Daniel R. DePetris: The Political Docket

Time to Sanction Israel

Posted in Israeli-Palestinian Conflict by Dan on March 11, 2010

Just as Vice President Joe Biden spoke of a new round of peace efforts between Israelis and Palestinians, the Israeli Interior Ministry announced that it plans to build another 1600 housing units in East Jerusalem.  This is much more than an embarrassing diplomatic moment for the American second-in-command, who just before professed his love to the Jewish state in his meeting with Israeli P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu.  It is (and should be) the final nail in the coffin for the U.S.-Israel “special relationship.”  It may be time for the United States to seriously consider pushing its weight around in the Middle East, particularly against an Israeli ally that has become nothing but a hindrance to the peace process.

I was actually a little bit hopeful that the proximity talks would at least get both sides to discuss their grievances in a constructive manner.  The fact that the 22 nation Arab-League endorsed the talks between the Israelis and Palestinians was a step in the right direction, because if any peace agreement is to work, Arab Government’s need to be on board as well.  But this latest slap in the face only confirms the view that so many have held for the past few years; that Israelis and Palestinians are incapable of reconciling, even with a major power as a referee.  America’s role is the equivalent of a parent trying to keep two misbehaved children from killing each other.

So with this is mind, I have a new plan for Mideast peace, and it’s basically a two-step process:

Step 1:  Pursue rigorous nation building in the Palestinian Territories, namely the West Bank where the moderate Fatah is in control. The West Bank economy has already grown by 8 percent over the past year, giving Palestinians a much needed and much deserved spout of job opportunity.  The Fatah Party is demonstrating its sincerity in anti-corruption, cracking down on public officials who are both sympathetic to the rival Hamas movement and who are stealing money right under the government’s nose.  The integrity and transparency that Palestinians have been praying for may be finally blossoming into something real.  And with institutions adapting and maturing, the Palestinians could eventually work their way towards a state of their own, albeit unofficially.  Who knows…perhaps a stable and prosperous Palestinian entity will nudge the Israelis back to the negotiating table, thus making it official.

Step 2:  U.S. sanctions on Israel. Now I know this is controversial.  The powerful Israeli lobby in Washington would undoubtedly view this is action as an insult towards a trustworthy ally in an otherwise contentious and hostile region.  Some lobbies, like AIPAC, could show their displeasure by withdrawing their representatives from the United States and diverting more attention to Western Europe.  Israel may decide to purchase weapons elsewhere, like Russia or China, two powers that the U.S. would rather keep in check.  But the benefits of sanctions would be enormous to say the least.  With billions of dollars in cash and military hardware halted, and with the protective American umbrella lifted, Israel may have no choice but to actually cooperate.  The reason that Israel has not taken the United States seriously over the past year is because condemnations over settlement building are rarely taken to the next level.  We are too quick to give Israel the benefit of the doubt in all areas of Mideast policy.  Why not take Dr. Stephen Walt’s advice and start adopting an impartial stance?

Like any other party engaging in negotiations, the Israelis want to be in a position of strength relative to the Palestinians. With more Jewish settlements in the West Bank, with a siege in the Gaza Strip, and with troops ready at a moment’s notice, the Israelis may be trying to do everything possible before the U.S. really cracks down on settlement construction.

Whatever the case for settlement building is, it is clear that the Israeli Government is still viewing negotiation as a zero-sum game, with one side winning and the other losing.  This does not need to be. Both sides can claim victory within reasonable limits, but the United States needs to be willing to exert some control over the entire ordeal.

-Daniel R. DePetris

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**Comments courtesy of the Economist and Amos Harel from Haaretz.com**


10 Responses

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  1. NorthLost said, on March 11, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    It looks indeed more and more that Israel, beyond lip service to peace, does not want peace if it amounts to give away land. So they go through the motions of pretending to discuss peace while the US goes though the motion of arranging meetings between the parties and the arabs pretend to negotiate.

    It would be a relief if everybody should drop the masks !

    However, this stalling after a few more years may lead up to the formation of a non-confessional state with muslims, jews and christians living side by side in a larger democratic Israel. All-in-all not a bad solution and shining example for the whole region.

  2. JamesH11 said, on March 11, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    I am well aware that Biden is as bought and owned by AIPAC as the rest of the higher-up politicians, but do these humiliating meetings need to be public?

    I am so embarrassed as an American to watch my nation, the most powerful country in the world, send it’s Vice President to this little militaristic/theocratic country, kiss their behinds over and over again and pledge undying loyalty to them forever and ever, and then pretend that we are working together when the Israelis will do what they want and they will have the US do whatever they want us to do.

