Has Benyamin Netanyahu Actually Gone Too Far?
Yesterday reports surfaced that the Obama administration had sent Prime Minister Netanyahu a letter which essentially bestowed upon Israel an unprecedented level of economic, defense and diplomatic support in return for a measly two month extension of the so-called moratorium on illegal settlement construction in the occupied territories. The White House had denied reports that a letter was sent, but this morning, Haaretz continues to update the story and is sticking by it, alleging that the U.S. had in fact offered Netanyahu a HUGE list of goodies in return for an agreement on the part of the Israeli government to only partially comply with it’s responsibilities under international law:
The United States is reportedly incensed over Netanyahu’s rejection of a draft letter that would have extended the freeze on West Bank settlement construction, formulated by advisers to the U.S. and Israeli leaders.
The letter, written by U.S. President Barack Obama’s advisers and by Netanyahu’s and Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s adviser Isaac Molho, would have had Israel freezing construction in the settlements for another 60 days in exchange for unprecedented U.S. political and security assistance.
Senior American officials said they were frustrated by Netanyahu’s conduct in the affair.
“We’re not buying the excuse of political difficulties anymore,” a senior U.S. official told his Israeli counterpart.
“The Americans said Netanyahu’s conduct is humiliating the president,” said a senior European diplomat who met with senior U.S. officials in New York last week.
The details of the letter were revealed by researcher David Makovsky on the website of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
According to the report, the letter included incentives crucial to Israel’s security that Netanyahu has been demanding for years. For example, the United States pledged to support Israel’s position on stationing Israeli troops in the Jordan valley after the establishment of a Palestinian state, in order to prevent weapons smuggling.
The United States also would not ask Israel to further extend the building moratorium and would pledge that the issue of settlements would be dealt with only as part of final-status talks with the Palestinians, the letter reportedly said.
The United States also reportedly would veto any UN Security Council resolutions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict this year, would upgrade Israel’s defense capabilities after the peace agreement, and would increase security assistance.
This reportedly would include providing Israel with advanced fighter jets and early warning systems, including satellites. The U.S. also would start talks with Arab countries toward a regional agreement vis-a-vis Iran.
Obama adviser Dennis Ross, who is the moving force behind the letter, is believed to have encouraged Obama to change his policy toward Netanyahu in order to come off as friendlier. Ross reportedly worked with Barak and Molho on the letter during the UN General Assembly in New York.
The White House denied that Obama sent a letter to Netanyahu, but did not deny that the United States and Israel had worked on a letter.
The Prime Minister’s Office declined to answer any questions on the subject.
According to a source involved in discussions of the letter, Netanyahu agreed to the talks conducted by Barak and Molho in New York, but began to backpedal in two phone calls with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Saturday night.
On Sunday, Netanyahu said he appreciated the letter but could not accept the American proposal because it included a two-month extension of the construction moratorium, which he said would damage his public credibility.
According to an Israeli source involved in the details of the affair, Ross was very insulted by Netanyahu’s conduct and considered it “treason.”
To head off a possible public confrontation following Netanyahu’s rejection of the letter, Ross and White House Middle East adviser Dan Shapiro met Tuesday in Washington with a large group of Jewish senators and congresspersons to report on talks with Israel and the draft letter.
Wow, for Dennis Ross, referred to as “Israel’s lawyer” by fellow former US peace negotiator Aaron David Miller, to be incensed at Israel Bibi must have really crossed a line. Ross is essentially an AIPAC guy.
Lets get something straight, shall we? Israel is required under international law to cease settlement construction in the occupied territories. The notion that requesting Israel to abide by international law and established legal norms is not a concession but rather it is them living up to their legal obligations. Keep in mind that the moratorium had so many exclusions and exceptions that many considered it barely a moratorium. In addition, human rights groups have compiled government documents demonstrating that settlement construction continued in areas supposedly included in the moratorium or “freeze.” Furthermore, the Israeli government ensured that prior to the initiation of the freeze, settlement building permits were being approved at an unprecedented pace in order to make up for lost time during the moratorium period. Not exactly good-faith negotiating and it raises a lot of questions about how committed Israel is to this peace process.
I realize that the President has broad powers, but the notion that the White House would make such sweeping promises to Israel demonstrates that we are desperate and that Israel is not the slightest bit interested in peace. Anyone familiar with Netanyahu’s history knows that he uses peace negotiations for his own personal political advantage, to the detriment of Israel. The very idea that the U.S. should have to entice Israel to take such minimal steps (minimal because they are simply a matter of compliance with the law) is patently ridiculous and at this stage, We The People should have a say in this. As it is, our unquestioning support in terms of weapons systems, billions in aid and total diplomatic cover have resulted in little more than a growing attitude of contempt towards the US on the part of Israel. If anything, the unquestioning support has actually made things worse. Make no mistake, the US has helped create this problem- what did we expect when over the last several decades we have ensured that Israel will never have to be called to account for ANYTHING, EVER? We are supposed to be mediators/negotiators in the peace process but as usual, we’ve been dragged down into the untenable position of playing defense for Israel, something which undermines our credibility with the Palestinians and the Arab world. The EU needs to become more involved, something which Israel does not want for obvious reasons- the Europeans are more objective.
If these reports about the letter and the security, defense, economic guarantees are true, this is a disgrace and an embarrassment to the U.S. Secretary Clinton has repeatedly said that we can’t want peace more than the parties themselves and it has become clear that the U.S. wants peace more than Israel.
And what’s that bit about Ross and Shapiro meeting with Jewish members of Congress? Doesn’t this concern all of Congress? Or is that because some members of Congress are more inclined to support Bibi than President Obama? As I said, it’s a disgrace.
It’s time for some tough love and it’s time for some of Israel’s most hawkish, unquestioning supporters (as opposed to those of us who support Israel but believe that no ally is above accountability or question) to step up to the plate and demand Israel do the right thing.