November 24, 2010
For the second time in a few weeks, the United States has offered Israel a large package of tempting incentives. The first such offer came, as The Washington Post reported on October 1, almost as soon as Israel’s largely fictitious 10-month "moratorium" on settlement building expired without any signal from the Israeli government that it would extend the freeze, as Washington and many other peace process handlers had assumed it would.
All Israel was required to do in exchange was to extend the construction freeze for no more than 60 days. That offer, as David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Affairs later outlined, was made by White House adviser Dennis Ross to Yitzhak Molho, the representative of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with advice from Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak. It included unprecedented military, political as well as diplomatic guarantees to Israel, with a promise that it would never be again asked to extend the freeze beyond the demanded 60 days.
The open-handed nature of the offer was interpreted by many analysts as a sign of desperation by an administration anxious to have the blocked Palestinian-Israeli peace talks restarted before the US mid-term elections earlier this month, in the hope this would boost the prospects of President Barack Obama’s Democratic Party (or at least not make their situation worse).
The offer was nevertheless rejected by the Israeli government, simply because Netanyahu was confident that what looked like a missed opportunity for some was in fact a chance to dig in and extract even more concessions from the United States.
This is exactly what is happening now: Israel has been served with an improved package and even after its astounding contents became public, it was still apparently considering whether to accept or reject it and hold out for more.
According to Haaretz on November 14, "the offer [requires that] Israel would stop construction in the West Bank for 90 days. The freeze includes construction that began after the end of the first settlement moratorium on September 26. The moratorium would not apply to construction in East Jerusalem. The US will not ask Israel to extend the new moratorium when it expires. In return for an Israeli freeze, the US government would deliver 20 F-35 fighter jets to Israel, a deal worth $3 billion. Moreover, if an?Israeli-Palestinian agreement is achieved, the US would sign a comprehensive security agreement with Israel. The US and Israel are to discuss the nature of the new security arrangements in the next few weeks."
Haaretz added, citing "The Cable" blog, that "White House Middle East adviser Dan Shapiro told a group of American Jewish leaders... that [the] US was committed to fighting delegitimisation of Israel, and listed recent efforts to advocate on behalf of Israel. Such efforts included: curbing actions by the United Nations on the Goldstone Report; blocking anti-Israel UN resolutions concerning the Gaza flotilla raid; defeating international resolutions aimed at exposing Israel’s nuclear programme at the International Atomic Energy Agency; and strengthening pressure on Iran and Syria in regards to their nuclear and proliferation activities."
The previous offer spoke of an American commitment to endorse Israel’s standard demand that its military forces stay almost permanently in the Jordan Valley, well beyond the time of reaching a peace settlement. This, and most likely other undertakings concerning Iran, must be in the new package as well.
Although this sounds shocking, coming from the superpower that has for years been insisting that the file of this historic and festering conflict should remain solely in its hand and that Washington alone should be the one and only broker, it does not add much to what is manifestly known.
Are we not yet used to the fact that the United States has been firmly committed to Israel’s security since that state was created? The plain reality is that the US remains Israel’s chief supplier of arms, money, protection at the UN from international censure as well as a protector of Israel from efforts by any other states to check Israel’s aggression and illegal practices.
The problem here is that this US commitment to protecting Israeli occupation and continued aggression against other countries and peoples, as well as Israel’s constant disregard for international law, has been largely responsible for the spreading of international chaos, insecurity, terrorism, lawlessness and arms race.
The US has been paying heavily for its ill-advised policies with its decade-long costly entanglement in two disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan standing as irrefutable evidence. It is hard to imagine how the US insists on doing the same mistakes without having learnt anything from the harsh lessons of the recent past. It may be tempting for Washington to take for granted the remarkable frailty of the Arab and Palestinian positions, seeking, as a result, to impose a humiliating settlement on a desperate Palestinian Authority that may guarantee all Israeli territorial and political ambitions. But this opportunistic manipulation is not going to work.
This American offer to Israel is sending the wrong message once more by endorsing an Israeli policy bent on replacing legality with military superiority, replacing mutual acceptability with hegemony, replacing justice and respect for the rights of others, and existence with repression and the heavy hand of continued occupation.
This is no more than outdated 19th Century colonial politics. It is sowing the seeds for future wars and feeding the current surge of radicalisation, anti-Americanism and violence.
The American appeasement of Israel is an encouragement of an aggressive state to be even more aggressive and a message to the Arabs that they do not count at all.
Probably this is the right time for the Arabs to revise their policies in a manner that could salvage some dignity, if not more.
* The Jordan Times