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‘Pro-Israel’ Hawks Are No Good for the U.S. or Israel

Bloomberg’s editorial condemning [1] the U.S. abstention on UNSCR 2334 is comically overwrought:

President Barack Obama’s ill-advised decision to order the U.S. to abstain on a United Nations resolution condemning Israeli settlements breaks with past U.S. policy, undermines a vital ally and sets back the cause of Middle East peace.

There are many weak arguments against the recent Security Council resolution, but the claim that it “sets back the cause of Middle East peace” stands out for its sheer bad faith. There is a broad international consensus that settlement-building in the occupied territories is both illegal and a barrier to a negotiated resolution of the conflict. No one who is genuinely interested in securing a negotiated resolution of the conflict thinks that continued settlement construction makes a peace agreement more likely. One of the main reasons for continued construction is to establish de facto control over most of the territory that has been occupied while leaving less and less land for the Palestinians so that it becomes impossible for them to have their own state. If that continues, it sets Israel up to rule over a stateless, subject people in perpetuity, and that will be a disaster for all involved. If making an attempt to oppose that dreadful outcome constitutes “betrayal,” I shudder to think what loyalty is supposed to look like.

Calling out Israel for its ongoing illegal behavior becomes unavoidable when there is no progress in resolving the conflict, and the current Israeli government has made it very clear that there won’t be any progress. Criticizing Israel for behavior that has contributed to its increasing isolation in the world is not an unfriendly or treacherous act, and it ought to serve as a wake-up call to warn Israel away from a ruinous path. The fact that many so-called “pro-Israel” Americans are denouncing the decision not to veto the resolution as a “betrayal” reminds us just how bad conventional “pro-Israel” advocates are for both the U.S. and Israel.

It is worth noting here that Israel isn’t actually an ally, much less a “vital” one, and it certainly isn’t “critical” to our security. The U.S. isn’t obliged to cater to some of the worst policies of a client government that has increasingly become a liability. The real problem with the U.S. abstention on the resolution is that it came many years after it might have done some significant good, and it comes so late because Obama wasted his entire presidency trying to “reassure” a government that undermined and opposed him time and again.

The editors’ recommended course of action is as foolish as the rest of the editorial:

[Republicans and Democrats] should start by agreeing to President-elect Donald Trump’s plans to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — a step envisioned but never taken by presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. That would provide a powerful reaffirmation to Israel –- a nation born after the slaughter of six million Jews, and under siege since its birth — of the U.S.’s enduring commitment, and to the world of Israel’s right to exist. That reaffirmation, in turn, is essential in providing Israel with the confidence to move ahead with a two-state solution.

Moving the embassy would have real and immediate costs for the U.S. with many other states, including more than a few allies in Europe. (Notice how the preferences and wishes of our actual allies count for nothing in these matters.) It would do nothing good for Israel, and might very well provoke a new intifada. Even if it didn’t get that bad, it would all but guarantee a dramatic souring of relations with many states in the region that have been tacitly cooperating with Israel. Nothing could be more pointless and short-sighted while also harming Israeli security, so of course that is what the “pro-Israel” editors think the U.S. should do.

30 Comments (Open | Close)

30 Comments To "‘Pro-Israel’ Hawks Are No Good for the U.S. or Israel"

#1 Comment By Philly Rag On December 28, 2016 @ 7:20 pm

Like hell it “breaks with past US policy”. US policy has consistently condemned Israeli settlements. But Israel got used to being forgiven for spitting in our face. Thankfully that seems to be over.

#2 Comment By Ken Hoop On December 28, 2016 @ 7:45 pm

When I read that Chicagoan and ex IDF fighter Rahm Emanuel assured his initially Obamaphobic Israeli father that Chicagoan Obama had been well vetted and would do nothing to hurt Israel during his presidency, I realized that Obama was going to “waste his presidency” in the approximate manner all previous presidents who criticized Israel after leaving office did.

#3 Comment By CharleyCarp On December 28, 2016 @ 8:26 pm

Daniel, what did you think of Sec. Kerry’s speech today?

The part I listened to on my short drive to work was hit-it-out-of-the-ballpark good. (In the context of the times, even if not as a platonic policy ideal).

