Just read an interesting piece by a N.Y. Times reporter who, when he writes about U.S. Israel-Palestine policy, doesn’t make me wince (as Ethan Bronner does). Among the points that Mark Landler’s featured experts make is the incredible giveaway that Obama is offering Israel as an inducement to serve up a mere 60-day extension of the settlement freeze:
…The United States is offering military hardware, support for a long-term Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley, help with enforcing a ban on the smuggling of weapons through a Palestinian state, a promise to veto Security Council resolutions critical of Israel during the talks and a pledge to forge a regional security agreement for the Middle East.
It’s really extraordinary. The U.S. is in effect foreclosing the option of a major portion of the West Bank being returned to the Palestinians (the Jordan Valley). Even more astonishingly it is promising to exercise its veto for ANY anti-Israel Security Council resolution. That means if Israel bombs Iran, we veto. If Israel invades Syria or Lebanon or Gaza, we veto. It’s not so much the veto itself, because it’s almost a given that we veto any resolutions critical of Israel. But it’s the idea that we’re promising an a priori veto even before we know what the issue might be. It would have to be tempting to Israel to dust off its military-adventure wish-list and fix its coördinates on targets that have previously been off-limits due to fear of an American “No.”
And one wonders, if this is what’s required to get a measly 60 day extension what will we have to give away to get a full peace agreement? It reminds me of that old Brando movie where, when asked what he was rebelling against, he replied:
In other words, we’ll have to virtually give away the store later if we offer so much for such a paltry reward now.
Who devised this bounteous package? Hazard a guess?
The package of incentives for Israel was devised largely by Dennis B. Ross, a senior adviser on the Middle East at the National Security Council and a veteran peace negotiator. But the day-to-day negotiations are being handled by George J. Mitchell, the administration’s special envoy to the region who led the push on Israel to halt settlement construction.
You remember when so many of us held our breath at the beginning of this administration regarding what role Ross would play. Well, now the chickens come home to roost. While Mitchell has to butt heads with the Israelis and Palestinians, Dennis whips out the U.S. strategic asset menu and figures out what goes on the plate for Israel. Why do you think Dennis has been serving as a consultant and senior fellow for WINEP, Aipac and other pro-Israel think tanks for all these years? For just such an eventuality. One even wonders how hard Dennis has been pitching Jonathan Pollard’s freedom to Obama as well. I bet Ross is literally Pollard’s “get out of jail” card. It’s times like this when I wish the common citizen could vote on whether Dennis Ross should be able to wield such power.
You know the U.S. package is a dubious deal when even a pro-Obama, liberal Zionist like Dan Kurtzer rails against it:
“It’s an extraordinary package for essentially nothing,” said Daniel C. Kurtzer, who also served as American ambassador to Israel and was a negotiator in the Clinton administration. “Given what’s already happened, who thinks that a two-month extension is enough?”
What surprises me is that otherwise intelligent people like Daniel Levy seem to have somehow drunk the Obama Kool-Aid:
“If we can get these 60 days, and get past the midterm elections, we can create a moment of choice for both sides,” said Daniel Levy, a former negotiator who is now at the New America Foundation.
I can remember sitting in a room towards the beginning of the Obama administration and hearing Levy tell the assembled group what a brilliant wedge issue the settlements would be. It would be like the scalpel with which you open the entire soft shell that is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Settlements would be the perfect way to open the longer-term campaign for peace. Once Obama hammered that home and deftly outmaneuvered Bibi, getting to peace would follow naturally. How naïve all of us were to wonder then at the seeming wisdom of those words. That’s why such Pollyanism doesn’t move me now either.
Fitting to close with this mock letter, published on my Facebook page by Israeli reader Ed Mad X:
Dear Mr. Criminal:
In return for stopping your rampant bank robbing spree, our government is willing to give you all its gold and silver, and we’ll even release your former accomplices.
Mr. Sucker (aka U.S Government)
Seymour Alexander says
The Palestinians should refuse to talk till after the mid-term elections are over. Why should they participate in a dutch auction for the Zionist vote. Tell Obama, thanks but no thanks.
– release of Jonathan Pollard
– backing Israel’s annexation of the Jordan valley
– future vetoes in the UN security council in behalf of Israel
– additional aid beyond the $30 billion defense plan
– $205 million Iron Dome gift (which has ballooned to $422 million)
– $3 billion missile shield program called David’s Sling
– $2.75 billion for F35 jets
– $1.5 billion in contracts for parts for those jets
– $2 billion in jet fuel
all for two months of not REALLY freezing settlements.
