EDITORIAL: Will Clinton allow Israel to violate US sovereignty?

Will Clinton allow Israel to violate US sovereignty?

A few weeks ago Ehud Olmert was bragging about his ability to dictate to President Bush how the US should vote in the UN Security Council. Now Israel is laying down “red lines” on how the US should negotiate with Iran.

What is surprising is not the degree of influence that Israel assumes it has over US foreign policy but that the Israelis choose to parade their power so publicly. Israel’s leaders are embarrassing the Israel lobby!

“I have no problem with what Olmert did,” Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, told The Forward in January. “I think the mistake was to talk about it in public.

“This is what friendships are about. He was not interfering in political issues. You have a relationship, and if you don’t like what is being done, then you go to the boss and tell him.”

And this is exactly how the lobby wants to frame US-Israeli relations: that they are based on a level of intimacy that allows Israel to discreetly petition its powerful friend.

Start telling “the boss” what to do and you risk becoming a cause of embarrassment. Keep doing it repeatedly and more and more Americans will understand why President Clinton once said in reference to then-Prime Minister Netanyahu: “Who the fuck does he think he is? Who’s the fucking superpower here?

If anyone should be laying down red lines at this particular time — a time when it’s not clear whether the two-state solution is being rushed to the emergency room or the morgue — it is the US that should unequivocally be telling the Israelis: no more settlements.

Instead, it’s being reported that Israel has plans to double the number of Jewish settlers in the occupied territories.

When Hillary Clinton should be threatening to withdraw the diplomatic cover that the US provides Israel by perpetuating a phony peace process, instead, the Israelis are attempting to set ground rules on how the US should approach Iran.

Ironically, there is so far little indication that Israel need harbor much fear of rapprochement between the US and Iran. Clinton has already made it known that she sees little chance of talks being productive and the Obama administration in spite of having successfully used diplomatic engagement as an effective campaign gambit, has yet to demonstrate that it has a radically different perspective from the Bush administration. How so?

Whereas Bush treated talks with Iran as a reward that must be withheld, Obama is treating them as a reward that can be offered. The presupposition that in and of itself an opportunity to talk directly to Washington has inherent value, has not been questioned.

If talks are used as a bait, when Iran refuses to swallow the bait, the US and its allies will turn around and declare that Iran is unwilling to negotiate. While that might serve Israel and the US in persisting to cast Iran as a rogue state, it will merely confirm to the Iranians that there has never been a genuine interest in diplomatic engagement.

Real engagement hinges on the US credibly offering Iran positive rewards — not merely the offer that it can avoid being punished.

Effective diplomacy is driven by the belief that talking has the power to yield positive results; not the idea that failed talks can provide useful leverage.

In Israel’s efforts to circumscribe the reach of US diplomacy, items three and four of its “red lines” are particularly interesting:

    3. A time limit must be set for the talks, to prevent Iran from merely buying time to complete its nuclear development. The talks should also be defined as a “one-time opportunity” for Tehran.
    4. Timing is critical, and the U.S. should consider whether it makes sense to begin the talks before Iran’s presidential election in June.

Israel is terrified that the clock is running out — but it’s not the clock leading to a nuclear Iran; it’s the horrific prospect that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad could lose his position as a president who is easy to demonize and be replaced by Mohammad Khatami — the face of moderation.

If Khatami returns to the presidency, Benjamin Netanyahu is going to find it incredibly difficult to persuade anyone that the world faces a greater threat from Iran than it does from Great Depression II. Time is indeed running out.

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9 thoughts on “EDITORIAL: Will Clinton allow Israel to violate US sovereignty?

  1. delia ruhe

    Israel has been pushing its luck for a very long time, and the US has been rolling over for equally as long. On my realist days, I think that nothing is going to change that arrangement: it is the very definition of “special relationship”. However, Israel appears to be panicking, and Obama is sending very mixed signals. On the one hand, he appoints Mitchell and Freeman; on the other, the Obamaites are all making a show of pretending that Hamas doesn’t exist. (And politicians in Washington’s favourite vassal state, Canada, are making asses of themselves mouthing Washington platitudes about “measured responses” and “Israel’s right to defend itself.”)

    Is the Obama administration just playing its cards close to its chest? Or does it really not know how to handle Israelis and the lobby?

