Israel: Once Again, Its Own Worst Enemy

I like the way Haaretz frames the issue in this article about Netanyahu’s continued resistance to U.S. urging that Israel agree, in advance of renewed peace talks, to base the borders of a future Palestinian state on the pre-Six Day War 1967 Green Line, with land swaps.

Under a headline that reads “U.S. Pressuring Netanyahu to  Accept Obama’s Peace Plan,” the article teaser says, “Israeli source says Americans frustrated with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for hampering U.S. efforts to stop Palestinians trying UN route to statehood in September.” (Emphasis is mine.)

I like this because it so perfectly encapsulates how totally pragmatic Pres. Obama’s concerns are and, by contrast, how divorced from common sense and reality Israel is being. Far from ‘taking the side of Israel’s enemies’ — in the favored formulation of Netanyahu and his right-wing hawkish supporters in the United States — the Obama administration is trying to help Israel by forestalling the huge strategic advantage Palestinians would gain if the United Nations declares a Palestinian state by default, which it plans to do in September. The United States is also trying to prevent or stop an international peace conference that France wants to hold in Paris.

But like a self-destructive teenager who will not stop driving drunk even though it’s going to get him killed one day, Israel continues to make it impossible for its only ally of any significance in the world to save it from the very outcome about which it so bitterly complains: that of a universally reviled pariah state with not a friend in the world.

From the Haaretz piece:

An Israeli source who maintains close ties with both senior U.S. officials and people close to Netanyahu said that Washington’s frustration began with Netanyahu’s trip to Washington last month, when he publicly fought with Obama and then refused in an address to Congress to endorse the president’s outline for talks. The Americans were now speaking very harshly of Netanyahu, said the source.

“He’s asking us to protect him in September, but he isn’t giving us any tools with which to help him,” the source quoted one American official as saying. “Instead of helping us, he’s making it harder for us.”

As a result, American officials complained, Obama was unable to get Britain and France to commit to opposing a unilateral Palestinian move when he visited Europe last month.

Jennifer Rubin, who moved from Commentary to the Washington Post after being given her own column there, does her usual abrasive and bitter rant about how poor Israel is being bullied by the One Who Is Supposed to Love Her the Most. I will not link to her directly, but you can read the whole thing from the link provided by James Joyner, whose rebuttal points out, among other things, that friendship is a two-way street:

The United States is not only the world’s last remaining superpower but Israel’s chief benefactor and only significant ally. We pour billions of dollars into Israel’s coffers each year and get very little back for our investment. The continuing thumbing of their noses at the international community–including the United States–in continuing to extend settlements into the occupied territories has put us in an untenable position.

Is the Obama administration “pressuring” the Netanyahu government to “adopt a position that is not its own”? Sure. Their position is a non-starter. Ours is the only one with the slightest chance in hell of working. It also happens to be the one supported by international law. Does moving from an untenable position to a reasonable diminish their bargaining position? Well, only in the sense that it would allow bargaining to begin.

It’s worth noting, too, that Israel’s negotiating position–and American ability to influence the outcome–will get substantially worse if the United Nations recognizes Palestine as a state. And that may well happen in the next year or so.


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Filed under Breaking News, Foreign Policy, International, Politics, War

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