#4 Comment By Chris Chuba On December 28, 2016 @ 9:01 pm

There are people in the U.S. that want to use military force to prevent China from colonizing unpopulated reefs and islands but are aghast at a verbal condemnation of a colonization of populated territory. I am getting a migraine from the term ‘artificial island’ which conjures an image of China constructing a 1,000 story structure in deepwater. China is pouring sand on tidal islands. They are not really artificial.

Perhaps the resolution did go too far.
[2]
The U.N. should uphold international law so they could state that settlements are a violation of stated Geneva convention for any disputed territory; fine.
However, from reading the text, it lists the 1967 border as something that is internationally recognized as a Palestinian territory. Is it? I have not kept up with the issue. When Israel was recognized, was there a parallel state of Palestine, I was never clear on that.

Stating that this territory is disputed and to be resolved through negotiation but settlements are a violation might have been a better statement.

#5 Comment By rayray On December 28, 2016 @ 10:16 pm

@CharleyCarp
Heard the speech today in it’s entirety as well. I have never really loved Kerry, but have to admit that his remarks were stunningly well reasoned, even brave. We will miss him.

#6 Comment By Getting Real On December 28, 2016 @ 11:18 pm

Previous presidents didn’t get real with Israel until after they didn’t have to worry about the Lobby coming after them personally, meaning after they became lame ducks. Obama proves that rule.

I’m still hoping Trump proves the exception to the rule, a realistic hope in part because the deal we have with Israel is the worst we ever made. If he does, it will be good for Israel, and, more importantly, it will make us safer and lift a very heavy burden from our economy, diplomacy, and consciences.

#7 Comment By Shortstop WI On December 28, 2016 @ 11:38 pm

Nobody in the Rust Belt cares one way or another about Israel. Muslims and Jews in the Middle East can kill each off, or not, as they choose. Trump is supposed to chuck all that elite Middle East crap in the big city newspapers, all that rich-guy foreign policy stuff about fights between Jews and Arabs halfway round the world. He’s supposed to get us out of there and focus on America.

#8 Comment By JEinCA On December 29, 2016 @ 3:57 am

I agree with you Shortstop. It’s not going to happen though. If we really want to talk about foreign interference in our elections we don’t have to look at possible Russian hacking when we have the very real and powerful Israeli Lobby known as AIPAC.

#9 Comment By Liberal On December 29, 2016 @ 7:53 am

Shortstop WI,

First, it was clear from Trump’s past and his campaign that he’s a con man. So Trump isn’t “supposed” to do anything.

Second, even if Trump sincerely wanted to get out of the Middle East, he could do a lot (keep military out, diplomatic stuff), but there are limits. He cannot, for example, unilaterally cut all aid to Israel.

Third, the voters you allude to are only part of Trump’s support; it’s not spat all clear they form a majority. And I can assure you the white Fundies, who gave overwhelming support to Trump, are very much in support of our meddling in the Middle East.

#10 Comment By Eric On December 29, 2016 @ 8:52 am

The Obama administration may be pursuing two objectives here, which are not mutually exclusive but nor do they necessarily go hand in hand: advancing the Middle East peace process, and inoculating the US from being harmed by Israeli actions.

Antagonizing the settlement enterprise at the UN may well strengthen rather than weaken hardliners within Israel, and in that regard it would indeed set back the peace process. It’s really up to the Israeli public whether to allow that to happen.

However, it seems inarguable that by adopting a stance toward the settlements more in line with the rest of humanity, the US is acting to protect itself from the reckless behavior of its ostensible client.

#11 Comment By SDS On December 29, 2016 @ 9:39 am

“Trump is supposed to chuck all that elite Middle East crap in the big city newspapers, all that rich-guy foreign policy stuff about fights between Jews and Arabs halfway round the world. He’s supposed to get us out of there and focus on America.”

Yes, well, that’s what a lot of us thought…. but it appears once again P.T Barnum was right….

#12 Comment By collin On December 29, 2016 @ 10:06 am

If that continues, it sets Israel up to rule over a stateless, subject people in perpetuity, and that will be a disaster for all involved.

