Osamah Khalil writes:
Recent reports that the administration of US President Barack Obama offered Israel a series of incentives to continue its limited ten-month moratorium on settlement building have sparked an outcry among Palestinians and their supporters. Although the concessions for halting the construction of new settlements for only ninety days are unprecedented, Washington’s inability to maintain consistent pressure on Israel fits into a much broader historical pattern. The conventional wisdom is that when Washington has exerted pressure on Israeli governments they have eventually succumbed to American demands. However, a closer reading of the historical record and declassified American archival documents reveals a more complex dynamic between the two allies.
In this essay I examine four major crises in the “special relationship” between the US and Israel: the 1949 Lausanne Conference; the 1956 Suez Crisis; the October 1973 War; and the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference. I demonstrate that while Israel has on occasion publicly acceded to American demands, privately it has received concessions and agreements that rewarded its intransigence and improved its negotiating position at the expense of Palestinian rights. I argue that American pressure was negligible when compared to the policy options available to the different presidential administrations. Finally, I offer recommendations for Palestinians and their supporters.