Excuses For Israel

Here's what I have noticed: whenever Israel actually seems to have the slightest pressure on it (a pressure only made possible by Israel's indefensible and illegal colonization of the West Bank), a bevy of voices chirps like a dawn chorus. I've already noted the Ben Smith story this morning that quotes ten hardline Netanyahu supporters and one Palestinian. The sources Smith relies upon include "a top Israeli official involved in diplomacy with the U.S.", "a hawkish Netanyahu ally", "Netanyahu’s closest adviser", "Beni Begin, a cabinet minister from Netanyahu’s own Likud Party," and the "deputy director general of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs".

Washington Post editorial writer Jackson Diehl comes back with that old, old meme.

Obama's preoccupation with stopping Israel's settlement expansion in the West Bank and Jerusalem [is] a campaign that even Palestinian and Arab leaders have watched with bafflement. True, almost everyone outside Israel regards the construction as counterproductive, and only a minority supports it inside Israel.

But that is just the point: The dream of a "greater Israel" died more than 15 years ago. Even the Israeli right now accepts that a Palestinian state will be created in the West Bank. The settlements have become a sideshow; the real issues concern how to create a Palestinian state in a Middle East where the greatest threat is not Israeli but Iranian expansionism. What to do about Hamas and Hezbollah and their Iranian-supplied weapons? How to ensure that the post-occupation West Bank does not become another Iranian base? Those issues did not exist in 1983 - and the Obama administration seems to have no strategy for them.

Where to begin. How about: if Greater Israel is dead, why is there such enormous political pressure in Israel to defend every single Greater Israel settlement and expand many more? If the settlements are a "side-show," why have they doubled in size in the last ten years? For that matter, if they are a trivial side-show, why not just agree to get rid of them in a grand bargain that makes a Sunni-Israeli alliance against Iran more feasible? The answer:

Because the Netanyahu coalition would collapse. And it's hard to see why a coalition could collapse over a trivial side-show. Then observe Diehl's seamless pivot to Israel's demands - that a two-state solution be put on hold until war has been declared on Iran, something that would ratchet up the global religious war to unheard of heights, and destroy any chance of a two-state solution for ever. And the notion that Obama is not concerned with the Iran threat is absurd: why else the new missile shield? why else the mass of military goodies for Israel as a bribe? why was Clinton poring over security details for the Eastern boundary of the new Palestine?

I have a new test for neocon commentators: if they say the peace process won't work, what they really mean is that it suddenly might just work. And they desperately want to stop it.