Contents of a White House letter have been published outlining what the Obama
administration will offer Israel if it extends the moratorium on building inside West Bank settlements for two months. The proposals reveal again how the White
House doesn’t seem to understand the situation.
Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu couldn’t continue the freeze because there isn’t enough support in his
coalition for doing so. Minor US offers won’t change that fact.
the main underlying problem is lack of confidence that the Palestinian Authority
wants peace, is willing to compromise or will implement future
When we consider the specifics, then, the US offer isn’t
But there are more problems. Consider: Why two months, why not
three or four? Why not two weeks?
What is happening within two months? The US
election! The implication is that the Obama administration is offering Israel
the following basic deal: Make us look good until the vote.
Because the only alternative view is that the US believes the onceevery-
two-week talks will make such dramatic progress in two months that both Israel
and the Palestinians will be on the verge of peace, so an end to the freeze
Is that credible? No. And so when press reports say the
White House is angry that Netanyahu rejected the offer, we can well understand
why. It certainly isn’t going to pressure the PA to give in, which is the other
alternative. The collapse of the peace talks on the verge of the November
elections don’t make it look good, and the administration cannot do anything to
Israel until later.
Second, the US agrees that it would support measures
to prevent the smuggling of weapons and terrorists into Israel after a
Palestinian state is established.This is interpreted as allowing Israeli
forces to stay in the Jordan Valley for several years.
This is nice, but
Israel knows that the PA would never agree and that the US government isn’t
going to do a lot of arm-twisting to get it to change its
position.Moreover, this would set up a situation in which an isolated
Israeli force would be subject to attack by terrorists, and international
condemnation when it had to intercept or kill them.
WHILE NOT exactly the
same thing, the US and the “international community” promised to stop
cross-border weapons’ smuggling into Lebanon in 2006 and four years later, not a
single weapon has been intercepted. True, in this case IDF troops would be doing
the work, but the skepticism of their getting international support
Third, the letter promises the US government would veto any UN
Security Council resolution against Israel for the next year. This is insulting.
Historically, the US has watered-down, blocked or vetoed such resolutions. So
this “concession” in fact signals to Israeli leaders that the current
administration isn’t exactly reliable. And, of course, it suggests that after
the year is over Washington will not veto such resolutions – a big step
Fourth, the administration pledges to talk with Israel and Arab
states about a “regional security architecture.” Wow, that can be expected to
And finally, the US will sell more
weapons to Israel after there is a peace agreement and the creation of a
Well, that’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? Again,
suggesting that this would happen if construction is frozen for two months also
simultaneously suggests that it won’t happen otherwise. Like the veto point, it
actually withdraws something Israel was previously expecting.
to the media, Netanyahu politely pointed out that when the US originally
demanded the freeze, it promised that it would secure concessions from Arab
states. This didn’t happen. It also promised that the Palestinians would
be responsive and fulfill their commitments. That didn’t happen
Indeed, they refused to negotiate until the last minute and then
did so, partly, just to get the freeze extended still further.
President Mahmoud Abbas knew the freeze would last nine months. If he wanted to
give Israel an incentive to continue it he could have done so. Instead, he
stalled until the very last moment. For weeks, the US begged and pressed him to
return to talks.
Second, if the Palestinians negotiate a two-state
solution they will get – worstcase analysis – almost all of the West Bank. There
will be no Jewish settlements in that territory. The settlements will be gone.
All the roads and buildings Israel built (unless dismantled in the days before
the agreement’s implementation) will go to the Palestinians. So if Abbas
and the Palestinians are horrified by construction, wouldn’t it have made sense
for them to negotiate real fast? But, on the contrary, they stretch out the
process year after year after year.
Remember that the PA refused to
negotiate for well over a year after January 2009. All that time Israel was
building in settlements. Then for the past nine months when it wasn’t building
in the West Bank, the PA still refused to negotiate.
Here’s a full time
line: Phase One: 1993-late 2000. The PLO and later PA were in no hurry to make a
deal and killed talks in 2000. Israel made a huge concession to begin the
process in 1993: No new settlements or territorial expansion of existing ones.
It kept that commitment. The PLO and PA never demanded a freeze on
construction in existing settlements.
Phase Two: 2000-2009. The PA
refused any sustained peace negotiations at a time when there were no limits on
construction within settlements, but never demanded that it stop. The freeze on
construction in existing settlements was President Barack Obama’s idea in mid-
2009, and they rejected it as the basis for renewed talks.
2009-2010. After Israel did
freeze construction, the PA wasted nine months –
knowing the clock was ticking on the temporary freeze – while resisting direct
Thus, the PA has wasted 17 years, during which thousands of
buildings have been added to settlements. Two months more of a construction
freeze won’t change anything, except perhaps the administration’s electoral
fortunes.The writer is director of the Global Research in International
Affairs Center and editor of Middle East Review of International Affairs and
Turkish Studies. He blogs at www.rubinreports.blogspot.com