Some of the worst disasters in American foreign policy have been caused by attempts to intervene in the politics of other nations, about which US policymakers almost invariably have zero understanding.
For example, in 2003 the US military crushed Saddam’s forces almost as fast as our vehicles could drive — and then handed the country over to an ‘authority’ which had no clue about the basic ethnic politics of Iraq, had few Arabic speakers, and based its decisions on imaginative wishful thinking. The ensuing chaos could have been predicted.
Sometimes the meddling takes a slightly more benign form than an actual invasion, with clandestine attempts to promote favored policies, to help or hurt particular factions or even to install leaders favorable to American interests. It’s been suggested that in Israel the US worked (unsuccessfully) for Peres against Netanyahu in 1996, and supported Olmert in 2006.
The primary goal of Obama Administration policy toward Israel and the Palestinians seems to be to get Israel out of most or all of the West Bank. For some reason, probably relations with — or even secret commitments to — some Arab states, this is a high priority for the US despite the huge difficulties.
This implies several intermediate objectives:
- Start Israel-PA negotiations. The PA has insisted upon preconditions, namely a settlement freeze and agreement to a “two-state solution”, and the administration has accepted them. Therefore, Israel must be persuaded to go along.
- Solve the Hamas problem. No agreement without Hamas will stand as long as it is the most popular Palestinian party and directly controls 40% of the territory. Although the best solution would have been for Israel to be allowed to finish off the organization in the recent war, this did not happen — probably because of a combination of Israeli timidity and US pressure. So the administration’s solution is to ‘moderate’ Hamas, either by getting them to agree to some form of the Quartet’s conditions (recognize Israel, renounce violence, accept prior agreements) or by weakening the conditions and accepting a long-term truce instead.
As I’ve written before, a successful agreement under present conditions is unattainable. The ‘two-state solution’ that Israel will accept includes a demilitarized Palestinian state which recognizes Israel as the state of the Jewish people. The PA will not accept either condition, nor will it give up ‘right of return’. Hamas will not agree to any form of the Quartet conditions, and even if it pretends to, it’s unimaginable that Israel would enter into an agreement with a PA that includes Hamas — except perhaps under extreme pressure.
But the Obama Administration is set on its goal, and seems to see the obstacles as mostly caused by Israeli stubbornness. It does not wish to leave anything to chance, especially where the notoriously unpredictable politics of Israel is concerned, and so it is taking unprecedented steps to control Israel’s behavior. Caroline Glick described the method a few weeks ago:
Unlike previous presidential envoys who have come to Israel every few weeks and then disappeared when reality proved stronger than their peace fantasies, Obama has ordered Mitchell to cast reality to the seven winds and set up a permanent forward command post in Jerusalem directly subordinate to the White House.
To fulfill his writ, Mitchell has appointed four deputies – all known for their open sympathy for the Palestinians and their hostility to the Netanyahu government. They are Mara Rudman, of the George Soros-financed Center for American Progress; Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton, who is now building a Fatah army in Jordan which he recently acknowledged will turn its American-financed guns on Israel within a few short years if Israel refuses to establish a Jew-free Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria; Fred Hoff, one of the greatest champions of a US-Syrian rapprochement and of an Israeli surrender of the Golan Heights; and David Hale, the architect of the current US policy of rebuilding the Hizbullah-infested Lebanese army. Hale will be permanently stationed in Jerusalem in a large office suite that will house Mitchell’s operation.
…the administration is building an apparatus designed to prevent Israel from exercising independent judgments about its tactical and strategic challenges and deny it the ability to secure its interests without US involvement and consent.
The apparatus reportedly includes members of every US security, foreign policy and intelligence body. These officers will be stationed in Israel and will report to Mitchell, who in turn will report to [National Security Advisor Gen. James] Jones and Obama. Each officer will be assigned to coordinate with Israeli counterparts in mirror organizations, including the IDF, the Shin Beit, the Mossad, the police and every other relevant Israeli body…
The administration is building its supreme headquarters in Jerusalem to enable Mitchell to act like a colonial governor and confront the unruly Jewish natives – not to cut a deal with us.
This is augmented by the American-operated x-band radar installation in the Negev, which can keep close tabs on “anything that flies” in and around Israeli airspace, including small objects like drones. This radar unit with its 120 operators and security personnel marks the first time US troops have been permanently stationed in Israel.
I suggest that Israel should worry if the US is establishing a significant diplomatic and military presence there. It would be an exaggeration to say “think Saigon or Baghdad” at this point, but given the combination of ignorance and hostility toward Israel that characterizes many in the administration, it’s an unfortunate trend.
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