Netanyahu’s Trap For America

Andrew Sullivan —  Jun 12 2011 @ 7:48pm


There is no likelihood that the US will do the logical thing and vote for Palestinian statehood in the UN this fall. The US position will remain that peace will only come from the two parties with the US or the Quartet facilitating. But at this point, hasn't that option been totally played out? When the US exercises even a smidgen of even-handedness, as in Obama's recent speech, the pro-Israel fanatics have a cow. They have a cow every time Obama deviates from the hardest Israeli line of the moment. After two and a half years, it is clear this is going nowhere, apart from a consolidation of Israel's grip on the West Bank, the continued humiliation of the American president, and even greater transparency in America's faltering global power.

The logical next step would surely be to take the US out of the equation. We have become an enabler of Israeli intransigence, and the last two years have proven nothing except that Obama's hands are tied and that Israel and the US Congress run this relationship, as Netanyahu has memorably bragged about in the past. The promise of Cairo has been sabotaged by the Netanyahu government, the AIPAC Democrats, the AIPAC Republicans and the Christianist base. Continuing to keep up the charade that the US government has some kind of leverage or even appeal with the Israeli government is getting more than a little ridiculous.

Moreover, the days when the US could both back Israel in everything and keep the Arab world's dictators and even democracies appeased is fast coming to an end. The Arab Spring is not just a reckoning for Irsael; it is a reckoning for the US-Israel relationship. If and when an Egyptian democratic government insists on a two-state solution, the US will have to choose between Israel and Egypt. We will just as starkly have to choose between Israel and Iraq, and between Israel and Jordan. In the WaPo today, we have also been warned that we will have to choose between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Here's Saudi macher, Turki al-Faisal, laying it on the line:

[H]istory will prove wrong those who imagine that the future of Palestine will be determined by the United States and Israel. There will be disastrous consequences for U.S.-Saudi relations if the United States vetoes U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state. It would mark a nadir in the decades-long relationship as well as irrevocably damage the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and America’s reputation among Arab nations. The ideological distance between the Muslim world and the West in general would widen — and opportunities for friendship and cooperation between the two could vanish.

If Israel continues to settle the West Bank, and the US refuses to take any concrete action to stop it, or is revealed as having no power to stop it, then the US will perforce appear much weaker on the world stage, we will alienate our European allies, lose a critical opportunity to re-engage the Muslim and Arab world, and damage our credibility with emerging Arab democracies. If the UN vote comes and the US is one of very few countries backing Israel's continued occupation, then the Jihadist blowback will be just as serious. It is well past time for us to acknowledge the obvious: Israel's current intransigence is posing a serious threat to the interests of the US and the security of its citizens.

At some point, if Israel continues to refuse a 1967-based partition, the US should, in my view, end this dysfunctional relationship, until it can be re-established on saner lines. Ideally, as a warning sign, the US should abstain in September's vote, unless settlements are frozen and talks begun. The US has a foreign policy with the whole world, not just one tiny country. Netanyahu needs to compromise on settlements or risk the US being forced to choose between the two.