  2. John Robertson

    Several recent developments by the US (George Mitchell’s appointment, Chas Freeman’s appointment, Hillary Clinton’s importuning of Israel to alleviate Gaza’s suffering, the comments of John Kerry and others on the IDF’s laying waste of Gaza) suggest that the US is looking (finally) to play some hardball with Israel. Perhaps the Israelis’ “red lines” are meant to be a brushback pitch? If so, Hillary needs to get back in the box and crowd the plate.

  3. Don

    As an American gentile, I’m sick and tired of giving aid money to Israel, giving military equipment to Israel, and most of all letting Israel dictate our foreign policy. Israel is not my country, and I have no allegience to it. Will Obama respond to Olmert like Bush did with a “yes master, what ever you say master?” I sure hope not. Please Obama, for the sake of the majority of Americans, tell Israel to take a hike.

  4. John Merryman

    The Iranians are one of the worlds biggest oil producers and they don’t have the competence to build enough refinery capacity to serve their own needs, let alone make the profit from selling refined products and we are seriously worried about their nuclear capabilities????? From all I’ve read, they are little more than convenient boogymen for Israel and our military. If I was a conspiracy theorist, I’d think we were allowing them to think they were sneaking the technology, but are actually giving it to them. On the off chance somebody slips up and actually catches bin Laden, they would need a replacement boogyman.

  5. Caractacus

    The flashpoint approaches. Iran’s defiance and unwillingness to ‘come to heel’ and ‘accept its lot’ is infuriating to the U.S. and Israel. I mean, who does Iran think it is, always trying to determine its own fate? The decades of mistakes on all sides cannot be undone now. There’s not enough left of Palestine to make a ‘state’ (even if anyone was serious about it, which no one is) and Israel is now so paranoid that it is basically rushing itself into a ‘numbers’ war it cannot hope to win. And the U.S., unable to learn from its own countless mistakes, takes yet another step towards internal class conflict and eventual dissolution.

    I really wish it wasn’t so, but, as Caesar noted upon crossing the Rubicon ‘Alia acta est’…the die is cast.

  6. Wayne

    I, too, am tired of my tax dollars going to Israel. Not a another dime until they remove all those illegal settlements. Also stop paying Egypt to be our friend.

  7. TomB

    Paul Woodward wrote:

    “Time is indeed running out.”

    Well, as a U.S. citizen it seems to me it’s run already. The U.S. long ago lost its ability to follow its own national interest in keeping out of this conflict, and then even lost its ability to insist that Israel stop expanding its conquests despite paying for them essentially. So how can anyone believe that the U.S. has the ability to pressure Israel to actually give up any significant part of those territories when there’s no way that Israel itself could ever do so? There are some 400,000-500,000 settlers there already.

    Because acknowledging these manifest truths would be so embarrassing and harmful however the only alternative for the U.S. is to simply pretend otherwise, as to all of these things, no matter how palpably true they are. To its own citizens and to the world. But that’s about the only thing Washington has persuaded Israel to do; to go along with this sham in the form of the endless “peace processes.”

    The two-state solution has long been made impossible, the effective apartheid that exists can last only so long, the best bet is that the ultimate denouement to all this will be the expulsion of the Palestinians from the West Bank when they start demanding citizenship rights in Israel, which expulsion the U.S. will swallow.

    As for Iran given the recent history I doubt Israel can get Obama to go to war against Iran for it, but even if Netanyahu knows this he will still push for it anyway: If he can, fine, if not, he’ll use the U.S. refusal to say that it means the U.S. has “betrayed” Israel and that it now certainly can’t pressure him to do anything whatsoever in the sham “peace process” because that would allegedly also compromise Israel’s security further. And the only course open to Obama at that point will to be to play at the sham even more.

  8. bay

    As long as hillary is in charge of foreign affairs we already know she is not serious about peace for all. She is a war monger. Obama is playing with fire sending her ..She doesnt have the ability to listen to both sides..Israe is her god..

  9. delia ruhe

    Yeah, Paul, I pretty much agree. The Palestinians are screwed. Obama would do well to plead poverty and scale back that $3bn aid package over the next 4 years — and quietly encourage the divestment movement. Since Washington can’t and won’t do anything, let the building outrage across the international community work its magic on reluctant Western governments, which will eventually lead to sanctions. Maybe in twenty, thirty years, the Palestinians will see some action.

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