The US has ratcheted up the pressure on Israel after the initial flap about Jewish building in East Jerusalem. PM Netanyahu’s apologetic response did not defuse the crisis, showing that it is not about the ‘timing’ of Israel’s announcement, but rather represents a new turn in US policy.
Not only is it assumed that the Administration wants the Ramat Shlomo project canceled, but according to the Jerusalem Post today, the US is asking for further “confidence-building” concessions from Israel, like the release of more Palestinian prisoners.
I suspect that the Palestinians understand Obama’s people better than Netanyahu does. Israel has implemented a settlement freeze in Judea and Samaria (and taken harsh actions against violations), removed roadblocks and checkpoints, and said that it will talk to the Palestinians directly and without preconditions. The Palestinians, on the other hand, insist on preconditions even for indirect talks. And, importantly, they don’t budge.
Naturally the US approach is — since they can’t move the Palestinians — to try to move Israel. The issues on which Israel and the Palestinians are the farthest apart are refugees and Jerusalem; so perhaps the administration thinks that if it can break Israel on Jerusalem, the Palestinians will soften on refugees. Perhaps the Palestinians even led them to believe this.
The Palestinian strategy seems to be to keep telling the Americans that serious negotiations are just around the corner, if they will just force Israel to give up a little bit more. The Americans really, really want to believe them. This time the plan seems to have succeeded remarkably well, and they have gotten the administration to move its own position a notch closer to the Palestinian one.
Of course, this fell on fertile ground in the Obama White House. There’s no shortage of officials sympathetic to the Palestinian point of view.
As I wrote yesterday, this is a brand new policy. Although the US has never officially recognized Israel’s possession of Jerusalem — East or West — until now it has accepted Israel’s de facto sovereignty there and has not interfered with Israel’s activities. Now it is actively trying to force Israel to treat East Jerusalem — even a part that would absolutely be part of Israel in any reasonable division of Jerusalem — like ‘Palestinian land’.
But just in case you still think this is all about Biden being embarrassed, remember that last August Hillary Clinton anticipated this policy when she called the Supreme Court-approved eviction of Palestinian squatters from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood “deeply regrettable” and “provocative,” giving US sanction to what has become yet another little intifadah of weekly demonstrations of Palestinians, Israeli extremists and international activists.
It’s been suggested that Israel needs to stay on the right side of the Obama Administration if it wants support in acting against the Iranian nuclear weapons project. This is nonsense: the US will do exactly what it thinks is in its interest with respect to Iran no matter what Israel does in Jerusalem.
The US is, lately, a country that has lost a great deal of its clout in the world. Owned by China, bogged down in Afghanistan, soon to see Iraq lost, serially manipulated and made a fool of by Syria and Iran, with no leverage against Russia, losing the confidence of its allies, its officials seem to find solace in the fact that they can make Israeli leaders tremble.
Time for some self-respect in the Jewish state:
- Israel should demand that the US and other foreign entities (for example, European governments) butt out of its internal affairs.
- Israel should announce that it will make no more concessions to the Palestinian Authority until it agrees to recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people and ends antisemitic incitement.