The nasty spat with Israel over Jewish settlements in Arab East Jerusalem didn't last long.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu apologized for the unfortunate timing during U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's March 10 visit of the announcement of the building of 1,600 housing units, but he also made clear the new housing plans would go forward and the Palestinians could forget about establishing their capital in Arab East Jerusalem.
U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., gathered the signatures of almost all 100 senators for a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, reminding her that future Jewish construction in East Jerusalem shouldn't be allowed to derail Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations or harm U.S.-Israeli relations. It had already done the former and the latter was now bursting in effusive praise.
President Barack Obama replied to a letter from Alan P. Solow, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, by writing, "I am sure you can distinguish between the noise and distortion about my views that have appeared recently and the actual approach of my administration toward the Middle East."
Obama quickly reassured Solow: "Our two countries are bound together by shared values, deep and interwoven connections and mutual interests. Many of the same forces that threaten Israel also threaten the United States and our efforts to secure peace and stability in the Middle East. Our alliance with Israel serves our national security interests . . . all sides should understand that our commitment to Israel's security is unshakable and that no wedge will be driven between us."
In other words, America's strategic interests and Israel's are synonymous. And lest there be any doubt, national security adviser Gen. James L. Jones, onetime Mideast envoy, told the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank with close links to Israel, that "everyone must know there is no space — no space — between the United States and Israel when it comes to Israel's security. Our commitment to Israel is unshakable. It is stronger than ever . . . We understand very well that for peace and stability in the Middle East, Israel must be secure."
Jones pledged the United States "will never waiver in defense of Israel's security (which) is why we provide billions of dollars annually in security assistance to Israel, why we have reinvigorated our consultations to ensure Israel's Qualitative Military Edge and why we undertake joint military exercises, such as Jupiter Cobra ballistic missile defense exercise that involved more than 1,000 U.S. servicemen and women . . . essential elements of our regional security approach . . . "
The fulsome Obama administration praise covered seven paragraphs, including: "Our security relationship with Israel is important to America. Our military benefits from Israeli innovations in technology, from shared intelligence, from exercises that help our readiness and joint training that enhances our capabilities and from lessons learned in Israel's own battles against terrorism and asymmetric threats . . . I've spent a great deal of time with my Israeli partners, including my friends in the (Israeli military). These partnerships are deep and abiding . . . personal relationships and friendships based on mutual trust and respect. Every day across the whole range of our bilateral relationships, we are working together for our shared security and prosperity. And our partnership will only be strengthened in the months and years to come."
For Palestinians and other Arabs, this was no Rubik's Cube or 3-D chess. They no longer believe the United States can be evenhanded between Israel and the Palestinians, whose camp also includes the pro-Iran Hamas that now rules Gaza. For the United States to present itself as an impartial mediator lacks credibility.
Long-time Mideast peace aficionado Aaron David Miller, who once toiled on the State Department's executive seventh floor, bailed out of the long-ballyhooed "peace process" and wrote an article for Foreign Policy, headlined, "The False Religion of Mideast Peace." And he explained "why I'm no longer a believer."
Miller blamed Obama who "soon hit the Arab media running as a kind of empathizer in chief, ratcheting up expectations even as Israelis increasingly found him tone-deaf to their needs." In a "broken, angry region with so many problems — from stagnant, inequitable economies to extractive and authoritarian governments that abuse human rights and deny rule of law, to a popular culture mired in conspiracy and denial — it stretches the bounds of credulity to the breaking point to argue that settling the Arab-Israeli conflict is the most critical issue or that its resolution would somehow guarantee Middle East Stability."
Yet it's what Arabs and Muslims everywhere call the Israeli occupation of Palestine that is the principal leitmotif of Islamist fundamentalists — and the rationale for al-Qaida's terrorists, from the bombing of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania Aug. 7, 1998, that killed some 300 and wounded 5,000; to the bombing of the USS Cole in Aden Harbor Oct. 12, 2000, that killed 17 U.S. sailors, wounded 39 and caused $250 million in damage to a $1 billion warship; to the destruction of the World Trade Center's twin towers and the attack on the Pentagon, that killed almost 3,000.
For Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, the United States lacks the will to use the obvious dependence of both Israelis and Palestinians on American support. His out-of-the-box idea for reviving the comatose peace process: 1) no right of return for Palestinian refugees to Israel proper; 2) West Jerusalem as the seat for Israel's capital and East Jerusalem as the seat of the Palestinian capital with some internationally based sharing of the Old City; 3) the drawing of borders between the two states along the 1967 lines, adjusted on the basis of one-for-one swaps as the frontiers; 4) an essentially demilitarized Palestinian state with U.S. or NATO forces on the West Bank of the Jordan River.
It is increasingly obvious Iran's nuclear ambitions now loom larger than the perennial Mideast peace process. The prospect of draconian U.N. sanctions bringing a military-religious regime to heel dim daily. And the prospect of forceful action "is not on the table in the near term," says Defense Undersecretary for Policy Michele Flournoy. Within hours, the Defense Department spokesman corrected her by saying, "Nothing was off the table."
Bogged down in Afghanistan and phasing out of Iraq as suicide bombers phase back in, Obama's geopolitical nightmare is having to bite the bullet in Iran — and sucking it up. As his nemesis Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., says, there's only one thing worse than bombing Iran — and that's an Iranian nuclear bomb.
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