Green Room

Shallow, Sophomoric, and Appalling

posted at 1:34 pm on November 14, 2010 by

As a rule, I prefer to avoid language that can be read as hyperbole. But if this story in the Jerusalem Post is accurate (h/t: The Muqata), the Obama administration has committed negotiation “diplomacy” of the most cynical and transparently calculating kind.  It’s not just evidence of a breach of faith with an ally, moreover:  it’s a stupid negotiating tactic.  It suggests that a US national position, one that should be unchanging, is for sale.

In brief, JPost says the Israelis were told this weekend that if they would agree to a 90-day freeze in settlement construction, the US would commit to giving them 20 new fighter jets and supporting their national integrity, with vetoes if necessary, in the UN – for the next year.

The import of the latter “promise” – unfortunately, scare quotes are appropriate here – is growing, with the threat that the UN will consider peremptory, non-negotiated declaration of a Palestinian state. As John Bolton wrote in October, this threat is a real one, and the Obama administration could very well respond by abstaining from any Security Council vote on the matter.  To coin a phrase: You know in your heart he’s right.  Barack “Vote Present” Obama is exactly the president to make that happen.

The ugly, cynical faithlessness of this move can hardly be overstated.  Whether Israel, as a sovereign nation, has the irreducible right to negotiate her own borders is the kind of bedrock principle on which the US position should be firm and unmovable.  The moment it is not – the moment it is put up for sale or made into a bargaining chip – we abandon our position in world leadership and become just another calculating nation, jockeying for factional advantage and partisan prizes.

Nations that operate in this fashion usually end up putting the squeeze on their own allies.  That’s what Obama is doing here, if the JPost report is correct.  He is using the prospect of a conditional US guarantee to gain a concession from Israel – with the implied threat that if the concession is not made, there will be no guarantee.  What kind of ally does that make us?  An undesirable, unreliable, and counterproductive one, for starters.

I have written here about the significance of the settlements in Judea and Samaria – the West Bank – to Israel’s security.  The factors in that assessment haven’t changed.  Israel is not being stupidly recalcitrant about the settlements.  What she cannot do is allow the negotiating process itself to wring concession after concession from her, as a condition of merely talking with the Palestinian Arabs, and with no concrete commitments from the Arabs in return.  In short order, this dynamic would become an effective veto over Israel’s national security: an attritional diplomatic campaign against Israel’s ability to defend territory.  Israel can’t rationally agree to the implications of this approach.

Whether the Obama administration is coming at this with full recognition of that truth or not, its move here is high-handed and cynical.  It is also shortsighted to an absurd degree.  Apparently, Obama really does see Israel as a special case, one to which the norms of international conduct and understandings don’t apply.  But other nations – namely, our allies in the G-20 and NATO – will immediately recognize that what applies to Israel could apply to them, and everyone’s borders and national security arrangements could be up for grabs.  Russia, China, India, Japan; Arab nations with which we have agreements and partnerships in the Middle East; even our NATO allies Spain, Greece, and Turkey – all have border disputes and/or disaffected ethnic groups and insurgencies seeking new borders and even separate nationhood.

As much as they complain and yammer at us, these nations have all relied on the US, over the years, to uphold the principle of respect for recognized nationhood and the sovereignty of fellow UN members.  Sure, it’s been a luxury for them to both benefit from and complain about our adherence to principle in this regard.  They’ve behaved like inconsistent adolescents on many occasions.  But seriously, Americans:  get over it.  It’s better to be the adult.  With the move reported by JPost, Obama is abandoning the principled adult consistency that entitles a nation to leadership.

That consistent posture, backed with latent force, has been worth a dozen military actions or more since the end of World War II.  Here is what Obama has done with his move this weekend: he has signaled to the world that if Israel doesn’t agree to the 90-day settlement freeze, one of the other four veto-equipped members of the Security Council may well have to be the adult and take order to the G-77 tantrum – peremptory declaration of a Palestinian state – looming in the UN.

Of the four – Britain, France, Russia, China – are you excited about the prospect of any of them donning this mantle?  Do you expect them to exercise its privileges with any degree of impartial principle?  For that matter, can any of them, acting individually, enforce a veto?  The answer is no: taking order to eruptions from the UN is either done by the US, or it will require alliances among others that are increasingly to America’s disadvantage.

There is no sugar-coating it: the action reported by JPost is one of the dumbest things a US administration has ever done.  If we are lucky, Team Obama will think better of it and back off quietly in a day or so.  Objectively, Israel would be setting an evil precedent by agreeing to it; I can hardly see Netanyahu doing so.  We can be thankful for that.  But if this ultimatum gets legs – if it becomes a real decision point for either Israel or the US – that itself will set in motion a chain of events that will do incalculable damage to the international order.  Israel can, in the short term, find another patron or patrons who see the value in affirming her sovereign national rights.  But if she has to, the position of the US and the order that hinges on it will be lost.

