Aaron David Miller writes: This time, the argument from some American pundits goes, the Israelis have gone too far. This time, to paraphrase Howard Beale in Network, we’re really not going to take it anymore. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to address Congress without even informing the Obama administration is an act that’s just too brazen to be ignored. Such blatant intervention in American politics crosses a red line that requires a tough response.
Only it’s not gonna happen. Whether Netanyahu ultimately does come or not, the United States will continue to take it. And for reasons of politics, policy and shared values, Washington will continue to accord Israel tremendous leeway in this Administration and in the years ahead regardless of opposition to some of its policies. And here’s why.
First, the Middle East is melting down at a rate nobody could ever have predicted. And despite the risks this turbulence may pose to Israel’s own Israeli security interests, the Middle East muddle is good for the U.S.-Israeli relationship. The behavior of various Arab actors — ISIL, Assad, Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, even Egypt — reinforces the value affinity that binds Israel and the United States and to a great extent puts them together in the same trench. When Islamic State terrorists are beheading Americans and Syria is murdering thousands of its own people with barrel bombs and chemical weapons, Israeli transgressions — settlement activity, occupation policies — pale by comparison.
Easy for Washington-based Miller to say — many would argue — but this surely ignores the experience of Palestinians — or does it?
For years it would be reasonable to observe that few populations in the Middle East lived under more oppressive conditions than Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, but that’s no longer true.
That’s no thanks to the Israelis, but even when their talent for brutality and destruction is seen at its worst, such as during the last assault on Gaza, it now turns out that Israel’s violence is routinely surpassed — and massively so — by others.
That’s no reason for Obama and Netanyahu to act like best pals or complement each other on their shared values. Nor can Israel be excused or its disregard for human rights be sanitized with euphemisms like “transgressions.”
But to continue insisting that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the core wound that afflicts the whole region more egregiously than any other, is to ignore reality.