Frozen Absurdities

Would the USA really compromise its own national interests in order to punish Israel?

Danny Hershtal,

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Arutz 7
 
PM Netanyahu is back in Israel with a new offer of American support in return for renewing a construction freeze in Yehuda and Shomron. He has not received it in writing and it is unclear whether the support and aid are contingent on reaching an agreement on borders as well, with the freeze only a way to bring Abbas to the table.
 
The New York Times has also published an editorial blaming Netanyahu for the disintegration of peace negotiations (for not agreeing to resume a freeze). The editorial comes on the heels of Thomas Friedman’s op-ed accusing Israel of acting like a spoiled child.
 
There are two troubling signs in these NYT articles. Friedman’s talks about Israel acting like a “spoiled child.” But why should Israel be compared to a child at all? Israel gives great deference to the USA, and appreciates it as an ally, but not as a “parent figure.” This distinction has been made during every disagreement between the two allies over the years, regardless of which political parties were in charge at the time.
 
The NYT accuses Netanyahu of putting politics ahead of peace. Even if one were to assume that peace would be the result of renewing the freeze (something the Palestinians themselves deny), it is an arrogant statement to say that Netanyahu should not prefer the will of his own electorate over the opinion of a foreign ally. If Israel is an ally of the USA because of shared democratic values, shouldn’t the USA accept that Israel’s democracy may not always come to the same conclusions as America’s?
 
Moreover, the two NYT pieces both seem to ignore that continuing a freeze, while not a threat to Israel’s existence, is not seen to be to its advantage, either. Israel’s government sees its previous freeze as the barrier to resuming negotiations. Negotiations only started at the very end of the ten-month freeze, when the PLO realized it could restate its immutable positions and then have America demand that the freeze be extended. Both the Times’ editor and Friedman (who may be one and the same, in this case) assume that the choice is between settlements and peace – a choice the PLO made when it refused to discuss a peace deal while settlements were frozen! However, the reality is that the choice is between continuing construction and thus improving the PA economy, helping to lower Israel’s crippling real-estate bubble, and making the PLO realize time is not on its side; or acquiescing to a renewed freeze and entering into another round of fruitless negotiations, during which Israel will suffer from further terrorist attacks, be hounded into making more unilateral concessions and have the talks break down without any peace.
 
When the choice is between settlements and no peace, or politics and no peace even the New York Times should be able to understand the rational for Israel’s choice.
 
One can excuse the NYT its naïveté, but what about the American Government? Don’t the officials at the State Department realize how unlikely a full peace agreement is? Absolutely! I have spoken to senior members of the State Department and one message has come through loud and clear – the United States wants Israel and the Palestinians to keep talking – not necessarily to reach a deal, but to continue talking, no matter how far apart the negotiating positions.
 
Speculation on why this is the ultimate concern, I will leave to the readers, but it is quite clear that the deal the USA presented Israel is focused entirely on that goal – to keep the parties talking, and anything beyond that is icing on the cake.
 
So what’s the deal? Reportedly, the deal consists of three parts: In return for Israel renewing its construction freeze for 90 more days, as the media claim, or for reaching an agreement, as rightist MK's have claimed:
 
(1)   The USA will give Israel 20 Stealth F35i jets.
(2)   The USA will not call for renewing the freeze, afterward.
(3)   The USA will veto all UN resolutions directed against Israel.
 
So how worthy is this deal?
 
(1)   Stealth jets are important to keeping Israel’s air force on the cutting edge of technology. However, it is unclear whether these 20 are to be gifted or simply released for sale. If they are only being released for sale, is this a perk or an implicit threat to prevent the sale of jets Israel has said it wants, if it is not compliant?
(2)   The previous freeze was supposed to be a one-shot test, and the PLO failed. While the USA might genuinely believe it will not call for another freeze afterward, can it honestly make this assessment? What happens, then, if the PLO backs out after 90 days, or (more likely) only sits down with Israel on the 89th day? Isn’t it likely that the USA can now say, since circumstances or “progress” has been made, that they will ask for another freeze extension to meet a “new reality?”
(3)   This is the strangest perk of all. If Israel does not agree to renew the freeze, will the USA then not exercise its veto against the usual blatantly anti-Israel claptrap? Will they allow the UNSC to endorse the Goldstone Report, which every US defense and political echelon found flawed? Various members of Congress and Pentagon have praised Israel’s action during Operation Cast Lead and have worried about the implications of the Goldstone Report on America’s own ability to react militarily to threats.
 
Would the USA really compromise its own national interests in order to punish Israel? Furthermore, while no one in Israel or the USA really expects this, what if Israel were to agree to a new freeze and them embark on an actual full-scale genocide? Would the USA veto a condemning resolution just because it promised? Could the USA make such an absurd gesture, essentially renting out its foreign policy to another nation?
 
Then how can it expect Israel to do so?




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