J.E. Dyer blogs at The Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions” and as The Optimistic Conservative.  She writes a weekly column for Patheos.

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Oh my dear gosh! Can the house and senate do anything about this? Please Israel and Bibi don’t cave to bho. This is one very very evil man. God be with you Israel.
L

letget on November 14, 2010 at 1:50 PM

Whether Israel, as a sovereign nation, has the irreducible right to negotiate her own borders is the kind of bedrock principle on which the US position should be firm and unmovable.

Interesting contention, Dyer. Israel’s origin and borders were set by the UN at the same time that the borders for a Palestinian state was defined.

The US has, in past, several times stated the US policy is to object to Israeli actions in attempting to annex land beyond the land that the US recognizes as legally part of Israel.
As long as the US remains israel’s principal ally, supporter and weapons supplier, we retain an interest in opposing Israeli policies and actions that we deem to be unjust, illegal, impractical, and harmful.

If you’re not understanding the political dynamics at work in the negotiations (and within the present Israeli governing coalition), or simply expressing your opposition to any negotiation that doesn’t result in Israel withdrawal from land held in belligerent occupation,
that’s …OK.
However, not too many Americans view support for Israel’s right to an unharried existence as identical with America’s obligation to support whatever policy Israel chooses to pursue.

audiculous on November 14, 2010 at 2:21 PM

Let’s remind people every time we can that the term West Bank is a lie. The region in question is not the west bank of the Jordan River, or of any waterway. It is a two-lobed cut deep into the heart of Isreal, surrounding Jerusalem on three sides, including mountainous terrain ideal for guerilla warfare.

How may people who chatter and yammer about the West Bank know what it really means? How many know that every time someone uses it in reporting the news, they are lying to their listeners or readers? Well, let’s tell people!

njcommuter on November 14, 2010 at 5:06 PM

It is a two-lobed cut deep into the heart of Isreal, surrounding Jerusalem on three sides, including mountainous terrain ideal for guerilla warfare…. How may people who chatter and yammer about the West Bank know what it really means? How many know that every time someone uses it in reporting the news, they are lying to their listeners or readers? Well, let’s tell people!
njcommuter on November 14, 2010 at 5:06 PM

A picture is worth a thousand words. All it takes is a two-second look at a map to see that Israel is utterly indefensible with that chunk taken out of it.

How many liberal “citizens of the world” have taken that much time and effort to study geography?

logis on November 14, 2010 at 5:30 PM

Man, bho, and the un for that matter, have some nerve telling any other nation in the world how to handle their borders! If bho and team did their job on our southern border we would not have the illegal aliens, gang members, and drugs coming into America. At least Israel can defend their country, we seem to not be able to. You don’t dare shoot those trying to kill you or that below slug calderon will get all bent out of shape. Those in the south of the border have taken over private American citizens land and killed their animals for food. Signs in OUR country say look out you are in danger. So, bho and team, shut up on other nations borders, do OURS then get involved someplace else.
L

letget on November 14, 2010 at 5:52 PM

letget

If bho and team did their job on our southern border we would not have the illegal aliens, gang members, and drugs coming into America

That’s some major-league paranoid and silly nonsense. Our borders and the conditions around them haven’t undergone any change in decades.

audiculous on November 14, 2010 at 6:33 PM

audiculous,
Do you live or have you been to the southern border states lately? Have you seen all the landowners who have their land taken over by non citizens of the U.S.? We live in S TX and see how inch by inch these people are ‘taking over’ our country. bho and team are not doing a blooming thing to stop it. bho and team sue states trying to do the job this gosh horrible bho and team will not do. NO, I am not a major-league paranoid, but if you can not see what is happening, shame on you and shame on those like you!
L

letget on November 14, 2010 at 7:08 PM

Sarah Palin’s Position:

JERUSALEM IS THE CENTER OF ISRAEL!

The “West Bank” that Obambi’s trying to negotiate is part of Jerusalem!

TheAlamos on November 14, 2010 at 11:48 PM

Sarah Palin’s position is two hands outstretched and a mouth full of gimme.

Who the hell cares what the ignorant woman has to say about Israel.

The West Bank is sure as hell a lot more than Jerusalem.

audiculous on November 15, 2010 at 12:26 AM

Bad argument about borders, audiculous. Everyone’s borders are either recognized by the UN or not, and countries other than Israel have had political lines set by actions of the UN. None of that means that other nations aren’t entitled to negotiate their own borders.

No Eastern border has ever actually been recognized by the UN for Israel. That border remains to be negotiated. The “Green Line” is an armistice line. But the UN recognizes Israel as a sovereign nation and member state. By the UN’s own rules, Israel has a right to negotiate her own borders. There’s no codicil specifying that Barack Obama must be happy with Israel’s negotiating posture or the rights of sovereignty are revocable.

