It’s been a few days since US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on March 22nd at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference in Washington, DC. Speculation was the two would have controversial words for each other’s countries. The current cool US-Israel relations resulted from the Israeli insult to US Vice President Joe Biden during his visit two weeks ago. In Israel to repair bilateral relations, the Biden was surprised when Eli Yishai,the Israeli Interior Minister, announced buidling new housing in East Jerusalem. Falling for the MSM’s fomenting of the potential conflict from the AIPAC speaches, my intent for this post was to blast Israel for dissing the US yet again. Then I read the text of Netanyahu’s speach to AIPAC. I didn’t find where “he bluntly dismissed U.S. demands to end housing construction in the disputed part of Jerusalem,” like the Washington Post claimed he did.
There is no shortage to Israel’s arrogance; the Biden faux pas is just the latest. In his AIPAC speach, Netanyahu described Israel’s national security situation. He outlined steps toward peace Israel has and will take, stated its resolve to self-defenes, and invited the Palestinians to rejoin peace negotiations and be willing to compromise. Referring to the planned housing construction, in his AIPAC speach Netanyahu said:
The Jewish people were building Jerusalem 3,000 year ago and the Jewish people are building Jerusalem today.
Jerusalem is not a settlement. It is our capital.
Later on, Netanyahu made another telling statement.
Today, nearly a quarter of a million Jews, almost half the city’s Jewish population, live in neighborhoods that are just beyond the 1949 armistice lines.
So, Netanyahu publicly admitted Jewish housing in East Jerusalem violates terms of the very armistice which allowed the formation of the Israeli state in the first place. And he wonders why Obama continues to call for a freeze on new settlements?
Pres. Obama and PM Netanyahu met at the White House on Tuesday evening. Neither side walked away with anything they desired. Just before the meeting, however, Jerusalem gave a developer permission to build, despite Netanyahu’s promise to avoid future unpleasant surprises. This is exactly what we expect Prime Minister Netanyahu to get control of,” a senior U.S. official said. “The current drip-drip-drip of projects in East Jerusalem impedes progress.”
Building in Palestinian or disputed areas at best interferes with peace efforts for the region. There are always two sides to a story and two views of an issue. While I strongly support Israel’s right to exist, and hope so at peace with its neighbors, I also support a free and equal Palestinian state. I am sympathetic to Israel’s security situation, but I believe the Israeli government overreacts and is an oppressive, arbitrary occupier of Palestine. My view is not the most popular in the US. For descendants of the primary victims of the Holocaust, there are just a few too many similarities between Israeli actions in Palestine and the how German officials treated those in the occupied eastern areas during World War II.
Most in the US see the Arabs and Palestinians as the problem. To be sure, Hezbollah and Hamas are terrorist organizations, but they don’t justify punishing all Palestinians. The week before Netanyahu lobbied the US Congress to work around Obama’s stance on settlements, Gen. David Petraeus testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, which Michigan’s Sen. Carl Levin (D) chairs. Petraeus is the Commander-in-Chief of US Central Command. In his testimony, he said:
The enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests in the AOR [CentCom Area of Responsibility]. Israeli-Palestinian tensions often flare into violence and large-scale armed confrontations. The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the AOR and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world.
That means, worst case, Israel’s arrogance and stubbornness undermines US national security and puts US service members at risk. Consider the Saudi reaction to Israel’s latest provocation. “These comments cast doubt on the peace process and the seriousness of the international efforts to relaunch negotiations.” Saudi Arabia had backed efforts to restart peace talks, albeit indirect, but the Israeli announcement on building in East Jerusalem essentially gutted any support from Arab countries. In the Saudi statement:
The kingdom strongly condemns the statements by the prime minister of the Israeli occupation in which he denied the rights of Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims in holy Jerusalem, without the slightest consideration for the legitimate rights of the Palestinians, especially in occupied holy Jerusalem, or for the international efforts to relaunch peace process.
Israelophiles need not fear, however. Despite the international outcry and despite the Obama Administration’s stance and the current frost on US-Israeli relations, the US remains committed to Israel’s existence. Sounding like she was back on the campaign trail, Secretary of State Clinton put it this way in her remarks to AIPAC.
[L]et me assure you, as I have assured you on previous occasions with large groups like this and small intimate settings, for President Obama and for me, and for this entire Administration, our commitment to Israel’s security and Israel’s future is rock solid, unwavering, enduring, and forever.
Later on, Secretary Clinton added “I underscored the longstanding American policy that does not accept the legitimacy of continued settlements. As Israel’s friend, it is our responsibility to give credit when it is due and to tell the truth when it is needed.” To emphasize the need to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Clinton said:
The status quo is unsustainable for all sides. It promises only more violence and unrealized aspirations. Staying on this course means continuing a conflict that carries tragic human costs. Israeli and Palestinian children alike deserve to grow up free from fear and to have that same opportunity to live up to their full God-given potential.
Never thought I’d agree with Hillary Rodham Clinton, except for that cheerleader bit. Israel needs to grow up, come to the table, and knock out a workable peace agreement. The world doesn’t have any patience for their tantrums any more. Both regional and global security depend on a successful two-state solution.