Dan Simpson: Retaliate against Israel for sucker punching us
GA: This is a superb commentary by a former U.S. ambassador. It must be read and spread widely.
Retaliate against Israel for sucker punching us
By Dan Simpson
Israel has delivered three major body punches to the United States this month, which means it is time to hit back — unless our government wants to be perceived by Americans, Israelis and everyone else in the world as a bad joke as a world power.
The first blow was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu using the House of Representatives as the site of a campaign pep rally for himself, with congressmen and senators as cheerleaders and majorettes. His speech on that occasion just happened to be an attack on a major American project: the achievement of an international agreement with Iran to control its nuclear ambitions and begin the end of 36 years of estrangement.
That agreement, by the way, is being negotiated in coordination with China, France, Germany, Russia and Britain. It is intended to remove a threat to Israel and the region from an Iranian nuclear program. The U.S. partners in these negotiations and the Iranians on the other side cannot have missed the humiliation administered to President Barack Obama by Mr. Netanyahu’s dissing the president’s policies in public in Mr. Obama’s own capital.
The second Israeli blow was administered when Mr. Netanyahu declared to Israeli voters that if they elected him there would be no Palestinian state. The prime minister’s sputtering attempts to walk that cat back since the March 17 election mean nothing. He is considered an inveterate liar by many people, friend and foe.
It just so happens that a negotiated two-state solution in the land of the former Palestine has been firm U.S. policy for decades, under Republican and Democratic presidents. So Mr. Netanyahu cheerfully told everyone — Israelis, Palestinians, Americans, everyone — that what America has been pursuing for decades is flat not going to happen.
The third major body blow occurred when Mr. Netanyahu told his Israeli supporters that they should hurry to the polls to vote for him because the supporters of the Joint List — representing the 20 percent of Israelis who are Arabs — were going to the polls “in droves” to vote against him. That would be the equivalent of an American Catholic candidate — say, John F. Kennedy — urging American Catholics to hurry to the polls to vote for him because the Protestants were flocking to the polls to vote for his Protestant opponent, Richard Nixon.
Apart from Mr. Netanyahu’s election-day message promoting racial hatred between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs, an always sensitive relationship, there is another, longer-term aspect to what he did.
Let’s assume that Mr. Netanyahu does intend not to see the creation of a Palestinian state. Considering his deeds as prime minister — constantly expanding Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank to a population now estimated at 600,000-plus — he apparently sees Israel eventually absorbing the whole territory, today’s Israel plus the part that would have been Palestine, as a Greater Israel.
His words to Israel’s Arabs on election day therefore would mean that every effort would be made to prevent them from sharing power in that Greater Israel.
Of course, the real problem would remain: What is supposed to happen to the Palestinians?
Just about everyone, starting with the Israelis but even including the Arabs of neighboring states, has hoped or imagined since 1948 that the Palestinians would simply go away, physically and politically. But they haven’t, and they still are pounding on the door for their own state 67 years later.
Their next steps will be another violent uprising or more efforts to be recognized as a state in international forums, such as the International Criminal Court, or both. Mr. Netanyahu has shut the door on negotiations, so what else exactly are they expected to do now?
This leaves us where we started: What is America’s response to having been sucker-punched three times by the Israelis and the leader they just re-elected?
First, the United States should expel from Washington Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, a former Republican Party operative, as persona non grata. He helped organize with House Speaker John Boehner the March 2 Netanyahu speech to Congress. He was born in the United States. It would be educational for him to go live in Israel. A country can “png” another’s ambassador without breaking relations.
The U.S. government also could simply isolate Mr. Dermer, granting him no appointments with U.S. officials. Let him talk to his friend Mr. Boehner, which should be a real treat.
Second, the United States should eliminate its $3 billion in annual aid to Israel, a prosperous, developed country in any case.
Third, the next time Israel gets into a war, with Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon or whomever, as is its wont, and asks for more U.S. arms, remind it of its March 2015 madness and sit on the request.
Neither people nor countries respond well when their bad behavior turns out not to have consequences for them. Mr. Netanyahu’s attack in Washington on U.S. and international negotiations with Iran, his promise to the Israeli people that there would be no Palestinian state if he were re-elected and the racist tactic he employed against Israel’s Arab voters were all bad behavior in terms of U.S.-Israeli relations. It is time to strike back, hard.