March 21, 2010

America and Israel Prepare Finale

Maybe the shock is justified. America and Israel are sailing through rocky seas and nothing publicly suggested that he would yield, so “Netanyahu bows to U.S. demands” and “Netanyahu Caves to Washington” can’t help but feel like big news.

Or is the illusion merely coming to a close?

With suspicions already perked by West Bank urban warfare, observers were given one more reason to doubt after “breaking news” literally broke. Initially The Haaretz reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to “hold” settlements in Jerusalem until the 10 month freeze on West Bank settlements expires in September.

But by the time The Guardian quoted Netanyahu as having, “bowed to American demands to suspend the construction of settlement homes in east Jerusalem ahead of his departure today for a visit to Washington DC,” the original report had undergone surgery to remove the settlement “hold/suspension” aspect.

Momentarily reporting a “slowdown,” The Haaretz currently reads, “For the first time since Operation Cast Lead, Israel has agreed to ease the blockade on the Gaza Strip. Moreover, Netanyahu has agreed to discuss all core issues during the proximity talks, with the condition of reaching final conclusions only in direct talks with the PA.”

Instead, “Netanyahu refused to revoke the building project in Ramat Shlomo or freeze construction in East Jerusalem. He also promised a better oversight system to prevent embarrassing incidents such as the one that triggered the crisis with the U.S. during Vice President Joe Biden's visit.”

Thus Netanyahu didn’t bow or cave at all.

A modest prisoner release is a decent gesture though hardly bowing. Easing the Gaza blockade carries a nice symbolism, but the material being allowed through is meager, suggesting a token gesture concocted between Netanyahu and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Few Gazans will be persuaded.

Agreeing to discuss all core principles is especially duplicitous since Netanyahu has already agreed to that demand and failed to execute. This redundant gesture serves to distract from Netanyahu’s refusal to freeze settlement construction in East Jerusalem, an indicator of where he falls on Jerusalem’s final status.

Basically Israel gave in to the weaker demands in order to reject the first, while the new “don’t ask, don’t tell” system actually works in Israel’s favor. No, Netanyahu hasn’t bowed to US pressure. If anything he’s reacting to the rigid settlement position of the UN, EU, and Arab League, but even that is a stretch.

As for America he’s escaped at best, played his part beautifully at worst. What else should we expect from Netanyahu, a political veteran, just before he boards his plane for Washington?

The Haaretz reports, “Netanyahu is scheduled to leave for Washington tonight with Defense Minister Ehud Barak to attend the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington. Opposition leader MK Tzipi Livni and Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau will also attend the convention... Netanyahu is slated to address the convention tomorrow at 7 P.M. (Israel time), then meet Clinton, who is also to speak at the AIPAC gathering.”

On cue a White House official told The Jerusalem Post, “We’re happy, but it’s an ongoing conversation.”

Judging by the unfolding events so is Congress and their friends in the Israeli lobby. Is this how the situation will truly climax? Provocation followed by condemnation followed by praise, then Netanyahu comes to speak at AIPAC with Clinton, a quiet trip to Obama to finalize their back-room dealings and lobby for bombs, and everything is back to normal?

US House of Representatives Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) and Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Virginia), joined by the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Middle East subcommittee, faxed their own letter to Clinton demanding the crisis go silent.

“We recognize that, despite the extraordinary closeness between our country and Israel, there will be differences over issues both large and small,” they write. “Our view is that such differences are best resolved quietly, in trust and confidence, as befits long-standing strategic allies.”

Could this be the reason why so much secrecy and disinformation surrounds a potential meeting between Obama and Netanyahu?

Another letter from Senators Charles Schumer (D-New York) and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) say in their letter to US President Barack Obama, “We write you out of concern that Iran is growing ever closer to acquiring nuclear capability, a fact demanding immediate action. We want to assure you of strong bipartisan support for the tough and decisive measures that we hope you will undertake to address this grave problem.”

The Palestinians have no Senators to speak through and it’s showing. They can only watch while America and Israel orchestrate their play. Anyone who thinks America came down hard on Israel hasn't been paying attention.

Once the “crisis” is over America and Israel are coming for the Palestinians again - they must be ready not to bow themselves.

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said on Saturday that the diplomatic crisis between Jerusalem and Washington had been, “amplified in the media in order to improve the status of the United States as an honest broker in the region.”

Ayalon believes, as many US and Israeli officials do behind him, that, “Israel has taken many trust-building steps, so [international] pressure should be on the Palestinians, who have only become more rigid in their positions.”

The stage is set for the finale of an illusion designed to increase America’s image in the Middle East. Because reality still permeated through we’ve observed the reverse effect, but the illusion has correspondingly increased in power. AIPAC’s conference is looking less coincidental, a date long on the calendar and timed exactly to the White House's latest push for proxy talks.

What a perfect venue for the final act in case its play went awry.


  1. I said before that this was looking more, and more like a set up. In Israel the shift has gone from the West Bank, and Gaza to East Jerusalem. This is a political win for Bibi in Israel. Most Israeli's favor a one Jerusalem as their capital under Jewish rule.
    When we have Congressional leaders that are Zionists, and or Israel firsters. Little will change in our foreign policy, or the M/E.
    Why Americans refuse to recognize the power of AIPAC and others is beyond me.

  2. This entire episode has felt fake from the beginning, but crowning it with AIPAC pushed us over the top. And yet Israel is still continuing a self-destructive strategy, "winning" the battle with America but losing more ground in its overall war in the region. At this rate what Americans think might not matter if Israel takes itself down.

    Of course America is the biggest loser: no control of Israel, Obama looking weak and deaf to Petraeus, Palestinians pushing for Quartet mediation, riots in the West Bank. These proxy talks were an ill-conceived disaster and US image has dropped even lower. This will have future consequences.

  3. If Israel wants to take this to the brink, there will be no blinking this time.
    Obama is no JFK, and Bibi is no Kruschev.

  4. Probably a ways from the real brink, but they're moving in that direction. And judging from now, Israel appears to have no intention of blinking. US already has.