Today, the day of President Barack Obama’s long-anticipated “Middle East reboot” speech and one day before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due to meet with Obama, the Israeli Prime Minister’s office (PMO) took up discussionon two major East Jerusalem settlement expansion projects, in Pisgat Ze’ev and Har Homa.
This is not coincidence, nor bureaucratic happenstance. Terrestrial Jerusalem posted information about this more than a week ago. The discussion was intentionally put off before in order not to upset Netanyahu’s discussions with European leaders.
Upsetting the Americans is not a concern.
Truly Israeli hubris knows no bounds. But then, why should it?
Should this cause a controversy, defenders of the occupation will come out of the woodwork to say “it’s no big deal, it’s the Palestinians who are blocking progress, why are you pressuring Israel?” And Congress and, perhaps grudgingly, the President and State Department too will support that line of thinking.
So why should Israel limit its hubris? We encourage it, we allow Netanyahu to embarrass our president, our diplomatic corps, indeed our entire foreign policy in the region. We allow a country we call a friend and ally to doom itself to perpetual conflict, which it eventually cannot win, while pursuing policies that keep a dangerous region dangerous, jeopardizing both American influence in the region and American citizens, in and out of its military, on the ground.
As Daniel Levy has frequently pointed out, every successive commander of CENTCOM (The United States Central Command, the main command post in the Middle East) has agreed that Israeli policies are dangerous for US troops and interests. As every American foreign service officer, including former ambassadors, I’ve discussed this with agrees, Israeli actions severely undermine the US position in the region.
And yet, we do nothing. So why should Israel stop?
There is no reason for them to do so. Because every time they cross us or insult us, the only voices heard in Washington after the usual gnashing of teeth among the diplomats are AIPAC‘s and similar groups’.
The tiny lunatic fringe minority of the American Jewish community that willfully puts Israeli interests ahead of American ones, while lying and saying that the two are the same, and the larger group but still small minority of Christians who claim love of Jews while wishing only to see Jews and Muslims at each others’ throats, mobilize and yell loudly of their support for Israel’s occupation and settlement expansion.
When we can amplify the voices of those seeking a just and realistic peace and finally get genuinely patriotic Americans to stop standing still for this insulting behavior, we can see an American policy in the region that serves the interests of everyone—the Arab people, the Israelis, and the US. Right now, US policy serves only the Israeli right, and in the long run it will doom even then.
Let’s not sit still for it any longer. Call your Congressman and the White House and tell them this latest insult to our President, whether you like him or not, is too much.
ADDENDUM: Americans for Peace Now, whose Director of Policy and Government Relations, Lara Friedman, first alerted me to this development, has issued a very strong statement condemning the consideration of these settlement expansions:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
19 May, 2011
APN Outraged at Netanyahu Approval of Process for More Settlement Construction
Washington, DC – Responding to news that an Israeli Ministry of Interior committee – acting with the authorization of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – will today consider approving the construction of more than 1500 new settlement units in East Jerusalem, APN President and CEO Debra DeLee issued the following statement:
“By proceeding with settlement approvals in East Jerusalem today – precisely when Prime Minister Netanyahu is headed to Washington to meet with President Obama and address Congress, and when President Obama is about to make a major Middle East speech – Netanyahu is sending an unmistakable message: he values settlements more than peace.
“He is also telling the world, including Israelis, that he is content with a future in which Israel is an ever-more isolated garrison state, whose democracy and whose character as a Jewish state is eroded and eventually destroyed, by its preference for settlements over peace.
“Israelis and Americans alike who care about Israel’s future should be outraged.
“They should also be embarrassed to see an Israeli leader acting so cavalierly and disrespectfully toward any U.S. president. Despite the Netanyahu government’s repeated actions to foil his efforts to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace, President Obama has been exceptionally supportive of Israel by every measure.
“Inexplicably, it seems that Netanyahu can’t miss an opportunity to embarrass the president of the country that is Israel’s best friend and closest ally. If this had only happened once, one could give Netanyahu the benefit of the doubt that it was not deliberate. But this has happened in the context of virtually every high-level U.S.-Israel meeting since Netanyahu took office.
“President Obama is about to deliver a major speech about the Middle East. Speculation is running high over what he will say about the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Now, as he puts the finishing touches on that speech, President Obama must bear in mind this latest provocation.
“Israel needs an American president who can be a true friend to Israel, not only defending its security but also leading, credibly and resolutely, for peace. With his action today, Netanyahu is directly challenging President Obama to show such leadership.”