Will Obama Impose Sanctions Against Israel?
Move over Iran and North Korea, there may be a new member of the U.S. Sanctions Club: Israel. Earlier today, several DC news outlets began running accounts of secret White House deliberations regarding imposing sanctions on Israel for its continued building of settlements. Pointedly, no U.S. official has denied the rumors. Haaretz appears to have first reported this story. But in its reporting it never mentioned the word “sanctions.” Instead, it mentioned more mundane terms like taking stronger action.
The DC press corps and the rightist pro-Israel media has interpreted this as Obama is considering sanctions. So it’s hard to know what the real intent is here.
So far, the actions suggested don’t constitute sanctions in the conventional sense: refusing to veto anti-Israel Security Council resolutions and cutting off certain financing and support to settlements. They are more tangible expressions of anger. But nowhere near formal legal action.
These measures would be a step in the right direction. Especially if one of the policies under consideration includes removing tax-deductible status from the tens of millions that flow from settlerist American Jews to the settlements yearly.
There are several odd things about this announcement: where was Obama before this? Why has he all of a sudden decided to pursue such a radical change of course? Statements like this make the president look naive:
The failure of the Netanyahu-Obama meeting and the administration’s growing anger over the settlement construction led to the understanding that denunciatory statements, no matter how harsh, have become ineffective.
After years of such pablum, all of a sudden Obama understands how useless they have been?
Bibi himself will point to this as a cynical maneuver by a frustrated U.S. leader who can’t bring the prime minister to heel any other way. As a result, he pulls out this election gimmick designed to hurt the governing coalition at the polls in the upcoming election.
He wouldn’t be far wrong in claiming this. Sanctions? Sure. But now? Why? Why not a month or six months or a year ago? What has changed so radically to deserve such a change in policy? Hey, I’d love to think it was all of us who screamed bloody murder when the State Department spokesperson expressed “regret” or “concern” on the murder of Palestinian civilians or new settlement building. But I’m not that naive. Obama didn’t get religion all of a sudden.
How would sanctions affect the Israeli election? First, it would rally Bibi’s rightist base. But he already had them anyway. There was no question he would bring them to the polls in droves. So it may marginally improve his standing on the far right. Among the center-left voters, it could have a dramatic impact in strengthening their will to vote. Instead of seeing a demoralized center-left in the election, directionless and lacking focus–these voters may see the President of the United States echoing their own views about settlements. It could improve the chances of the center-left which, I believe, stood to take a drubbing.
I still believe the center-left will take a drubbing. It has no right or mandate to rule. It presents no discernible agenda other than self-preservation and retaining the status quo. So as I wrote above, sanctions are an excellent idea in general and should’ve been proposed long ago. But now? Doing so now makes them look like a political tool meant to impact the election. If that’s all they are then they are illegitimate. They should be a principled moral and political response to Israel’s unjust illegal settlement policy.
8 thoughts on “Will Obama Impose Sanctions Against Israel? – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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Richard doesn’t the timing have to do with the fact that your midterm elections are over? What does Obama have to worry about now? Clinton’s electoral success? Would that greatly bother him?
As to the type of action that he and his staff might be contemplating: Jeffrey Goldberg wrote in The Atlantic (on 10/28) that it will probably be the withdrawal of UN support. France (supported by Britain and Germany) might launch a Security Council Resolution after conferring with the White House which then only has to sit on its hands. I understand that Germany is holding out for the removal of a date by which “peace negotiations” should deliver a result. The Palestinians don’t agree with that of course. That would be going back to the same old game. I wish the Germans wouldn’t be trying so hard to overcompensate.
I wouldn’t read anything into those ‘internal deliberations’ by the NSC on the issue of settlements. We knew Obama would not change policy ahead of the midterm elections and he faces a more right-wing Congress in 2015. Menendez and Kirk already have warned Obama not to impose harsher policy on ally Israel and prefer additional sanctions on Iran. If Obama would want to change policy on Israel he would have to throw out a number of close advisors. Changing a moderate like Chuck Hagel is not the way forward. It’s the NSC policy that is at fault, not the implementation fron the Pentagon on Syria and ISIL.
