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)