That is probably the truest statement of all. For Palestine, I don’t see any good choices as they are too small to thrive on its own with the settlements shrinking the territory and other Middle Eastern nations really don’t want them. (Returning Palestine to Jordan would have been the long term right choice.) So as long as Israel takes the settlements without fair prices I see them creating a segregated society that could change Israel’s politics. (I am not predicting how as it could go in different directions.) The Palestinian people are making a lot of poor choices but Israel is still occupying the territory.

#13 Comment By collin On December 29, 2016 @ 10:09 am

In terms of John Kerry, I think Secretary of State was his level of competence and I do believe second term Obama was more successful in foreign policy. The issue is the withdraw of US influence has led to some nations making poor choices but these choices (Crimea, Syria, China Island To Nowhere) do not risk US national security.

#14 Comment By Uncle Billy On December 29, 2016 @ 10:33 am

Sooner or later, the Israelis are going to have to deal with millions of Palestinians within their borders. The Palestinian “Problem” is the most serious threat to Israel. Iran is not the most serious threat. Curiously, most Israelis and their supporters in the US refuse to admit this. If someone tries to bring this up, they are condemned.

What do the right wing Israelis and AIPAC propose to do about the Palestinians? Put them in camps? What is their proposed solution?

#15 Comment By Merry Christmas, Chumps! On December 29, 2016 @ 10:54 am

Jesus Christ. Trump hasn’t even taken office and already his presidency seems to be all about Israel and China.

what happened to “America First”?????

Next time we elect a populist president, let’s not elect one from New York City.

#16 Comment By Charlieford On December 29, 2016 @ 11:10 am

“… but it appears once again P.T Barnum was right.”

Such a surprise.

#17 Comment By Mike IN On December 29, 2016 @ 11:41 am

Uncle Billy, are you aware that Caroline Glick, an Israeli lady, wrote a whole book on the subject? The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East.

#18 Comment By Ricardo Toledano On December 29, 2016 @ 1:32 pm

> Mike IN

Glick’s book is full of wishful thinking.

Even if she was right about demography, the book is still has its flaws.

She only wants to annex the West Bank, make Palestinians there not exactly equal citizens and leave Gaza in a limbo.

Egypt will not take Gaza back, Gazans aren’t Egyptians. The Palestinians will not accept any annexation, with or without Gaza. There’s also the fact that Pan-Arabism has been dead since the war of 1967, so the equally promoted three-state solution won’t work either.

Israel will not take it. If it does, the combined state will have a 47% Arab population and this really doesn’t make Zionists happy.

I just imagine the amount of noise this type of thing this will generate in the international politics arena.

Israel depends on the USA defending it if it takes this decision. If American popular opinion on the matter shifts, it’s in a really bad position to unroll it all.

#19 Comment By Mike IN On December 29, 2016 @ 3:54 pm

Ricardo, my point was that this subject is not something that people are afraid to talk about out of fear of condemnation, as Uncle Billy suggested.

It’s been a while since I read the book. I believe Glick proposes annexing the West Bank. She figures Jews would still be a majority and continue to be the majority due to their high birth rate.The Palestinians would become full citizens of Israel.

#20 Comment By MULGA On December 29, 2016 @ 6:03 pm

America has been about Israel since JFK died. Carter and Ford also tried to change the subject and put Israel in perspective as to its real value to the U.S. Three one term presidents. Trump’s bully pulpit on jobs and immigration was easy. He will not and cannot stand eyeball to eyeball with the neocons and their spiritual leader Netanyahu. Until there is peace and true human rights’ accord in the Middle East there will be no peace.Trump has already shown his bias. American parents – get ready to sacrifice your children in the continuing furnace of wars that are not in our interest. Sad! There is an option – get this subject front and center in American mainstream.

#21 Comment By Ricardo Toledano On December 29, 2016 @ 7:59 pm

> Mike IN

Point taken.

But as I said in the first point, she thinks Israel can take the West Bank and do nothing to Gaza. This will not happen without major friction.

It’s only viable if Americans are willing to put even more energy in fighting for Israeli interests and keep fighting for a long time.

Europeans will probably sanction Israel after adopting such measure.

