When is it Ever Enough for Israel? *updated*
Israel is now haggling over the overly-generous deal it was offered by the administration in return for a mere 90-day extension of a partial moratorium on settlement construction- a moratorium which was violated over and over and which does not include illegal building in East Jerusalem– the area that will be the subject of negotiations and which the Palestinians hope to have as their future capital. And as we speak, the demolitions continue at a breathtaking pace in areas like Silwan. Talk about arrogant and ungrateful. Apparently, Bibi Netanyahu thinks what we offered them is not enough. Have you noticed it’s never enough?
Now news is surfacing that rather than having all these goodies being contingent on actually signing a deal with the Palestinians, the Israelis want all the goodies even if they don’t come to any formal agreement. From today’s NYT:
Initially, a senior official said, the planes were contingent on Mr. Netanyahu concluding a peace agreement with the Palestinians. Now, he said, Israel may get the planes even if it does not clinch a deal.
In other words, the US taxpayer will be giving Israel the equivalent of an additional 33 million dollars a day for 90 days and all Bibi Netanyahu has to do show up at negotiations, smile for the cameras and then start building as fast and furiously as he can after the moratorium (pace of settlement construction four times faster than prior to the freeze) and he won’t be tethered down by any requirements or responsibilities that he actually make some progress. He gets to kick the can down the road while pretending to be a peacemaker. He has absolutely ZERO incentive to sign a peace deal or even work towards that goal because as usual, the US is rewarding Israel for its intransigence and ensuring that Israel will never be held accountable for anything. So, if Bibi wants to go around whining that he can’t do anything about borders or land swaps or East Jerusalem because of his tenuous political situation, well, that’s A-OK.
While the details of the agreement are vague because the administration thinks its none of our business, the security “guarantees” we are giving Israel appear to go forward in perpetuity- in other words, all Israel has to do is extend a partial moratorium on some land it wasn’t supposed to build on anyway and in return they will get security guarantees that go on for decades. It’s not just about fighter jets, it’s about troops in the Jordan Valley, US paying for security needs for Israel down the road and on and on. And apparently these guarantees are in addition to other guarantees (US compensating any settlers that may have to be moved in any eventual agreement) made under Oslo, even though Israel no longer abides by much of anything in Oslo or the Road Map or anything else.
Given Israel won’t even agree to halt illegal settlement construction in East Jerusalem- even temporarily- what on earth makes anyone believe that Bibi will be willing to negotiate in good faith about East Jerusalem as part of final status talks? If Israel won’t do anything constructive unless it is bought off by the US, how in the world can they be considered serious about a two state solution? Answer: they can’t.
Notice in the article linked to above, that Israel is also complaining that part of the cost of the fighter jets may have to come out of money already given to them by We The Taxpayer. Israel is making it sound like it’s unfair that we might make them pay for something but in fact, the issue over the “subsidy” refers to the billions we have already given them this year.
UPDATE: Former US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer has penned an editorial for the Sunday edition of the Washington Post that makes the point quite succinctly in the title “With Settlement Deal, US Will Be Rewarding Israel’s Bad Behavior.” It’s unusual to see such blunt criticism of US policy towards Israel and quite frankly, it’s long overdue. But the fact that so many former diplomats and Mideast experts have come out and condemned the deal would seem to indicate that something really is remiss about this deal. Here is an excerpt:
…But now, the administration says it is prepared to pay off Israel to freeze only some of its settlement activity, and only temporarily. For the first time in memory, the United States is poised to reward Israel for its bad behavior.
This is a very bad idea. And while Washington will almost certainly come to regret bribing Israel, Israel may regret receiving such a bribe even more.
Previously, U.S. opposition to settlements resulted in penalties, not rewards, for continued construction. Washington deducted from its loan guarantees to Israel an amount equivalent, dollar for dollar, to the money that Israel spent in the occupied territories. While it’s true that the United States has turned a blind eye to indirect U.S. subsidies for Israeli activities in the territories – such as tax deductions for American organizations that fund settlements – the deal now being offered to Israel is of a totally different magnitude. If it goes forward, it will be the first direct benefit that the United States has provided Israel for settlement activities that we have opposed for more than 40 years.
It is not clear that Washington has thought through the implications. Will the United States similarly reward Palestinians for stopping their own bad behavior? Will Washington pay them to, say, halt the incitement against Israel and Jews in their public media and some educational materials – something that shouldn’t have been going on in the first place?
Will the rewards for Israel be automatically renewable? Meaning, if Israel is willing to continue the settlement freeze after three months, will another set of rewards be the price for that?
And what about enforcement? Will the United States demand its money back if it learns about construction during the freeze, even if that construction was not authorized by the Israeli government?
The list of problems is so long that it would not be surprising if the administration were already experiencing buyer’s remorse. But the arrangement has an even more serious long-term implication, one that should worry Israel profoundly. [emphasis mine]
To me, the terms of this deal argue for what some, including me, having been saying for quite a while now- it’s time to think outside the box and get some people on board that don’t simply view everything through the lens of what Israel wants, implications or costs be damned.
Here are some of the faces of actual human beings – faces that you won’t usually see in the media. I wonder what THEY think about the US’ latest offer to the Israelis?