The only political push on Israel comes from the EU and pressure of a product boycott. Europe may join the UK to demand a solution for Palestine within a two year period. I do recall George Bush demanded the same from Ariel Sharon before the election in 2004 and we all know how that strategy worked out for the Palestinian people.
There is a chamge in the air for the Middle East, particularly from old allies change alliances. There seems to be a new understanding between Saudi Arabia and Israel to join forces in opposition to Iran and a possible 5+1 nuclear deal. Turkey is looking towards Putin’s Russia for economic ties although their opposing view on Assad and Syria remain. Perhaps the ME nations will split along the lines of Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood nations. Interesting times, but not for the people involved in the civil/sectarian wars or the millions seeking refuge.
Living with hope that this will happen. How long, O Lord, how long? How about sanctions AND cutting WAY back on the military aid we give to Israel. Proud of my Jewish heritage, I am not against Israel’s right to exist but NOT beyond the 1967 border!! Aching EVERY day about what my brothers and sisters continue to do to our half-brothers and sisters. I heard in 1954, while visiting Israel, that the British told the Palestinians over the radio as the Jewish people were coming to establish Israel, “Leave your homes; you can come back in 48 hours.” For YEARS I kept asking speakers WHY the British did that. In the 1980’s , a rabbi shared that the British THOUGHT the Arabs and Palestinians would push the Jews back into the sea and that Israel would not be established. The rest is very difficult history.
One mantra that makes me sick is that of no daylight appearing between the US and Israel. Has America ever said that of any other country – even of Britain during the Second World War?
I prefer to see that lack of daylight as characteristic for the obscurantism of this whole relation which is maintained by the pressure of relatively small groups – pressure which in many cases can indeed not bear the light of day.
At any case it appears that under the guise of this mantra pretty substantial critical points can be made, such as for instance by Vice President Joe Biden recently at the Saban forum. House demolitions are a form of collective punishment (and thus, though Biden apparently didn’t spell it out, a war crime); Israel should do more to reign in settler vigilance; and then of course the standing criticism of the settlements as such. Altogether nothing really radical but enough for that poison sheet FrontPage Magazine to call it “Israel bashing”.
Bennett, Minister for Trade and Economy in the Netanyahu cabinet, appeared at the same forum.That man is a danger. He seems to be much more of a public salesman than Netanyahu who always makes a rather sour, resentful impression, even when he smiles. Bennett is a smooth “in-and-out talker” as they say in Dutch. That won’t take in international diplomats for whom this kind of talk is their stock-in-trade but as an international hasbarist, appearing before a largely ignorant public, he will probably be rather effective.
Has America ever said that of any other country – even of Britain during the Second World War?
You nailed it!
I cannot even imagine a day when America stands up to Israel and forces Israel to accept Palestinians as equals, much less, go back to pre-’67 borders in fact, the first and probably the last time a US President stood up to Israel and forced it to do something Israel did not want, was when Israel had to withdraw from its Suez canal invasion and Eisenhower forced it and the Franco-British forces to back off.
With the number of Blindly pro-Israel House and Senate members in mind, US sanctions against Israel are pretty much impossible.
The policy of the US government CAN be changed by the US people. How about starting a mass internet campaign in which citizens pledge NOT TO VOTE for any candidate who takes money from AIPAC or other Zionist organizations? The first goal should be for the US to support a Security Council resolution calling for an immediate suspension of settlement building, with a threat of Chapter VII enforcement action if Israel refuses to accept it.
This rumor began in the Israeli press.
No sanctions are being proposed. But the administration has
taken and will continue to take the same position regarding settlements
as every other administration has taken since Johnson. And just to be
clear. That position is….
Further settlement activity is in no way necessary for the security of Israel and only diminishes the confidence of the Arabs that a final outcome can be freely and fairly negotiated.”.- President Reagan, September 1, 1982:
“Israel should not undertake any activity that contravenes road map obligations or prejudice final status negotiations with regard to Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem. Therefore, Israel must remove unauthorized outposts and stop settlement expansion.” – President Bush, May 26, 2005