Time to pull the plug on money to Israel?

Discussion in 'Politics' started by OPTIONAL777, Mar 24, 2010.

  1. Dispute with Israel underscores limits of U.S. power, a shifting alliance

    By Glenn Kessler
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Wednesday, March 24, 2010; A01

    The two-week-old dispute between Israel and the United States over housing construction in East Jerusalem has exposed the limits of American power to pressure Israeli leaders to make decisions they consider politically untenable. But the blowup also shows that the relationship between the two allies is changing, in ways that are unsettling for Israel's supporters.

    President Obama and his aides have cast the settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not just the relationship with Israel, as a core U.S. national security interest. Gen. David H. Petraeus, the head of the military's Central Command, put it starkly in recent testimony on Capitol Hill: "The conflict foments anti-American sentiment due to a perception of U.S. favoritism toward Israel." His comments raised eyebrows in official Washington -- and overseas -- because they suggested that U.S. military officials were embracing the idea that failure to resolve the conflict had begun to imperil American lives.

    Visiting Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu received warm applause at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference on Monday night when he bluntly dismissed U.S. demands to end housing construction in the disputed part of Jerusalem. He was greeted as a hero when he visited Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

    But the administration has been strikingly muted in its reception. No reporters, or even photographers, were invited when Netanyahu met with Secretary of State Clinton Hillary Rodham Clinton and Vice President Biden on Monday or when he met with Obama on Tuesday night. There was no grand Rose Garden ceremony. Official spokesmen issued only the blandest of statements.

    The cooling in the U.S.-Israel relationship coincides with an apparent deepening of Israel's diplomatic isolation. Anger has grown in Europe in the wake of Israel's suspected misuse of European passports to kill a Palestinian militant in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates. On Tuesday, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband announced the expulsion of a senior diplomat over the incident, an unusually drastic step for an ally. Relations with Turkey, a rare Muslim friend of Israel for decades, have hit a new low.

    Obama and his aides have strongly pledged support for Israel's security -- including a reiteration by Clinton when she addressed AIPAC on Monday -- but they have continued to criticize its settlement policies in tough terms. Clinton notably did not pull her punches on the issue when she addressed the pro-Israel group, warning that whether Israelis like it or not, "the status quo" is not sustainable. The drawing of such lines by the administration has been noticed in the Middle East.

    "Israeli policies have transcended personal affront or embarrassment to American officials and are causing the United States real pain beyond the Arab-Israeli arena. This is something new, and therefore the U.S. is reacting with unusually strong, public and repeated criticisms of Israel's settlement policies and its general peace-negotiating posture," Rami Khouri, editor at large of Beirut's Daily Star, wrote this week. "At the same time Washington repeats it ironclad commitment to Israel's basic security in its 1967 borders, suggesting that the U.S. is finally clarifying that its support for Israel does not include unconditional support for Israel's colonization policies."
    Problems from the start

    The Obama administration has struggled from the start to find its footing with Israel and the Palestinians. Obama took office soon after Israel's three-week offensive in the Gaza Strip, which had ruptured peace talks nurtured by the George W. Bush administration. Obama appointed a special envoy, former senator George J. Mitchell, on his second day in office. But then the administration tried to pressure Israel to freeze all settlement expansion -- and failed. The United States further lost credibility when Clinton embraced Netanyahu's compromise proposal, which fell short of Palestinian expectations, as "unprecedented."

    U.S. pressure at the time also backfired because it appeared to let the Palestinians off the hook. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas refused to enter into direct talks before a settlement freeze, even though he had done so before. The administration had to settle for indirect talks, with Mitchell shuttling back and forth. The recent disagreement has set back that effort.

    Administration officials have been careful to turn down the heat in their latest exchanges with Netanyahu over Jerusalem, even as they continue to express their displeasure. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley spoke in clipped sentences Tuesday when asked to describe the hours of private conversations with Netanyahu this week: "We have outlined some concerns to the Israeli government. They have responded to our concerns. That conversation continues. This is a dynamic process. There's a lot of give-and-take involved in these conversations."

    Crowley argued that "the only way to ultimately resolve competing claims, on the future of Jerusalem, is to get to direct negotiations." He said the administration faces a series of "pass-fail" tests: Can it get the two parties to join direct talks? Can it persuade them to address the vexing issues surrounding the final status of Jerusalem? And ultimately, "do we get to an agreement that is in the Israeli interest, in the Palestinian interest, in the interest of the rest of the region and clearly in the interest of the United States?"

