Obama and Israel
I’ve been watching the news since last week when stories appeared in the press talking about President Obama “imposing” a solution on Israel and Palestine. My first reaction was, “really, how would that work”? Short of invading and occupying Israel (and the Palestinian lands), how does one “impose” a solution? I mean think about it – what’s his leverage? Aid? I think Arab states would take care of making up any aid to the Palestinians, and I don’t think threatening to cut off aid to Israel would do anything but make Israelis even more intransigent:
A huge majority of Israelis would oppose an attempt by US President Barack Obama to impose a final-status agreement with the Palestinians, a poll sponsored by the Independent Media Review and Analysis (IMRA) organization found this week. Leading American newspapers reported last week that Obama was considering trying to impose a settlement if efforts to begin indirect proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinians proved unsuccessful. The option was discussed in a meeting with current and former advisers to the White House. Asked whether they would support Obama imposing a plan dividing Jerusalem and removing the Jordan Valley from Israeli control, 91 percent of Israelis who expressed an opinion said no and 9% said yes, according to the poll of 503 Israelis, which was taken by Ma’agar Mohot on Sunday and Monday and had a 4.5% margin of error.
So how, in a practical sense, would this “imposition” of a solution be achieved? And, without long simmering problems being resolved, would it actually bring peace to the region?The excuse given by the administration, or so says the NY Times, is to be found in a phrase Obama used in a recent speech:
Mr. Obama said conflicts like the one in the Middle East ended up “costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasure” — drawing an explicit link between the Israeli-Palestinian strife and the safety of American soldiers as they battle Islamic extremism and terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Mr. Obama’s words reverberated through diplomatic circles in large part because they echoed those of Gen. David H. Petraeus, the military commander overseeing America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In recent Congressional testimony, the general said that the lack of progress in the Middle East created a hostile environment for the United States. He has denied reports that he was suggesting that soldiers were being put in harm’s way by American support for Israel.
But the impasse in negotiations “does create an environment,” he said Tuesday in a speech in Washington. “It does contribute, if you will, to the overall environment within which we operate.”
But that “overall environment”, at least where Israel is concerned, has existed there since its founding in 1948. It’s not like it is a new environment that is suddenly effecting our soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. And, an imposed solution, even if Obama could somehow make it stick, isn’t going to solve that problem. Americans were attacked in Saudi Arabia simply for being infidels, not because of Israel. And our removal of them from that land hasn’t changed that perception one whit. So this is pretty thin water to be trying to float a justification for imposing a solution to this long festering problem. Israel is never going to put itself in a position that makes it vulnerable to Arab attack and anyone, given their history since 1948, should understand and appreciate that point.Any solution is going to be complex and require intensive negotiations that satisfy both sides. Elliot Abrams, fisking a David Ignatius column, gives just a tiny indication of the level of complexity this oversimplified and naive talk of “imposition” glosses over:
First, if indeed everyone has known the terms for nearly 20 years (since Oslo) yet agreement has never been reached, is it not obvious that neither Israelis nor Palestinians are willing and able to accept those terms? Does their embrace by an ambitious American president make them any more palatable to the people who will have to live with them? Second, the conclusion that all the terms are known is quite wrong. Is the fate of Jerusalem’s Old City agreed? Do Palestinians accept that Israel will keep every major settlement bloc? Do Israelis and Palestinians agree on the terms needed to guarantee Israel’s security once the IDF must leave the West Bank? (Examples: Is it agreed that Israel will control the air space and electromagnetic spectrum? Is it agreed that Israel can keep troops in the West Bank for some years? Do Palestinians accept that Israel can control the Jordan Valley and patrol the border with Jordan?) This is nonsense. One of Ignatius’s sources says the Obama plan will “take on the absolute requirements of Israeli security.” After 14 months of harassment by Obama and his team, will any Israeli risk his nation’s safety on that assurance?
Given where the relationship is now, and it isn’t good, how would you answer Abrams last question if you were an Israeli? See poll cited above. The trust factor between Israel and the Obama administration is at a dangerously low point. Israel is well aware that the US is its most powerful benefactor and has been its most loyal supporter. But it is also a pragmatic state that understands that in the final analysis its survival is its own responsibility and its alone. Israel is not going to agree to anything that puts its existence in mortal danger just to please an American president – and certainly not this one.
Meanwhile reports are circulating that Syria is arming Hezbollah in Lebanon with SCUD missiles. The reports first surfaced in the Arab media in November. 300 SCUDS were being transferred to Hezbollah – a terrorist faction whose primary mission is the destruction of Israel- and Hezbollah crews were being trained to deploy and fire them. Israel just confirmed the reports. To this point it is believed the missiles haven’t yet been moved out of Syria. But does anyone have any illusions whatsoever that there’s a purpose behind such a transfer except to attack Israel?
Peace, in this case, is a multi-sided process. Not only must the Palestinians and Israelis come to an agreement that both are happy with, but the Arab states in the area must also buy into the process and support any agreement fully. When you have states which still refuse to acknowledge the right of Israel to exist and do what Syria is attempting with the SCUDS, it’s hard to imagine how an “imposed settlement” on Israel and the Palestinians would have any beneficial effect at all or, more importantly, change the “environment in which we operate” in the least.