In the Arena

Israel’s Diversions

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Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is playing with fire on two fronts–its ridiculous anti-Iran rhetoric (which isn’t as ridiculous as Iran’s anti-Israel rhetoric, but still…) and its continuing effort to build and increase the illegal settlements on the West Bank. When the Netanyahu government took down an illegal settler outpost a few days after Bibi’s meeting with Obama, my first reaction was: this is exactly what the Pakistanis do when confronted with their covert support for the Taliban–they arrest someone (usually someone not affiliated their intelligence services) to placate us. Actually, come to think of it, what the Pakistanis do is more helpful than what the Israelis do. At least, there’s one less bad guy on the streets. The Israelis take down a settler outpost while allowing others to open and ¬†doubling down on the expansion of existing settlements on Palestinian lands. The unstated delusion is that Palestinian lands can be populated over time by Jewish fanatics, who tend to procreate as assiduously as the Arabs do. That is simply intolerable. It is a form of aggression never mentioned by the American Likudniks who rush to Israel’s support, even when Israel is acting illegally and in ways likely to decrease its security in the long run, by further alienating the next generation–demographically, much greater than their parents–of Palestinians.

Netanyahu’s “crazy mullah” rhetoric is also foolish, as Fareed Zakaria explains today in a column over at Brand X. I’m not as sure as Zakaria that Iran doesn’t want a bomb–or, at least, the capability of putting one together quickly (which the Japanese apparently have), but the fierce salivation of American Likudniks over the prospect of war with Iran is likely to cause the Obama Administration grief before too long. Israeli saber-rattling is one way to ensure that Iran will move as quickly as possible to build a deterrent capability.¬†

The President has a big speech to the Muslim world coming in less than 2 weeks, to be delivered in Cairo. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, he has to say about Israel’s illegal settlement-building. And it will be interesting to see how the Obama Administration approaches Iran in the weeks that follow its June elections.