US-Israeli Relations & Middle East Peace
Middle East Peace: Why Obama Should Dial Back on Support for Israel
This past week, the Obama administration sought congressional approval for $205 million it intends to provide the state of Israel to defray the cost of a new short-range rocket defense system.
Otherwise known as the Iron Dome, this security system would upon deployment, offer the long-desired shield from incessant rocket attacks by intercepting incoming mortars fired from Gaza and Lebanon.
Beyond the traditional reiteration of the abiding affinity between the US and Israel, or better stated, America’s unshakable or unwavering commitment to securing Israel’s defense, the White House spokesperson, Tommy Vietor, further rationalized President Obama’s decision as a testament to his recognition of “the threat missiles and rockets fired by Hamas and Hezbollah pose to Israelis.“
Mr. Vietor then underscored the “defense relationship” existing between both countries by adding that “the United States and our ally Israel share many of the same security challenges, from combating terrorism to confronting the threat posed by Iran's nuclear-weapons program."
It was also suggested that by funding the defense system, the Obama administration was hoping to allay Israel’s fear that going along with the proposed two-state solution that allows a Palestinian state next to Israel would create a safe launching pad for more rocket attacks.
Without this extra security assurance, the White House felt that Israeli participation in upcoming talks with the Palestinians would be lukewarm if not half-hearted.
The problem with this line of logic is that President Obama appears to be going down the same perilous path that many before him traversed and which interestingly makes the desire for peace in the region befuddlingly elusive. It flies in the face of fundamental truths about the Palestinian-Israeli problem.
Stopping at a simple acknowledgement of the fact that rockets have been irritatingly and most errantly hauled into Israeli towns and cities ignores not just the ignoble conditions Palestinians toil under daily in the West Bank and Gaza but Israel’s historic heavy-handedness in the conflict. For every Israeli soldier or civilian lost to this vicious and most senseless cycle of violence, there have been hundreds, thousands, if not tens of thousands, of Palestinian casualties, notably children.
While I am in no way suggesting that any life is worth losing to indiscriminate rocket fire, showcasing or spotlighting our demonstrable “friend’s” comparably menial loss to the neglect of another’s stupendous agony is disingenuous and diabolical.
Little wonder, therefore, that there is such anger and resentment toward the US by Palestinians. Most Palestinians believe that Washington has neither the capacity nor desire to acknowledge or understand their condition.
The Palestinian authorities equally understand that all paths to any settlement, burdened with the slimmest margin of victory as they may seem, run through the White House. They know that challenged as this situation obviously is, they have no choice but find a way to remain engaged in peace negotiations shepherded by an arbiter that makes no secret about its unqualified support for the opposition.
But the Obama administration ought to know that the approach that it has quickly defaulted to is neither defensible nor sustainable.
Maintaining material (economic, political and military) support for Israel at traditional levels---excess of $3 billion annually in military aid, grants and loan guarantees---will eventually overwhelm the new round of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
More importantly, it could even subvert any hopes for lasting peace in the entire region as it would be increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile US efforts to create and sustain a supremely armed and hegemonic Israel at the same time that it is championing or ratcheting programs seeking to militarily weaken its neighbors.
It is widely known that Israel has not just nuclear weapons but the ballistic capability to deliver the payloads. While there has never been any expressed desire by Washington to verify or even acknowledge this reality, the Obama administration is finalizing plans for a new series of sanctions against Iran for having the audacity to pursue its nuclear ambitions.
If the Cold War taught us nothing, we know that an unbalanced or lopsided distribution of power in a highly volatile, winner-takes-all political environment, such that one single player’s prowess dwarfs that of all the others put together, as appears to be the case with Israel compared to its surrounding Arab neighbors in the Middle East (thanks to Washington’s abiding connivance), compromises peace and stability to the degree that the superior player could be tempted to increasing recalcitrance or bellicosity; incapable or unwilling to negotiate in good faith.