Lame ducks can be dangerous

As the Bush Administration draws to a close, lots of things are possible.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni came out on Sunday against American efforts to have Israel reach an interim agreement with the Palestinians before the end of US President George W. Bush’s term based on the diplomatic talks that she has led.

Speaking at a Kadima rally in Jerusalem that was closed to the press, Livni expressed concern that the Bush administration would pressure Israel, as president Bill Clinton did at Camp David before he left office in 2001.

“I purposely am not setting deadlines [for the negotiations with the Palestinians], because I think that’s very bad,” Livni said. “I very much don’t want to be in the same situation that Ehud Barak was in at at Camp David of the end of an American administration finishing its term and trying to put pressure on everyone to bridge gaps that cannot be bridged.”  — Jerusalem Post

Indeed.  Gaps about Jerusalem and refugees, just for starters. And security: the West Bank cannot be allowed to become another Gaza, which is certainly what would happen if the IDF were to withdraw from it today.

Those to the right of Livni claim that she is just trying to position herself for the coming elections. She has been involved with ongoing negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, and  has been accused of offering dangerous concessions. So she is trying to disassociate herself from them before a disadvantageous agreement is signed.

I think the truth is that the government of Israel has been pressured by the US to take part in the process and — including Livni — has been doing its best not to make too much ‘progress’. The Palestinians have done their part in obstructing an agreement, by insisting on outrageous conditions, assuming that US pressure will force Israel to give in, basically to commit suicide.

But isn’t the Bush Administration pro-Israel? Didn’t it permit Israel to wage war against Hezbollah for several weeks?

Actually, the Bush Administration is several things, depending on whose influence is ascendant at any time. The so-called ‘neo-cons’ were relatively pro-Israel, but they lost much of their power after the early failures in Iraq, to be replaced by the same oil interests and pro-Arab State Department circles that have been determining US Middle East policy for generations. Their point of view is expressed clearly in the Iraq Study Group report.

This group is close to Saudi Arabia and other conservative Arab oil powers, and is quite worried about the expansion of Iran’s sphere of influence in the region; so it wouldn’t make them unhappy to see Hezbollah — which Caroline Glick called “the Foreign Legion of the Iranian Republican Guard” — weakened or destroyed.

The drive to force an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is often attributed to a desire on the part of the US President for a Nobel Prize. That may have been Bill Clinton’s idea, but in this case I think a desire to go down in history is a minimal part of the motivation.

I’ve mentioned that in the mid-1970’s, Henry Kissenger made a promise to the Arabs that while the US would always support Israel’s existence, she would work to undo the outcome of the 1967 war. Remember that this was after the huge shock to the US economy brought about by the Arab oil boycott, instituted to punish the US for supporting Israel in 1973.

The official explanation of the effort to obtain a US-Palestinian ‘peace’ agreement is that the dispute is somehow central to all Mideast issues and that solving it is the key to solving them. But this is obvious nonsense. The real reason is that, in an era of skyrocketing oil prices, the Saudis and Gulf Arabs are demanding that Kissinger’s committment — and undoubtedly others that have not been publicized — be met.

As I’ve written before, Israel is prepared to give up land, but only if it will lead to real peace. And prior experiments in this direction have been less than successful.

The US, on the other hand, is simply interested in Israel giving up land.

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One Response to “Lame ducks can be dangerous”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    Bush has apparently reneged on his promise to prevent Iran going nuclear. Iran will not turn the last screw while Bush is in power. They will wait for Obama, who they may well under-estimate. About that I am not sure.
    In any case it is clear that a so- called agreement between Olmert and Abbas is not on the way. Its damage by the way is probably less than imagined. Since already all negotiators , and the U.S. hold Israel to the Barak concession line of 2000.