Making Israel Pay a Very Small “Price”
William Saletan wants there to be some consequences for the Israeli government’s intransigence, but he doesn’t want to do any of the things that might have an effect:
We have enabled this behavior, and we must end it. Friends don’t let friends drive drunk. We must clarify the price Israel will pay for continuing to flout international norms and commitments. The challenge is to find the right measure. It can’t be destructive, vengeful, or disproportionate. That rules out sanctions, cutting military aid, and subjecting Israel to prosecution under the International Criminal Court. It also rules out supporting a Palestinian-backed United Nations resolution that would demand the establishment of a Palestinian state within a year, with no corresponding promises to Israel.
The right vehicle is a different resolution, floated three months ago by France, which would authorize a two-year timetable for resolving the terms of statehood.
It’s not clear why this is the “right” measure and the others are obviously “disproportionate” and unacceptable. Saletan insists that the U.S. must stop its enabling of destructive Israeli behavior (and he’s right about that), but he rules out doing most of the things that contribute to that enabling. He refuses to consider using almost all of the leverage that the U.S. has in its relationship with its client. To use Saletan’s metaphor, this amounts to letting the friend drive drunk–while continuing to supply him with drink as he drives–on the condition that he accept some occasional suggestions about which road to take before eventually crashing. This is the “right” measure only in the sense that it is one that will provoke the least political resistance here in the U.S.
As a practical matter, he is saying that the U.S. should continue to do 95% of what it currently does in its support for Israel, but that one gesture of disapproval will somehow get the point across. He refers to the “price” that Israel must pay, but in the end he thinks that price should quite small. He concludes by saying that Israel “can join the discussions and move toward recognition of Palestine” or it can “stand alone,” but if the U.S. did as he suggested there is absolutely no danger that Israel would actually “stand alone.” At most, he is proposing a slap on the wrist, which will confirm Netanyahu in his belief that he can keep doing whatever he wants without serious consequences for the relationship with Washington. Saletan thinks that if the U.S. followed his advice it would show that “our patience has run out,” but judging from what he has said in this article there is clearly a very long way left to go before that patience is exhausted.