Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Further Note on U.S.-Israel Relations

By Barry Rubin

A lot of nonsense has been written about the Obama Administration seeking or deliberately creating a crisis in U.S.-Israel relations. This has little or nothing to do with the actual events:

1. The crisis began with the announcement by a low-level Israeli committee about the future construction of apartments in east Jerusalem (yes, we know it wasn't deliberate, etc.) at the very moment when Vice-President Joe Biden was in the city and indirect Israel-Palestinian Authority talks were about to begin.

2. The U.S. government didn't seek a crisis, it neither planned nor wanted this problem.

3. The crisis gave the PA the excuse to walk out of negotiations the U.S. government had spent months in organizing. Without these indirect talks the administration looks like a fool.

4. The White House should want to keep the Israel-Palestinian issue relatively quiet and be willing to accept the appearance of progress without its reality. The U.S. government should want to keep its emphasis on Iraq, Afghanistan, and sanctions on Iran (which are about to be its next big failure).

In short, what should the Administration prefer:

A. A big mess with Israel that makes it look stupid and incompetent, ticks off a lot of Congress against the White House, kills the indirect negotiations which would be the only thing it has to show after fifteen months in office, and gives the PA a chance to wriggle out once again of doing anything.


B. A nice start to (meaningless but only we know that) indirect Israel-Palestinian talks with Obama looking like a great statesman, presiding over a lot of back and forth; the U.S. government says to the Arabs, see we are making great progress on peace; and telling the American people, You see! W are having lots of foreign policy successes.

BUT that is a rational analysis of the situation from the standpoint of a mainstream American presidency. Does the Obama administration want to be in that category or to pursue an ideological vendetta against Israel, bucking Congress, public opinion and U.S. interests?

On this choice will rest the future of the Obama administration much more than that of Israel or the Middle East.

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