Monday, April 20, 2009

Barry Rubin: No Israel US - confrontation

This is so right and obvious, and yet nobody has written about it. There is not going to be any big confrontation, because it would be stupid for either side to have one. Even if there are differences of opinion, they will be minimized. There were in fact, material differences of opinion with the Bush administration, over settlements, treatment of Hamas and of course, Iran. But nobody made a big deal out of them. Admiral Mullen said then, precisely what he has said now, and the Bush administration, like the Obama administration, had not given Israel a green light to attack Iran.   

Sunday, April 19, 2009


By Barry Rubin

There are many people eager to see President Barack Obama and his administration bash Israel, or predict that's already happened. But the administration has yet to make significant direct anti-Israel actions or statements.

Despite rumors and speculation at this point there's still no solid evidence. While, obviously, things could change at any time I expect this widely predicted conflict isn't going to take place.

Let me emphasize the word "direct" from the first paragraph. Inasmuch as the U.S. government gives up too much to Iran, Syria, and radical Islamists, it hurts Israel's interests, as well as those of most Arab governments and the United States itself.

Still, what's happened so far is being taken out of context by those who want a U.S.-Israel confrontation because they hate either Israel or Obama.

Contrast this alleged confrontation with the real but largely ignored conflict in U.S.-Europe relations. Obama's trip to Europe was a failure. To everything he asked—a parallel strategy for dealing with economic troubles, getting Turkey into the European Union, or more help in Afghanistan—the Europeans said "no." Then everyone proclaimed the visit a great success.

With Israel, it's the opposite. No confrontation happens but it's presented that way. Let's look at some examples:

--Endorsing a two-state solution isn't an attack on Israel's government. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doesn't oppose a two-state solution—and hasn't for 12 years--but emphasizes this would only happen if and when a Palestinian leadership proves its credibility and makes a decent offer. If the Obama administration says it's going to succeed, so did its last three predecessors.

This issue raises the most important single guideline for Israeli policy, which shouldn't merely consist of saying, "We want peace and a two-state solution" ten times a day. It should raise its own demands that the Palestinian Authority keeps its commitments and that any negotiated solution include Palestinian as well as Israeli concessions.

Giving the Palestinians a state is conditional on that happening, not a blank check given whatever they do. There's nothing wrong with Israel demanding reciprocity. A strategy of offering everything and demanding nothing neither made Israel popular nor brought about a negotiated solution.

--U.S. engagement with Iran: While this is risky and likely give Iran's regime time to develop nuclear weapons, administration statements say engagement's purpose is to stop that. I'm not sure a Bush administration would be doing much more. The key point will be whether the Obama administration ever concludes Iran's regime doesn't intend to change its behavior.


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