Mideast Update: Watch Clinton’s Aipac speech

Bibi was defiant in the Knesset, refusing to halt Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem.  The Obama administration has turned up the heat, higher than at any time since 1991 when H.W. Bush/Baker withheld loan guarantees because of settlements.  This worries Israeli diplomats.  Hillary is set to give a speech at the AIPAC conference beginning in six days.  High diplomatic drama — the Rising Powers blog has been keeping you informed of the current events, the history, and yes, this blogger’s opinions on the stress in the alliance. 

In a past blog, I argued that Netanyahu’s foolishness reaped:

” ..no gain at all for Israel at the cost of modestly damaging US-Israeli relations, which, at least with the Obama administration, could prove hard to repair.  Having met Prime Minister Netanyahu a number of times when I was involved with rating Israel’s bonds, I suspect the buck stops with him. His hubris was behind this, if only in spirit rather than in deed.”

But, I pointed out that on the substance of Jerusalem, one must stop and think:

“…the point that Jerusalem should not be divided, should remain under Israeli sovereignty with strong guarantees for Muslim control over Islamic holy sites should not be dismissed out of hand.”

And…

” A few years ago, the Israeli leftist and peace activist and former Labor minister, Yossi Beilin, said that the deal with the Palestinians should be a swap – a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza (including dismantling most Jewish settlements) in exchange for Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem…  The nature of any deal is — you give something up, I give something up.  Yet the Arab position, notably in the much vaunted 2002 Saudi peace plan, is, Israel gives something up (withdrawing to the 1967 borders) and the Arabs agree not to make war.  I concede and you agree to take the gun away from my head… 

“Jerusalem is the third holiest city of Islam, but is the holiest spot on Earth for Judaism, not to mention the importance it holds for Christians.  During Jordanian rule over East Jerusalem, Jews were not allowed to visit the Cotel, or Western Wall.  Today, under Israeli sovereignty, the Islamic Waqf administers Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem.  In the West Bank, Jewish shrines have been destroyed under Palestinian Authority rule.  Israel protects Islamic sites under its control.

“The swap – Palestinian state and dismantling of most settlements for Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem – is the right thing to do in my view. The Palestinian/Arab side has succeeded in moving the debate.  It is now about splitting Jerusalem. In return, maybe, just maybe, the Palestinian side would give up the so-called right of return of Palestinians to their pre-1947 homes in Tel Aviv, Haifa and elsewhere.  (Should Jews demand a return to Morocco, Iran, Iraq, Tunisia and other states where they lost all they had – or even just financial compensation?) This is called staking out an extremist position as a negotiating tactic.  Your adversary may ultimately concede out of exhaustion. Arafat was a master of this strategy, using terrorism and the intifadah as levers. 

“US policy, which many argue is biased toward Israel, inadvertently backed the Arab view on Jerusalem, thanks in large part to the handiwork of Bill Clinton at Taba (and quite frankly of Ehud Barak).  Bubba was guided only by his desire to be the man who brought peace to the Middle East, a sort of redemption for his impeachment over the Monica Lewinsky scandal.  It has been very good PR on the part of the Arabs to move the debate this way, and woeful PR on Israel’s part.  Israel has been woeful at PR since 1967.  But as they say in Texas, that dog won’t hunt.  The debate has already been moved. In order for Israel to obtain international legitimacy, it must negotiate over Jerusalem.”

Regarding arguments made by Stephen Walt, known for his criticism of Israel and the US-Israel alliance, I noted:

“He pushes heavily the argument of Israel’s invincible military and of the paper tigers that are Israel’s regional threats.  I would argue that history has shown that a mistaken belief in one’s invincibility, driven by perceptions from wars past, often precedes a military defeat.  A foreign policy realist like Walt should understand this.  So, friends of Israel would do well to be cautious about how strong they think little Israel, with its small territory, small population, dysfunctional political system, and few allies, is relative to its enemies.” 

And finally, in a piece I wrote on Hillary’s criticism of Israel’s “insult” of America, I noted that support for Israel in surveys of Americans has historically held pretty high:

“…the Secretary of State and the President are entitled to express their feelings of being insulted by Israel, as they were elected to do just that, communicate America’s position vis-à-vis foreign countries.  And, we as voters are entitled to review the Obama administration’s record on this and other issues in 2 ½ years and either keep them there or throw them out.  Polls of American attitudes toward Israel and the Palestinians consistently show over 50% for Israel, while support for the Palestinians remains stuck at below 20%.  Israel’s support rose to 63% in the most recent Gallup poll a month ago, found hereSupport for the Arab side, on the other hand, has crept up from near 10% to the mid-teens over the last 20-30 years.  In any case, Walt & Mearsheimer, I don’t know if these numbers can be explained simply in terms of the so-called vice grip of Jews over Congress and the media.  But, people who live by the polls, often die by the polls, and such numbers can change abruptly, although they haven’t for decades.  I’ll bet the “support for Israel” numbers will dip a bit as a result of the latest ”insult.”  Thanks, Bibi.”

Well, keep an eye out for Sec. of State Clinton’s speech at the AIPAC conference, and Biden’s meeting with Bibi in Washington, where he is coming to speak at the annual meeting of the nefarious but successful pro-Israel lobby.  She may give a peek at her cards, that is, how far the Obama administration is ready to take this, to exploit this diplomatic gaffe to pressure Israel to make concessions.  Trouble is, Netanyahu loves a good fight.

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