And according to the leaker of this report Ross associate, David Makovsky, after the two months the US will promise never to bother Israel again about freezing settlements!! Obama is displaying a type of audacity that I would have never thought to hope for.
“US President Barack Obama has requested that Israel extend the West Bank settlement construction moratorium by two months. In return the US “will not ask for a moratorium extension beyond sixty days,” according to David Makovsky from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a close associate to Dennis Ross and Obama’s Middle East adviser, Army Radio reported Thursday.”
Yoy write: “It’s times like this when I wish the common citizen could vote on whether Dennis Ross should be able to wield such power.”
If Ross has “such power”, then I fail to understand how decision-making occurs at this level. Can Ross deliver this proposal without Obama’s explicit approval? If not, and if you are right about its obvious deficiencies, how does this get sold to a supposedly intellectually-incisive president? Does Ross (pragmatically speaking) have “control” on these issues? I agree with you, but fail to understand the dynamic at hand.
Richard Silverstein says
Obama can’t master every subject. He relies on aides to do the heavy lifting esp. around such complicated subjects as the Israel-Arab conflict. The fact that Ross has lots of previous experience in the area gives him a leg up over everyone else. The fact that he has Obama’s ear is deeply troubling & indicates U.S. policy almost has to fail.
Interesting question is why bibi doesn’t want it – it seems like a godsend. He gets all the goodies, gives almost nothing back AND he’ll get to say that he did everything he could for peace.
He’s holding out for more goodies. Or less of a freeze. In the end he’ll get 50 billions worth of guns, plus US backing for all of Israel’s positions for a one-week “freeze”. Did I say one week? Why not one day? Shouldn’t take more than that for Abbas to accept all the Israeli positions the US will unconditionally back at that point.
Seriously, now. This whole thing looks like a scam to me: Less about actual political goals, more about finding an excuse to shove lots of money Israel’s way.
Richard Silverstein says
How much would Ross give Israel for a ONE-MINUTE freeze extension I wonder?
Nessim Dayan says
Not to worry Netanyahu has no intentions of any additional freezes. Lieberman has taken care of that, and Barak is too much of a glutton to let go of his chair (he knows it’s the ONLY way he’ll keep it)
Further do you think ANY palestinian leader will accept to have the IDF sitting on his ass NO MATTER WHO GUARANTEES IT, riiiiiite
Bottom line, there is nothing to see here folks, move on.
This package makes no sense. I don’t believe these reports. The Palestinians will NEVER agree to an Israeli presence anywhere over the pre-67 lines. How can Obama promise such a thing, unless he is lying.
The article points out how focusing on the settlements was a big mistake. Apparently they thought that they could turn US Jewry against Israel on this issue, and then once the Israeli felt isolated, they would capitulate on all other issues. This proves once again that people “at the top” DON’T really know more than anyone else and certainly don’t have any real understanding of the Arab/Israeli conflict.
This makes me ILL. Is Obama this dumb or does he have a metaphorical barrel pointed at his temple? Has he been lobotomized? Has he only read AIPAC’s version of the last 50 years of MidEast history?
W. T. F.
Perhaps we can start sending over our unemployed to work in labor camps over there. Or maybe they can work at Bibi’s mansion and wash his pets.
Daniel Levy provided the money quote: get past the midterm elections. That’s what this is about, nothing else, least of all the Palestinians. If the Obama administration can make themselves look like they brought the parties back to the table (and remain there until after the election) by extracting, with tongs of fire, such a Generous Concession from Bibi, now that will curry favour with liberal Jewish voters.
At the same time, this would be the perfect reason for Bibi to refuse – like he would help campaign for a President B. Hussein Obama and an oh-so-pro-Palestinian Democratic majority in Congress when he could help it.
I agree with Seymour above, suspend the talks until elections are over.
Israeli American says
The US concessions are really bubkis.
Support in the UN? Come on. The US has always voted for Israel in the UN anyway. That’s a throwaway ‘concession’ if I ever heard of one.
And as for the other so-called eyebrow raiser of allowing an Israeli military presence in the Jordan valley after creation of a Palestinian state, again, about as newsworthy as stale pita. Including Israel in the international force that will be created to demilitarize the new state has been repeated over and over again already for the last three months.
Israel is just painting these things as huge concessions to make it look like they ‘won’ something in return for grudgingly extending the freeze.
Israel always ‘wins’ every concession they make, just like they always ‘win’ every war, including the ones they lose badly.