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the tensions between the US + Israel surface « Previous | |Next »
March 18, 2010

I see that the Obama administration in the US is beginning to put some pressure on Israel. The Netanyahu Government's strategy is that Israel can, in fact, count on US support without concluding a two-state peace – it simply must go through the motions of a “peace process”, even though expanding Israeli colonization of Palestinian land has been a major sticking point:

israel-palestine-map.jpg map courtesy of Juan Cole

The Obama administration's position is that Israel should stop building new settlements in occupied Palestinian territory including East Jerusalem. Israel refuses. So what happens to the Palestinians in the near and medium future, given that the Likud-led government has no intention of allowing a Palestinian state--the Israeli right, whether religious or secular, has no interest in a two-state peace---and there is now no place to put one?

John Mearsheimer in the London Review Blog observes that the:

Netanyahu government is filled with hard-line opponents of a two-state solution, many of whom also believe that East Jerusalem is an integral part of Israel, and it is hard to see how Netanyahu’s coalition could survive if he agreed not to build those 1600 housing units...In the end, there is likely to be a rather muted, protracted dispute between the two sides over those housing units and the many others that the Netanyahu government plans to build in East Jerusalem. This ongoing conflict will be a constant reminder to Americans that Israel and the United States have conflicting interests on a very important issue.

Mearsheimer says that Israel’s supporters in the United States have long defended the special relationship between the two countries on the grounds that their interests are virtually the same and therefore it makes sense to back Israel no matter what policies it adopts. However, in the recent dispute almost all of the mainstream organisations of the lobby will back Israel to the hilt and blame the Obama administration for the crisis. Their tendency is to defend Israel no matter what it does. He adds:
Therefore, it will be difficult to disguise the fact that most pro-Israel groups are siding with Israel against the US president, and defending policies that respected military leaders now openly question. This is an awful situation for the lobby to find itself in, because it raises legitimate questions about whether it has the best interests of the United States at heart or whether it cares more about Israel’s interests. Again, this matters more than ever, because key figures in the administration have let it be known that Israel is acting in ways that at best complicate US diplomacy, and at worst could get Americans killed.

Israel’s policies are putting American troops at risk.That raises issues for America's relationship with Israel and Australia's for that matter. Is the special relationship with Israel is slowly coming to an end?

Is a two-state solution is impossible at this point? Is a ‘greater Israel’ is going to end up an apartheid state? Is that the trajectory of the Netanyahu government with its Avigdor Lieberman's far-right party, Yisrael Beiteinu, and Eli Yishai's fundamentalist Shas Party? The latter seems to think it is okay for Israel to keep expanding its control over Palestinian lands and that the United States should back Israel's actions no matter what it does. If the two-state solution fails, then the Palestinians will be occupied forever, and a greater Israel will become an apartheid state.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 1:21 PM | | Comments (7)


I read somewhere that the number of Americans who essentially expect the conflict to go on forever keeps on rising, and presumably the Israelis and Palestinians have become so accustomed to the conflict that their ability to imagine any other relationship is seriously impaired.

This sadly means that the region is descending into entrenched permanent tribal hostilities, like those that have marked the Balkans for centuries. Once most people believe that a resolution of the conflict is impossible, it's only sensible to conclude that it's not worth trying to find one. Instead, people's energies will go into seeking tactical advantage and the bitterness and hatred will grow incrementally as the years go by.

A depressing outlook but one that's difficult to avoid, given the evidence.

though achieving a two-state solution is in America's strategic interest, as it would remove one of the major sources of anti-Americanism in the Arab and Muslim world, I cannot see a two-state solution being achieved. This is what Israel has resisted all along.

The objective of right-wing Israeli's is that Israel should control all the territory that once was Mandate Palestine ie., a Greater Israel. As Stephen M Walt observes:

If so, do they favor a one-party democracy in which Jews and Arabs get equal voting rights, or an apartheid state in which Jews rule over stateless Palestinians? Or are they in favor of ethnic cleansing...? Or perhaps they support Netanyahu's bizarre version of "two-states," where Israel keeps all of Jerusalem and confines the Palestinians to a handful of dismembered Bantustans under Israeli control? Those are the only alternatives to a viable two-state solution...

Pretty pessimistic, given that the Israeli right is not in favour of a one-party democracy in which Jews and Arabs get equal voting rights.

Yes Gary; negotiations only have meaning if both parties are genuinely trying to reach an agreement. One senses that has not been the case with these parties for some time.

There has been a core strategic shift of the Obama presidency via the Middle East. It is shift away from the with-us-or-against-us rhetoric of the war on terror of the Bush administration toward a rapprochement with the Muslim world as the basis for isolating terrorists.

It would be interesting to see a similar map for Australia and aboriginal land (all of australia). Then have the parts that were given back in a different colour.

I lost my empathy for Israel when i realised how poorly they treat Palestinians. I just cannot reconcile Jewish suffering under the Nazi's with how they now behave not just locally but internationally.

Depressing, that Israel is prepared to go so far over an ancient idea. How do they expect to fit in the rest of the world if they do achieve apartheid? Do they seriously expect good will when that map is all white?