The Washington Post and New York Times both have reports on the Israeli Prime Minister’s fence-mending trip to Washington this week that make it clear that the Obama administration will be bending over backwards not to offend Israel any more than it did already with its Iran deal, including paying off Democratic supporters of the deal with more aid to Israel. The only good news is that the U.S. is not likely to accept Israel’s extortionate demand of $50 billion in the next ten years, up from $30 billion, “to maintain Israel’s comparative advantage,” as PM Netanyahu put it to his cabinet this morning.
The Israel lobby has solidified around the importance of trying to put any differences with Netanyahu in the past; and the Democratic establishment (Hillary Clinton and the Center for American Progress) is going along with this program. “Democrats are scrambling to get back in Netanyahu’s good graces after their shameful ‘anti-Zionist’ support of the Iran deal,” says Ilene Cohen. “They are in denial that Netanyahu has thrown them under the bus and that they’re dead meat to him. Even I was shocked that the Israeli embassy didn’t invite them to its New Year’s party.”
So the coalition that helped Obama win the Iran deal inside the Beltway is getting nothing. Netanyahu will not be punished for trying to destroy the deal. Americans for Peace Now wants the administration to hand off peace negotiations to Europe; but no, the Obama administration will maintain the charade that it is working for Palestinian freedom.
Read over this conference call that high Obama aides had with the press Friday in preparation for tomorrow’s meeting of the president and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; and you will see that the administration cannot even talk about the occupation. It will only issue bromides about the two-state solution in the distant future and “settlement building” — as if this even touches on the apartheid conditions Palestinians experience.
As you read these excerpts, reflect that Israeli forces just killed a 72-year-old woman deep in the occupied West Bank– 27 years after Israeli forces killed her husband in the occupied West Bank. Husband and wife were killed by occupying forces on lands that were supposed to be a Palestinian state. The occupation is permanent and it is the Palestinian condition. And it is why such a broad coalition of Palestinian groups support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, which the Obama administration pledges to oppose.
The U.S. is on the same page with Netanyahu himself, who today announced the goal was “stabilizing” the Palestinian situation. That’s a policy of conflict management, which deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes endorses, citing the U.S.’s “unprecedented level of security cooperation” in light of “Israel’s very dangerous neighborhood.”
Though US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro says the US needs to try to reinstill hope in Palestinians so they stop revolting:
[We need to] generate some direction and progress and hope… to reinforce that pathway toward a two-state solution even if negotiations will have to wait for some later period. So that’s a discussion I expect the President and the Prime Minister to engage in — what steps everybody can contribute to providing that atmosphere, obviously reducing the tensions and the violence that has been going on, and maintaining the viability of the two-state solution for the future.
Rob Malley, an NSC aide, said nothing will happen in the rest of the Obama term, not even negotiations– but Palestinians should accept this suspended reality, in which they can’t even dream about having rights:
there will not be a comprehensive final status agreement in the remainder of his term, and there likely may not even be meaningful negotiations between the two sides — given that reality, which is a new one, how does the Prime Minister himself see Israel going forward, given its own interests in stabilizing the situation in preventing the emergence of a one-state solution. So what ideas is he going to be putting through to the President so they can discuss what can be done in the absence of negotiations between the parties to help stabilize the situation on the ground and to signal — both Palestinians and Israelis to signal that they are still committed to and moving towards a two-state solution even if they’re not in a position today to talk to one another about it.
Rhodes pledged to fight BDS:
I’d also add on the specific question of delegitimization that you referenced in Secretary Clinton’s comments — this administration has repeatedly stood up against the delegitimization of Israel… we’ve continued to stand up against efforts to delegitimize Israel, including through BDS.
Rhodes said that he was all for Netanyahu speaking at the Democratic party’s thinktank the Center for American Progress, even after he tried to submarine the Iran deal:
[O]ne point that we made over the course of the last year is that it’s incredibly important to recognize that part of the strength of the U.S.-Israel relationship over the years has been that it’s completely bipartisan here in the United States. Republicans and Democrats have been united in their support for Israel and its security. So we do think it’s certainly a positive and constructive step for the Prime Minister to be speaking to Republicans and Democrats, to be speaking at AEI but also at the Center for American Progress.
There was a lot more blather about the peace process. Rhodes said we’ve tried anything:
[C]learly, part of our assessment has been that we don’t see a clear pathway right now to the type of negotiations that could produce a two-state solution, as much as we would like that to be the case.
We’ve tried many different approaches over the course of the administration — direct negotiations, indirect negotiations, the U.S. putting out some principles. And again, at each juncture, ultimately the parties themselves did not take the sufficient steps forward to reach a negotiated two-state solution.
But the Palestinians are supposed to buy “confidence-building measures,” Rhodes said.
Given the current context in which tensions have been very high, I think what we’ll be looking for in the immediate term is what type of confidence-building measures can be pursued to build some trust back to reduce the tensions and to leave open the promise of a two-state solution. Because ultimately, Israelis and Palestinians need to believe that two states for two peoples is possible as part of a means of ensuring that you don’t have continued tension.
And frankly, there are practical things that can be done on the ground to build back some degree of trust and cooperation between the two sides.
Malley was at least honest about the abject policy failure:
This is really the first time since the first term of the Clinton administration where we have an administration that faces a reality where the prospect of a negotiated two-state solution is not in the cards for the remainder — in the time that’s remaining. That was not the case until now.
And the administration continues to “reassess” things.
So don’t expect sort of a big announcement that the reassessment is over. We are reassessing given the fact that the landscape is different, and that we’ve reached that conclusion.
Rhodes kept talking about “security and dignity.” Dignity being the euphemism for the right not to have your children shot for throwing rocks, the right to vote for the government that controls your life.
the fact that we have the realistic assessment that we’re not looking at a very near-term conclusion of negotiations toward the two-state solution in no way diminishes our very fervent belief that a two-state solution is the one way to achieve the lasting peace, security and dignity that the Israeli and Palestinian people deserve.
So: expect nothing from the press availability tomorrow by the US president but the repetition of these empty words. Obama may tense his jaw as Netanyahu talks about ISIS and demands more aid, but that’s about all we’re likely to see. The Jewish establishment will be celebrating a right wing fascistic prime minister’s return to political grace. And a few hundred demonstrators will stand in for the American people’s rage and impatience with the special relationship.