Over at The Washington Note Steve Clemons has written an article “Israel/Palestine and Iran: Linkage Should be Hard Wired by Obama Team.” As the title suggests, Clemons observes that resolving the Israel-Palestine problem will make it easier to rally Arab support behind US initiatives to deal with Iran with “all options on the table.” He calls for a “strategic leap” to bring about that end. The concept is not exactly a new one, as many have long been arguing that decisive action to bring about a resolution to Israel-Palestine will mitigate problems in many other areas and permit more robust responses on the part of Washington to perceived threats throughout the Near East.
Clemons’ view of the world might reasonably be described as somewhat odd. He writes that “America cannot return to be the kind of benign global power it used to be, inspiring other nations to follow its lead.” Hello? When was that? Nor is it altogether clear to me why Clemons thinks that Iran is a threat to the United States that requires “all options” (which is shorthand for attacking them). And I think he is wrong in his thinking that Israel and Palestine could be moved towards a “credible…two state track” as the deliberate and unrelenting expansion of Israeli settlements has pretty much destroyed that option, something that he is surely aware of.
But what is oddest about Clemons is his unwillingness to call things as they are, quite likely because he likes to preserve his access to policymakers. Dennis Ross and David Makovsky have written a book explaining that there is no linkage between Israel-Palestine and “broader Mideast dynamics.” The book is surely comforting to those who believe that Israel is not responsible in any way for any of the negative developments in the Middle East, which is no doubt precisely why it was written. Clemons pretends not to see that and argues instead that Ross and Makovsky are “thinkers…trapped in the inertia that came from those who lived and breathed foreign policy deal making and analysis during the cold war.” In other words, their way of thinking is old fashion and they are disinclined to take any risks, a pardonable offense. But excuse me, surely Clemons knows that Ross and Makovsky are leading members of the Israel Lobby. Ross, who is currently at the National Security Council, has been described as “Israel’s lawyer” while Makovsky is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank founded by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. They are gatekeepers whose purpose in life is to protect Israel from any and all criticism. To suggest that as policymakers they have been focused on doing what’s best for the United States and its citizens is contradicted by their personal histories and their recorded statements. That they receive a free pass and even a pat on the head from Clemons and others is precisely why US foreign policy is as dysfunctional as it is.