Fully Understanding Implications of Kosovo, Rule of Law, Israel Ignores and Obstructs

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In the previous issue of the Washington Report this reporter mentioned the International Court's okaying of Kosovo's declaration of independence and its relevance for Palestine-which is why, of course, Israel disdained to repay all of Washington's diplomatic favors and join the 70 other countries recognizing the new republic.

In September even stubborn Belgrade succumbed to EU pressure and withdrew yet another General Assembly resolution condemning the Kosovar declaration, persuaded by the force of numbers and a firm indication that, if it wanted to achieve its cherished aim of joining the European Union, sticking its thumb up the collective nostrils of most European states was not the way to do it.

I wish I could recommend the Kosovar course of action to the Palestinian Authority, if it ever gets around to legitimizing itself with passable elections (by which, of course, I do not necessarily mean those that produce a result desired by Israel and the U.S.).

However, while the EU has made it clear that arresting war criminals and not rocking the boat over Kosovo are the price for Serbia's access to the funding, markets and membership of the organization, sadly Israel once again gets a free pass. Despite the caution of the elected European Parliament, the national politicians and EU bureaucrats consistently extend Israeli privileges, no matter how often European diplomats are insulted or harassed.

In 2008, for example, Israeli companies exported Û12 billion ($16.8 billion) in goods to Europe, its biggest market after the U.S. An estimated one-third of these goods are either fully or partially made in the occupied territories and have been, in effect, smuggled in.

However, the European Court has supported German customs officials who levied duties on products they identified as coming from settlements. The big problem, of course, is that most of the manifests rely upon information provided by the Israeli exporters, and-one hopes this does not come as too big a shock to sensitive readers-they often lie. Perhaps confiscation of the products as stolen property might work as a deterrent.

In the meantime, Israel has open access to EU scientific research funds, is a close partner of NATO and has been accepted into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)-all while occupying territories and settling them in contravention of the Geneva Conventions. It must rankle the Serbs that they can't get away with that.

The only thing Israel has not managed to achieve is legal title to its spoils.

The only thing that Israel has not managed to achieve is legal title to its spoils, which it is denied because of the residual attachment to international law at the U.N. To his credit, Ban Ki-moon reiterated a call for a settlement freeze to facilitate peace talks, which builds on his previous unequivocal restatements of U.N. determination that the settlements are illegal.

However, that in some ways reinforces the Alice-in-Wonderland nature of U.S. and Western policy. All accept that the settlements are illegal in themselves, and often built on land stolen even according to Israeli law, but consider it too bold to ask the thief to stop stealing for a while, even as they extend him every courtesy and credit. It is as if the traditional hue and cry of "Stop, thief!" were greeted with calls to hush in case the perpetrator's feelings be hurt. No wonder the Arab world wonders about Western attachment to the rule of law it preaches for everyone else.

The uncertain grasp of reality was demonstrated in Washington's attempts to fight the good fight on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). To his credit, President Barack Obama's administration has been firm on the need for the world to keep to the MDG target of halving world poverty by 2015, in the face of the financial crisis.

But how to explain U.S. efforts to remove or alter the following phrase in the proposed declaration: "We acknowledge that the persistence of foreign occupation is a major obstacle to the realization of the Millennium Development Goals for people living under such occupation. …