In the Arena

Middle East Clarity

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Over at the Commentary blog, Max Boot has made the Neocon-Likud position on peace talks fairly plain: the effort on the part of the Obama Administration to convince the Israelis to freeze all settlements has been “nonsense.” And while I agree that the Obama negotiators have been naive and incompetent in dealing with Likud intransigence, it’s also clear that if it’s “nonsense” to ask the Israelis to stop building settlements in East Jerusalem–universally recognized as Palestine’s capital in a two-state solution (except by the Neocons and the Likudniks)–then the Netanyahu government isn’t at all interested in peace.

Boot calls it “grandiose” for American diplomats to ask our Israeli allies to negotiate a peace deal that will guarantee Israel’s right to exist within internationally recognized borders. But then, it must be that Ehud Barak (who actually negotiated such a deal, stymied by Yasser Arafat), Ariel Sharon (who created a new political party because he found Likud’s unwillingness to part with conquered territory to be short-sighted) and Ehud Olmert (who, if he weren’t involved in corruption scandals, might have sealed the deal with Mahmoud Abbas)–that is, three of the last four Israeli prime ministers–were “grandiose,” too.

It is in the best interests of the United States for the Israelis to make this deal. It is also in the best interests of the Israelis. The Neocon-Likudniks have neither Israel’s nor our best interests at heart. Boot is right: The Obama Administration may have to be a bit less “grandiose” in dealing with Netanyahu’s irredentist government. It should start by putting a hold on all economic and military aid to Israel; the aid should not be discontinued, just held, for a nice long review until the Netanyahu government comes to understand that Jerusalem must be the capital of both Israel and Palestine, and that if you actually want peace, you don’t build illegal settlement colonies in the Palestinian capital.