Opinion: The US is no longer in Israel’s pocket

Deputy Knesset speaker: Israel is living on borrowed time.

Members of UN Security Council during meeting at UN headquarters in New York , October 14 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Members of UN Security Council during meeting at UN headquarters in New York , October 14
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel is living on borrowed time.
The Palestinians’ struggle against Israel gained momentum this week at the UN Security Council plenum.
Even if they don’t manage to garner the necessary support of member nations for a resolution that would recognize a Palestinian state, the Palestinians will have achieved a large measure of success.
They’ve succeeded in putting tremendous pressure on the international community, most importantly on the US and Europe, and also in reducing the number of states that consistently support Israel.
The Palestinians want a state, and they want to get it for the lowest possible price, without having to make any compromises. Their method has been to carry out a violent revolt, while at the same time engaging in negotiations. The powerful juxtaposition of political negotiations on the one hand and violence on the streets on the other is helping them reach their goal. Every so often the Palestinians increase the level of violence and reduce the negotiations, and at other times they do the opposite.
Ever since the second intifada ended a decade ago, the Palestinians have been focusing more and more on the political front, and have even added economic and legal aspects to it.
In addition, the Palestinians created the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, whose goal is to delegitimize and isolate Israel.
It’s sort of like playing the piano: Sometimes you use the black keys and sometimes the white ones, but mostly you play using all of them together.
But let’s be clear here – the Palestinians fully understand that an escalation of violence harms their political status. And yet they need the violence to keep the political process alive and to convince the world that time is running out. Once a year, they approach the UN General Assembly to reap the rewards of their year of efforts and to try to pass resolutions at the UN Security Council to further their goals.
The Palestinians succeed in passing any resolution they want in the assembly. The most recent battle that they began in the Security Council was to receive statehood within two years, but this will probably be vetoed by the US. Recently, a number of European countries expressed official support of a Palestinian state, which adds pressure to member states at the UN. Actions reached a pinnacle this week when the Palestinians decided to press for recognition at any price, and then the US announced that it would veto such a proposition if the necessary nine member nations support the draft resolution in the Security Council. This is a momentous juncture in the quadrilateral relationship between Israel, the Palestinians, Europe and the US.
The Obama administration is doing everything in its power to avoid having to impose its veto power. When the US uses its right to veto a resolution, it draws tremendous criticism and anger from countries worldwide.
And when dealing with decisions that involve Israel, the issues become even more complex. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Kerry have been extremely disappointed with Israel recently.
Both of them feel that they’ve been personally abused publicly by Israeli ministers – including by the prime minister – and they’ve had enough.
For all intents and purposes, they’ve withdrawn from their involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and instead have chosen to sit on the sidelines and watch as the two sides draw blood from each other.
And yet Kerry still invited Netanyahu to come to Rome this week, but apparently just to watch him sweat. Just last week, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said that Obama’s tenure is only temporary, whereas the Land of Israel is eternal. This may be true, although sometimes two years can feel like an eternity...
Netanyahu knew before and understands now even more clearly that the American veto is not in his pocket and that it comes with a price. Netanyahu once said, ‘If the US wants something – they can give us something in return.” And now the US has adapted this very same strategy and expects Israel to be flexible and resume negotiations with the Palestinians.
The US is also uncomfortable with the radicalization of Israeli government policy regarding internal as well as foreign policy, such as the Nation State bill that was recently debated in the Knesset. The US publicly stated that it is concerned that this bill would harm the democratic foundations upon which the country was established and that serve as a bond between Israel and the US.
The events of this week also unveiled a new strategy: The US and Europe have formulated a new division of labor. I don’t know for sure if they are sophisticated enough to plan this ahead of time, but that’s the way it looks. From Israel’s point of view, Europe is the heart of the Western/ democratic/liberal states (except for Germany). And now Europe is becoming more and more supportive of the Palestinians’ position. This reflects the demographic changes that are taking place in Europe as the Muslim population and anti-Semitism both continue to grow.
The French took it upon themselves to lead their own initiative – one less extreme than the Palestinians’, but not by much. France can be compared with a police patrol car that has entered a mine field.
If it gets through safely, the US, which had been waiting behind to see if the coast is clear, will follow suit.
If France steps on a mine, though, the US will remain intact since it remained behind at a safe distance.
We can safely assume that such cooperation between the US and Europe will continue into the future and will further hamper any preventive actions taken by Israel against any future Palestinian initiatives.
We need to prepare ourselves for the frustration the Palestinians will feel following the (likely) failure of the Palestinian initiative at the UN.
Two consequences will likely take place: first, the Palestinians appealing to international organizations, such as the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Granted, the Palestinians make this threat all the time, but they have yet to follow through with it. I don’t think Israel has to worry too much about this actually happening, especially since Israel never has carried out any war crimes. But a strong impression is made in the international community just by the Palestinians making this claim, and as a result many people think that we have committed war crimes.
The second path the Palestinians could take following their likely failure at the UN is to resume their violent activity. We’ve seen a few early signs of violence recently, although Israel seems to have successfully contained this wave of terror. The security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians is an extremely valuable operation which helps to combat terrorism that harms both Israel and the Palestinian Authority. But there is also a symbolic value to this collaboration, and we should make every effort to preserve it, especially now that there is reason to fear that the Palestinians might discontinue their participation, as they have threatened to do many times.
The showdown at the UN is coming soon and the US’s backing of Israel is secure for the moment, but future negotiations could influence and pressure the US to change its stance and follow the lead of the other member nations. It’s also possible, though, that the Palestinians might come to their senses if they reach the conclusion that their international standing has been compromised.
For Israel the lesson is clear. We learned in Rome this week that we can no longer assume that the US will watch our back and use its veto power to support the Israeli position.
In other words, the US is no longer in our pocket.
The writer is deputy speaker of the Knesset, an MK from the Labor Party, and a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.