  3. tzatz said, on March 11, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    The truth is … there is no peace process …

    The Israelis currently have Iran on the brain …

    The Palestinians … Abbas & Haniyeh … don’t get along … Abbas doesn’t even have the authority to rule and Haniyeh rules Gaza as a fief … Fayyad … is moving his weight behind the economic model … building state apparatus … unfortunately … those structures are all of the same fashion … built on cronyism/corruption …

    The Palestinians are waiting for their text message from Ahmadinejad or is it King Abdullah … the Palestinians have no way to play their hand … except … to continue their ‘resistance’ … the ‘resistance’ brings them money … continuation of their leadership … their so-called ‘existence’ … if Peace were to break out … Palestinians would look to their leadership for answers … instead it’s easier/best to BLAME ISRAEL … and continue the ‘struggle’ … after all … the struggle continues all the good things … yachts … Mercedes cars … villas … foreign bank accounts … all the perks … Peace CANNOT OFFER … Peace is tough … that’s why NOTHING WILL HAPPEN … until the ‘Iran Issue’ is settled

    The Arab/Muslim world is a mess … autocratic … dictatorships … thugocracies … Jordan/Syria/Egypt/Saudi Arabia/UAE where is the leadership more secure and the population less secure … economically … physically … educationally … et al The ME is a mess … it’s not up to Israel to clean it up … though it could if it had a mind to …

    No … there’s no charade … it’s obvious to anyone looking … there will not be peace in the near future … Iran is the issue of the moment … settle Iran and the Arab/Israeli Conflict has a chance of being solved rather quickly … without Iran backing down on the nuclear bomb … all bets are off …

    • JamesH11 said, on March 11, 2010 at 7:58 pm

      tzatz is right.

      i just hope that everyone understands that when he says “all bets are off”, that means that the Israelis will keep the Palestinians under apartheid oppression, will continue assassinating Palestinians, and will continue to stealing land from the Palestinians through settlements.

      and we Americans will continue paying for it.

  4. Working Man said, on March 11, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    As an Israeli who wants peace based on the two state solution, many of us are figuratively tearing our hair out.

    Mr. Netanyahu’s government has made a fool of itself and its own policies with this move.

    Officially and on the record, Netanyahu has said “Two States” is the govt policy.

    Actually, from what I can see, Netanyahu was deeply embarrassed by this self-inflicted wound; he did want the negotiations to start. But he is prime minister and its his job to manage the govt for results. This nonsense is beyond just embarrassment – it is self defeating.

    The decision should be rescinded so that negotiations can proceed.

  5. Jehuda Ben-Israel said, on March 11, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    Nothing that was said or done with regard to construction planning in Jerusalem was contrary to pre-agreements among the parties in advance of the forthcoming “peace talks”, nothing!

    The 1,600 apartments will be located in a Jerusalem neighborhood, not a subject for discussion now or even in the future. Thus, one can only understand the Arabs’ objection to having Jews, only because they are Jewish, reside in neighborhoods of their own capital city of Jerusalem as a form of racism.

    And this anti-Jewish racism should have been the subject Biden should have raised in his talks with the Arabs. He should have demanded: Cease your anti-Jewish racism now!

    But “liberal” Biden appears to have difficulties representing “progressive” Obama by calling the child by its name…!!

  6. Quite Like Frank said, on March 11, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    Time for U.S. foreign policy to sharpen up and either get ahold of Israel’s leash or remove it completely. WWII is over. The Jewish State flourishes. Let them go.

    Israel and Palestine need to duke this out for themselves.

  7. Arvay said, on March 11, 2010 at 8:06 pm

    nothing makes the fact of israel’s occupation of our political process clearer than this act of incredible arrogance — publicly micturating on the second highest-ranking elected official of a country on which Israel depends for its minute-by-minute existence.

    One can only imagine the contempt that the Chinese leadership, for example, have for the “world’s only superpower” treated in this way by a client state.

    They would be correct.

    Right after this incredible public chastisement, Shabbas goy Biden waxes poetic about the unbreakable bonds between Israel and America that (n.b.!) are unaffected by political partisanship.


    Americans – – we ARE the pitiful helpless giant pictured by the Cold Warriors of yore, but not at the hands of another rival superpower — but by the cowardice and corruptibility of our politicians.

    The rogue state that performs like this can justas glibly decide to attack Iran (whoops! I wasn’t informed by the IAF) and we’ll be part of a catastrophe. Osama will have his revenge, and Israel will be his avenger.

  8. AllanGreen said, on March 11, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    Is this Barack Obama’s new way of trying to stare us down and give him concessions so he can proudly wear the laurels of having brought peace to the world?

    Boo hooo hooo – poor old Husseini wont be able to pull that messianic dream off!

    And just when I was thinking he’d do it.

    Interfering with the internal politics of a country, is certainly not the way to bring about peace. Imagine Natanyahu trying to pressure Americans from extending a highway through a slum, to protect the gentrified neighborhoods with a good ten lanes from impoverished offspring of slaves!! Or protesting the building of hotels on an indian resort – since it is Native land. Hm…don’t think that would go down too well with Americans, would it?

    Basically, Hussein really is a smooth hand at politics, isn’t he? Oh, but it was just ol’Biden – no connection to the clown sitting in the white house. Right.

    • Sam from California said, on March 11, 2010 at 8:07 pm

      What on earth are you rambling about?

      Anyways, considering the USA gives Israel billions of no-questioned-asked aid, we DO have a right to criticize Israel. Also, the Palestinians are not citizens of Israel, and America is not going to demolish the homes of Mexicans in Tijuana to expand its own neighborhoods. So your comparisons are bunk.

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