Her conclusion is that Israel will be able to find partners in Asia, Latin America, Africa to compensate for the Europeans.

The major countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia probably aren’t capable of absorbing the trade Israel will lose with its main trade partner (the EU) if it’s sanctioned.

The Latin American governments that matter support the two-state solution and probably will follow with the sanctions.

I don’t know about Asia and Africa though.

> She figures Jews would still be a majority and continue to be the majority due to their high birth rate.

Sure, if you keep Gaza out. Before the First Intifada Palestinians could enter and work freely in Israel and yet they started the whole thing. Palestinians in the West Bank surely will not be fine with an annexation.

> The Palestinians would become full citizens of Israel.

Here’s Glick is doing the same thing Arafat used to do. Speak something to the audience and another thing to the inner circle.

She has been parroting in her articles in the last 7 years or so about how a two-state solution using the pre-1967 borders would make terrorists lives easier, since the border in Jerusalem would be open for anyone to cross.

Nothing beats magical thinking it seems, after all, annexing the West Bank and giving full citizenship to said terrorists that live there will solve everything.

#22 Comment By Habarigani On December 29, 2016 @ 9:25 pm

A thought experiment: If WB is annexed and the original inhabitant are expelled to Jordan, would West care? Would Neocons care what happens to the expelled people? Or would they say good riddance? Who could stop it? Rest of the world may condemn it but if US supports it then after a while it would be accepted as a just solution to an intractable problem.

#23 Comment By Another Matt On December 29, 2016 @ 10:16 pm

If WB is annexed and the original inhabitant are expelled to Jordan,

With or without Jordan’s consent?

#24 Comment By Lee Timmer On December 30, 2016 @ 2:15 am

I’ve asked several evangelical neocons if there’s ANYTHING “Israel” can do wrong in their eyes. The typical response is along the lines of “God wills that Israel survive and flourish,” “Chosen People,” etc., but no one ever gets around to providing an example to answer my question. They use every means of sophistry to avoid answering. You can’t argue sensibly with someone who has that mindset.

#25 Comment By a spencer On December 30, 2016 @ 2:28 am

For whatever reason, there was a time when Caroline Glick was in my inbox every time she sent a press release.

If she had her way, there would be war in Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen (why not? hell yeah) and most of Europe.

#26 Comment By Another Matt On December 30, 2016 @ 11:21 am

I’ve asked several evangelical neocons if there’s ANYTHING “Israel” can do wrong in their eyes. The typical response is along the lines of “God wills that Israel survive and flourish,” “Chosen People,” etc., but no one ever gets around to providing an example to answer my question.

That’s better than what I get – “God commands all nations to stand with Israel and curses those that don’t.” They think Obama is putting us in grave danger for a month with this UN abstention because we will no longer be standing with Israel until Trump takes over.

#27 Comment By Milktown CT On December 31, 2016 @ 1:36 am

@Another Matt – ““God commands all nations to stand with Israel and curses those that don’t.””

I’ve heard this said too.

But standing with Israel hasn’t done much for America.

Indeed, all Uncle Sam got for standing with Israel is hundreds of billions down the tubes, decades of futile diplomacy, and, more recently, terror attacks and wars. Oh, and lots of Israeli spying. Forgive me for suggesting that those aren’t the unmistakable signs of God’s favor.

#28 Comment By Another Matt On December 31, 2016 @ 12:14 pm

@Milktown CT,

I’ve made the same argument. One of them actually told me, “it’s just empirically true that the nations that stand with Israel are the most prosperous in the world.”

#29 Comment By Jack Waters On December 31, 2016 @ 4:59 pm

The evangelicals who support Israel embarrass evangelicals such as myself who actually have a grasp on political reality.

#30 Comment By Prosperous in Cincy On December 31, 2016 @ 5:18 pm

“One of them actually told me, “it’s just empirically true that the nations that stand with Israel are the most prosperous in the world.””

Sweden. …
Netherlands. …
Australia. …
Canada. …
Switzerland. …
Finland. …
Norway. …
New Zealand.

The “10 most prosperous countries in the world”.

None are exactly famous for “standing with Israel”, are they? For exampke, like other US allies on the UN Security Council, New Zealand voted to condemn Israel last week.