop bulldozing everything in sight. For it isn't as if Israel could keep its strength in the region without America's aid -- just this year they received $3 billion dollars and previously received a promise of $30 billion over the next decade. If that money dried up, Israel would have to dramatically change its foreign policy approach.

So, armed with the knowledge that in any negotiation, America would hold the upper hand and with the Democrats controlling both the House and the Senate, Obama went to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and demanded the cessation of settlement building. Netanyahu refused and Obama in turn, like the unrelenting titan of justice he is, said something to the effect of 'alright.'

America has never ceased pandering to Israel during this so-called peace process. The moratorium on Israeli settlement expansion expired right before this year's peace talks began and Israel immediately resumed expanding into Palestinian territory. Short of a verbal scolding during Vice-President Joe Biden's visit, little has been done. Never mind that by doing this the Israeli government contemptuously undermined the entire peace process, America continued to support Israel. When Israel used white phosphorus bombs on the densely populated Gaza Strip, horribly burning Palestinian civilians and combatants alike, America continued to support Israel.

If Obama and the Democrats didn't act to restrain Israel when they held the presidency and the House and the Senate, it's only because they didn't want to. They had the power and opportunity to do so. To the Democrats, a light verbal chastisement paired with a steady stream of money and a blind eye to human rights violations is the extent of a reprisal towards Israel. The Republicans might drop the facade entirely, as Eric Cantor and those of his ilk are wont to do, but the end result is the same. As long as America has its way, justice takes a big detour around occupied Palestine.

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