Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has recommended that his government accept an American offer to provide advanced military planes worth $3 billion without payment, and to support Israel''s position in the United Nations, in exchange for a 90 day extension of the building freeze that will not apply to neighborhoods of Jerusalem.

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The deal is attractive not only on for the support offered, but because it accepts the Israeli concern about Jerusalem.

There are several problems.

Religious settlers are shrieking their opposition, and a small party representing them is threatening to leave the government. SHAS is pondering an abstention, which sounds like muted support. Likud members of Knesset are mumbling their opposition, but Netanyahu is their leader.

Those are the smallest of the problems. Other parties will provide whatever support in the Knesset Netanyahu needs for something like this, and SHAS will not be quick to leave its control of important ministries.

More weighty is a lack of confidence in the Americans to deliver on the deal, without demanding a further freeze if 90 days is not enough, adding other conditions, not pressing Congress to approve the arms transfer, or fudging whatever is meant by support in the United Nations.

Politicians here are familiar with the expression, "I promised... But I did not promise to keep my promise."

The latest word from the Prime Minister is that the details of the American offer are still being worked out. So it is too early to know what is being promised, even leaving aside what may be secret clauses in the deal.

The weightiest problem of all is the response of a Palestinian negotiator that his people could not accept a moratorium on construction that does not include East Jerusalem, and would not extend until a final settlement has been reached.

Later that negative was downsized to strong reservations, along with a willingness to bring the proposal before the entire Palestinian leadership and the Arab League.

Even later was an assertion that the Palestinians could not accept a partial freeze, or one limited in time.

It will be a month or two before there is movement on an agreement to negotiate, a clear Palestinian rejection, or a new statement of Palestinian terms for negotiations.

Will Israel get those planes and support in the UN if its government accepts the deal, but the Palestinians reject it, or add terms that Israel does not accept?

Or will the Americans and Israelis abandon the idea without finishing its details, in the context of yet another "Not enough" from the Palestinians.

The New York Times thinks that the American offered too much to Israel, and it blames Netanyahu for what is not happening. As far as I know, however, the newspaper does not have many troops, or votes in the United States Congress or United Nations.

All this may add to what President Obama is learning about policymaking. Feisty Republicans are saying they will try to undo his programs at home, and he suffered a lessening of his personal charm when he sought to get something from economic heavies during the G-20 meeting in Seoul.

If we did not know it already, we  see once again that policy change takes a while, persuading foreigners to do something takes longer, and heroic efforts are the most difficult.

Americans are learning that the health reform may not be much of a cure for the developed world''s worst system of medical delivery. The rule writers of the administration are reducing the demands the reform seemed to impose on employers that insure their workers, and insurance companies are making sure they do not lose money.

There are other lessons from the war on terror. Signs are positive, but not the ones promised by this or the previous administration.

It would take a great stretch to define the overt American intentions in Iraq or Afghanistan as close to being realized. On the other hand, there has not been a major attack on the United States since 9-11, and nothing close to that day''s toll on any European city. Some credit may be due to post-9-11 security provisions, even though they come at considerable cost in passenger convenience.

Other credit may be due to the nature of events as they have evolved in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other sources of Islamic extremism. Iraqis, Afghans, Pakistanis, and Yemenites are being kept busy by the United States and its allies. Muslims continue to kill one another in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Saudis are shedding their own blood and that of other Muslims in Yemen, and may be aiding Sunnis in Iraq. We should not expect governments to tell all the truth, so we can be skeptical about Saudi and American denials of Saudi activity in Iraq (See, for example, here).

When Muslims are busy fighting westerners and one another, they have less wherewithal to plan and execute major operations elsewhere. Having Muslims kill one another may not be the most politically correct way of describing American policy, but it has evolved in that direction.

Where politics is tough, one gets what one can.

We are not far along in achieving peace with the Palestinians. Israelis and Palestinians are talking about talking, but not currently with each other.


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