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YNET reports George Mitchell is threatening Israel with sanctions. Unfortunately, the record looks different.

Israel/Palestine
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YNET is reporting that the US is considering sanctions against Israel. This is based on an interview George Mitchell recently did with Charlie Rose. From the article "Mitchell: Mideast stagnation endangers US aid":

On the eve of his visit to the Middle East, US special envoy George Mitchell threatened that his country would freeze its aid to Israel if the Jewish state failed to advance peace talks with the Palestinians and a two-state solution.

Mitchell clarified in an interview to the PBS network that the United States would use incentives or sanctions against both sides.

According to American law, Mitchell said, the US can freeze its support for aid to Israel. He added that all options must remain open and that the sides must be convinced about what their important interests are.

Watch the video of Mitchell on Charlie Rose here. While Mitchell does discuss the issue of sanctions around the 45 minute mark, it is only in response to prodding from Rose, and halfhearted at best. Why YNET would choose to play up this threat is unclear, unless they want to stoke Israeli-US antagonism on the eve of Mitchell’s visit to the region. 

Looking at the interview more broadly, there’s absolutely nothing that would indicate the Obama administration is looking to change course in Israel/Palestine, and, if Mitchelll is to be believed, the administration would seem to think things are going great. Guess Rahm didn’t get the memo.

Here’s the section of the transcript relevant to the sanctions discussion:

CHARLIE ROSE: OK, does this make it frustrating? Do you have — you
have lots of carrots. Do you have any sticks?

GEORGE MITCHELL: Oh, sure.

CHARLIE ROSE: What?

GEORGE MITCHELL: Well, both sides…

CHARLIE ROSE: Other than saying "Goodbye, take care of yourself,
we’re out of here."

GEORGE MITCHELL: Well, both sides make the same argument to me in
reverse, that the real problem, they say, is you haven’t pressured the
other side.

CHARLIE ROSE: Yes, exactly.

GEORGE MITCHELL: Cut them off, tell them you won’t help them anymore,
you won’t do anything, you’ll walk away. I say, use, would you like us to
do that to you? Oh, no, not to us, but you should do it to the other side.

The reality is that, yes, of course the United States has both carrots
and sticks. You have to be very careful about how and when you use them
and apply them.

CHARLIE ROSE: When was the last time we used a stick?

GEORGE MITCHELL: Afghanistan.

CHARLIE ROSE: Oh, I know, but nobody’s talking about the United
States troops going in. They’re not. I mean, give me an example. I’m
serious about this. You sit there and you say to Israel, look, if you
don’t do this — what?

GEORGE MITCHELL: Under American law, the United States can withhold
support on loan guarantees to Israel. President George W. Bush did so…

CHARLIE ROSE: Exactly.

GEORGE MITCHELL: … on one occasion.

CHARLIE ROSE: And his father.

GEORGE MITCHELL: Well, the law that the most recent President Bush
acted under wasn’t in place at the time of the first President Bush. So
there were different mechanisms. That’s one mechanism that’s been publicly
discussed. There are others, and you have to keep open whatever options.

But our view is that we think the way to approach this is to try to
persuade the parties what is in their self-interest. And we think that we
are making some progress in that regard and we’re going to continue in that
effort, and we think the way to do it is to get them into negotiations.
 

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Adam Horowitz is Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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