Thursday, March 18, 2010

U.S. tough love is the kind Israel needs.

Gideon Levy has an article in this morning's Ha'aretz newspaper which sums up exactly what many of us feel about the relationship between the US and Israel and the promise which Obama appears to be offering.

Israel - addicted to the occupation, and showing symptoms of overdose and accumulated damage - has finally found a savior to rescue it from its plight. Israel's redeemer hasn't just stood idly by for 40 years, but has even facilitated the habit. However, it seems that change may at last be in the air.

It's still too early to celebrate sobriety, and successful rehabilitation is by no means certain. This is a long, painful process, and the addict and its savior have yet to show adequate determination. The user is still dependent, kicking and screaming so much that the friend is likely to surrender in despair, to simply give in to pressure, having lost both interest and patience in the rehabilitation. But the measures taken by the Obama administration over the past few days prove that change is possible. Now the loyal friend must be encouraged not to give up, not to quit until the junkie is clean.
I often made the comparison during the Bush years that the US was like an overindulgent parent feeding an obese child chocolate. There was something pathetic in watching George W. Bush always find a way to give in to Israel's every worst impulse. It became grotesque. During the wars in Lebanon and Gaza it bordered on the obscene.

And it was counter productive and, ultimately, very bad for Israel. For, if there is no possibility of a two state solution, then we are left only with a one state solution. And the demographics of that reality mean that Israel ceases to exist. That's the part of this that Bush and his neo-con cohorts failed to acknowledge. A reality which even Ariel Sharon finally accepted with his decision to abandon the Gaza strip.

Finally, Obama is laying a line in the sand. At last, it seems to me, we have an adult in the room.
The facts are clear: Israel has no real intention of quitting the territories or allowing the Palestinian people to exercise their rights. Israel does not truly intend to pursue peace, because life here seems to be good even without it. The continuation of the occupation doesn't just endanger Israel's future, it also poses the greatest risk to world peace, serving as a pretext for Israel's most dangerous enemies. No change will come to pass in the complacent, belligerent and condescending Israel of today.

That's why this difficult, thankless task has fallen on the shoulders of an ally, as only it has the power to get things started. No agreement will come out of another endless series of futile diplomatic trips or peace plans to which no one intends to adhere. We have tried this enough in the past, and all for naught. This is the time to come up with a rehabilitation program for Israel. The entire world, and ultimately Israel too, will applaud Barack Obama if he succeeds.
America has, until now, been a dreadful friend to Israel; she has been - at best - an alcoholic's enabler, the person who encourages the very worst behaviour and excuses your very worst excesses.

I said the other day that I sensed that Obama knew that this was his moment. This was the point where Netanyahu had gone too far and Obama could flip the table and push back hard.

He is clearly doing so, and the noises from the pro-Israeli right show that they fear that he might succeed in what he is proposing. This is the time - as Obama often said whilst campaigning - this is the moment - for Obama to finally bring an end to the insanity which has been US foreign policy in the Middle East.
America must now decide whether it's for us or against us. Will it make do with easing the sting of the insult to the vice president? Will it continue to give in to its powerful Jewish lobby? Will it keep passing itself off as a friend while acting as a foe? Or are we really playing by different rules now? Yes, it's likely to hurt Israel, and even many Americans, but this is the opportunity. There will be no other.
If Obama can't bring this off now, with Petraeus saying that the lives of American soldiers are at risk because of Israeli intransigence, then this really is the intractable war to end all intractable wars.

It can be done. But it needs willpower. It needs Obama to put up with the waves of hate and the accusations of anti-Semitism which will surely come his way.

But, for Israel's own sake, Obama should see this through. We NEED a two state solution. And Israel needs it as much as the rest of us do. Some Israelis simply don't know that yet.


Unsurprisingly, John Bolton makes the case that Israel's response should be to launch an attack on Iran.
Mr. Netanyahu must realize he has not been banking good behavior credits with Mr. Obama but simply postponing an inevitable confrontation. The prime minister should recalibrate his approach, and soon. Israel's deference on Palestinian issues will not help it with Mr. Obama after a pre-emptive strike against Iran's nuclear program. It would be a mistake to think that further delays in such a strike will materially change the toxic political response Israel can expect from the White House.
Like tax cuts and deregulation, attacking Iran is something which the neo-cons see as the answer to just about everything.

Click here for Levy's article.

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