During his meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry two weeks ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered “a package of meaningful measures in the West Bank.” Although Netanyahu was apparently vague about what those measures would be, an anonymous Israeli official told a reporter for Israel’s Ha’aretz, “The prime minister made it clear that we want American recognition of the settlement blocs and of the fact that we can build there.”
Most observers have long recognized that any workable two-state agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is likely to include Israel keeping the large settlement blocs of Gush Etzion, Ariel and Ma’ale Adumim. A key question had been if, and when, U.S. policy should shift to acknowledge this, either tacitly or explicitly. Read more at “Facts on the Ground,” FMEP’s blog.
The idea of Israel building in E-1 has got world leaders in quite a lather. But is it really because it is the death knell for the two-state solution or is it because even raising the issue betrays the reality that there never was a serious effort to reach a two-state resolution to this conflict to begin with, despite the rhetoric? I argue it is both.
My column for Souciant this week looks at the execrable “Levy Report” which claims that Israel’s occupation is legal under international law and recommends that Israel retroactively legalize most the outposts that were set up contrary to even Israeli law. Yep, that’s what it said, this is not The Onion. the recommendations are unlikely to be accepted even by teh Netanyahu government that commissioned them, but I explore what impact they will have. Check it out.
Probably not, but he’s definitely testing the boundaries. That is the only way to explain his going beyond even his own usual hubris and obnoxiousness this week.
What looked at first like more of the same old Bibi nonsense – he comes to the US, Israel announces more building in both East Jerusalem and Ariel – has morphed into something more. The Obama Administration, displaying what is by now its customary weakness in the face of Israeli intransigence, merely said it was “disappointed” with the new construction.
There was little else there of substance, and Israel could simply have gone along its merry way, continuing to build while Bibi whipped the zealous masses into a frenzy in New Orleans. Instead, Netanyahu decided to escalate the matter by stating that building in Jerusalem is completely separate from peace negotiations.
This is a total re-framing of the issue, and one the Americans could not just ignore. They directly contradicted Bibi’s statement, drawing a line in the sand. Again, though, it was a mere statement; there seems to be no consequences from Washington if Bibi continues to defy them. That may change in the next few days, but thus far, Bibi seems to be making it even clearer than before that he will do what he wants with the full knowledge that the United States will do nothing to stop him, even if it makes America look absolutely impotent.
Some see Bibi’s move here as a test of the post-election Obama, a sort of poke to see if Obama is going to be even weaker with an incoming Republican House and smaller Democratic majority in the Senate than he was with the Democrats in full control of Congress. I think it’s actually directed at that incoming Congress and to the Jewish and Christian activists who will bring the pressure next year to prevent any move toward peace.
Bibi is sending a message that he believes the time is ripe, with the incoming Congress, to put the final nail in the coffin of the idea of a Palestinian state. He’s doing it on two fronts: Jerusalem and the major settlement blocs.
Bibi is hoping to re-orient American policy on both of these issues by bringing them more out into the open. Continue reading →