Faced with the Israeli prime minister’s delaying tactics, President Obama, who has displayed both determination and extreme caution on this issue, is well aware that he may not be able to reduce the financial aid or lay so much as a finger on the military assistance provided by the United States to Israel every year. A decision of this kind, were it to be made, would immediately be perceived as a serious attack on Israel’s security and would inevitably result in an American Israel Public Affairs Committee intervention in Congress. While the pro-Israel lobbyists may feel uncomfortable about the Jewish settlements and can hardly contest the principle of a Palestinian state, at the same time they seem prepared to stand up to the White House in order to secure continued U.S. material and financial aid to Israel.
The Obama administration, nevertheless, has a number of effective levers that it can use to make the Israeli government give way. First, it can refrain from the systematic use of its Security Council veto in favor of Israel, and thus intensify the Jewish state’s diplomatic isolation. It can then gradually reduce the level of military cooperation in crucial areas where Israel is very dependent on the United States, such as intelligence, space, communications, detection and nuclear power.
It can also insist publicly that Israel join the Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference next year, as suggested by the State Department in May. This could force Israel to acknowledge openly its nuclear arsenal and to formalize a deterrence doctrine that could be applied against its potential adversaries — steps that so far the Israelis have refused to take.
Lastly, it can reduce its loan guarantees to Israel along the lines of the measures taken by James Baker in 1991-1992 to make Yitzhak Shamir agree to the Oslo peace process.
There is of course another simple, effective and relatively painless way to put pressure on the Israeli government without going to such extremes: The Obama administration merely needs to make the Israeli government understand that the strategic interests of the two countries no longer necessarily converge. It should then leave the Israelis out of the negotiations with Iran, informing them neither of the status of discussions nor of their content.
In so doing, U.S. negotiators would convey directly to the Israeli authorities the message that not all the issues of concern to Israel necessarily dominate Washington’s agenda and should not jeopardize the outcome of negotiations as a whole. This is guaranteed to make Jerusalem edgy. [continued…]
Editor’s Comment — The question is: does Obama have the will to apply any of these types of pressure?