    Arab leaders have long said that a peace deal would be possible if the United States pressured Israel. But many experts say such hope is often misplaced. In the case of East Jerusalem, Netanyahu believes that a halt to construction represents political suicide for his coalition, so no amount of U.S. pressure will lead him to impose a freeze -- at least until he is in the final throes of peace talks.

    "U.S. pressure can work, but it needs to be at the right time, on the right issue and in the right political context," said Robert Malley, a peace negotiator in the Clinton White House. "The latest episode was an apt illustration. The administration is ready for a fight, but it realized the issue, timing and context were wrong. The crisis has been deferred, not resolved."
  2. kut2k2


    I vaguely remember Menachim Begin or some other Israeli PM back in the 80's telling us to shove our financial aid back then. I'd still like to know why we didn't take him up on that.
  3. LONDON – Britain took the extraordinary step Tuesday of expelling an Israeli diplomat for the first time in more than 20 years, after concluding there was compelling evidence that Israel was responsible for the use of forged British passports in the plot to slay a senior Hamas operative in Dubai.

    British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said trust between the two countries had been badly dented, demanded formal assurances it never happen again and — in an unusual step — issued travel advice to U.K. citizens warning their identity details may be at risk if they visit Israel.

    Miliband told the House of Commons that the expelled diplomat, who has not been named, was removed following an investigation into the use of 12 fake U.K. passports in the Jan 20. slaying in Dubai.

    "We have concluded that there are compelling reasons to believe that Israel was responsible for the misuse of the British passports," Miliband said.

    Britain's Serious and Organized Crime Agency found the forged British passports were copies of authentic documents handed to Israeli officials for inspection either in Israel or other countries, Miliband said. He said the fakes were high-quality and almost certainly "made by a state intelligence service."

    "The actions in this case are completely unacceptable and they must stop," Miliband said.

    However, Miliband insisted Britain has drawn no conclusions over who is responsible for the killing of Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, saying investigation by Dubai authorities was continuing.

    Dubai authorities accuse Israel's Mossad of carrying out al-Mabhouh's killing in a luxury hotel room, and have identified at least 26 suspects in an alleged hit squad — members of which used forged European and Australian passports.

    Interpol has a wanted list of 27 people in connection with the slaying. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied any involvement in al-Mabhouh's death.

    Israel's ambassador to London Ron Prosor said he was "disappointed by the decision of the British government" but pledged that the two countries would retain close ties. "The relationship between Israel and the United Kingdom is of mutual importance," he said.

    France and Ireland are also carrying out inquiries into the use of four forged French and six Irish passports. Ireland's foreign ministry said it would consider further action once an investigation with Irish police is completed.

    Dubai police believe three Australian passports and a German one were also used in the killing.

    At least 15 of the names used by the suspected killers match those of Israeli citizens who are dual nationals of Western countries. All have denied involvement.

    Miliband said in the cases of the 12 British citizens, there was "no evidence to suggest that those 12 were anything other than wholly innocent victims of identity theft."

    He said one victim told investigators "to go to bed a citizen and wake up as a wanted terrorist is shocking."

    "The fact that this was done by a country which is a friend, with significant diplomatic, cultural, business and personal ties to the UK, only adds insult to injury," Miliband said.

    Miliband had been due to attend a reception Tuesday to mark the refurbishment of the Israeli Embassy in London, but was forced to cancel in order to make his statement to Parliament.

    The expulsion of an Israeli diplomat from London is the first since 1988, when attache Arie Regev was removed for "activities incompatible with diplomatic duties," a euphemism for espionage. Britain also barred a second Israeli, Jacob Barad, from returning to Britain in 1987. Both men were suspected of coordinating Mossad activity in the U.K. and of involvement in the forgery of British passports.

    At the time, Shimon Peres — now Israel's president — promised Britain it would never again forge British documents.

    Miliband, who said he discussed the case Monday with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, confirmed that Britain had chosen which diplomat would be expelled and said "it was not a random" choice.

    But British and Israeli officials declined to confirm reports that the diplomat was Mossad's London station chief.

    Arieh Eldad, a lawmaker from Israel's National Union — a hardline opposition party — called Friday for the military attache of the British Embassy in Israel to be expelled in response.

    Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor declined to comment on whether Israel would take retaliatory action.

    Diplomatic expulsions are a rare sanction against foreign governments. Britain kicked out four Russian diplomats in 2007 over the country's refusal to extradite to London a suspect in the poisoning death of Alexander Litvinenko.


    Associated Press writers Ian Deitch and Aron Heller in Jerusalem, and Pierre-Antoine Souchard in Paris contributed to this report

  4. rew


    Talk, talk, talk. It doesn't matter. AIPAC still owns nearly all of our congressman, and that's what matters. Continued aid to Israel is far more certain than any of my investments.