J.E. Dyer on November 15, 2010 at 1:03 AM

For over 60 years now, Arab, Iranian, and other interests and blocs have been cultivating the Palestinians like a deadly bacilli: keeping them in camps, inculcating them from the cradle with implacable hatred and genocidal rhetoric, financing terrorist cadres, and equipping them with arms, training, international connections, and tactical know-how–all of it aimed at the destruction of Israel and the murder of all its people, every man, woman, and child.

At this point, there is no solution; that is, there is no solution that can come about as a result of Israeli concessions. All of this talk (for decades now) of peace processes and road maps, two-state solutions and signatures and accords is, well, pointless. The only way out, it seems to me, would begin with recognition that the Palestinians are not the problem, as counter-intuitive as that might sound.

The Palestinians have been twisted and perverted as a people just as the Iraqis were perverted as a people and–going back–just as the Germans were under Hitler and the Nazi party, the Japanese under Tojo and the militarists, the Italians under Mussolini, and so on, ad nauseum. The problem lies with the governments intent upon using the Palestinians as a cats-paw, a means of striking at Israel indirectly–all of them fear direct Israeli response, even the bigger players. The answer, I think, would entail subversion and overthrow of the mullahs and the Republican Guard in Iran and the Assad regime in Syria, for a start. The cutoff of monies from Europe and the UN would also go a long way to establishing the peace everyone talks about, although peace, as Bob Dylan once said in a 60 Minutes interview, is the time it takes to reload.

troyriser_gopftw on November 15, 2010 at 3:19 AM

Strong arming at its finest. Tyrant methods that worked in Chicago will not work against a country that has to depend on its own self for survival every day. We had better learn a lesson for ourselves from Zero’s brand of diplomacy.

Kissmygrits on November 15, 2010 at 7:49 AM

Israel should offer a 90 day building freeze after Obama has shown that he can keep a promise. It should then announce a 90 day building freeze, on the condition that it starts January 21, 2013, if the next president makes a promise.

sabbahillel on November 15, 2010 at 10:33 AM

J.E. Dyer, Israel will certainly attempt to negotiate an eastern border, but there’s not a reason in the world why Obama or any other US president must accept the Israeli position. The land that the UN offered to the Arab Palestinian’s for their state, the land of the West Bank, is not part of Israel at present, is held in occupation, and every US administration since Johnson through Clinton has agreed with this administration that building the settlements is a move that is not conducive to peace.

The Obama position against the continuation of building them is not at all as you claim it to be.

Where do you get off by claiming that our expression of what’s necessary nd desirable infringes on the Israeli right to negotiate?

If anything, the Israeli position is an expression of their desire NOT to negotiate, but to continue to expand instead.

We’ve no need to agree with that and have no interest in doing so. Public statements of our disapproval serve our interests, and everyone else’s.
As we continue to pressure the Arabs not to fight, we do well to caution the Israelis not to filch.

audiculous on November 15, 2010 at 4:03 PM

Interesting contention, Dyer. Israel’s origin and borders were set by the UN at the same time that the borders for a Palestinian state was defined.

And the Palestinians and their Arab allies immediately declared war on Israel with the intention of exterminating here. Israel won that war, conquering territory in the process.

By international law she gets to keep the territory, and isn’t obligated to engage in any negotiations at all. If she does negotiate, it’s because the palestinians want to be an independent state and will agitate until they get it, and because Israel has a demographic dilemma in keeping so many people subjects, yet not citizens.

However, Israel has demonstrated that she will give up big chunks of territory: Sinai and Gaza. Both involved uprooting thousands of people. What have the Arabs demonstrated, beside deploying suicide bombers and delegitimizing propaganda?

YehuditTX on November 15, 2010 at 4:10 PM

If anything, the Israeli position is an expression of their desire NOT to negotiate, but to continue to expand instead.

I just want to re-emphasize that Israel already gave up lots of territory, which she had every right to hold and to settle. If you look at the history of Arab conquest since the invention of Islam, that has been imperialist expansion on a huge scale that continues even now, and conquering Israel is just a tiny part of it. To consider Israel expansionist at all, in comparison, is the type of topsy-turvy propaganda the Left and its Islamist allies are expert at.

YehuditTX on November 15, 2010 at 4:13 PM

Now you’re just being silly, audiculous. It’s quite obvious that what I object to here is not disagreeing with Israel’s negotiating position, it’s the threat of support for Israel’s sovereign rights being withdrawn.

The latter support should be firm on principle. No conditions. If Israel is a nation we recognize, we should accord Israel the respect we accord to other nations regarding their inherent sovereign rights. If Israel is a member of the UN, we should observe the norms of respect between nations written into the UN Charter.

We can disagree with Israel’s negotiating position without making our respect for Israel’s sovereign rights conditional on our liking it better.

J.E. Dyer on November 15, 2010 at 4:14 PM

JED I have to think that you’re confused.

WHY would the US, as a sovereign nation, support Israel with “No conditions”?

How is it even tenable for you to say something such as that?

Our support to Israel is overwhelmingly evident and abundant, but it’s absurd to confuse our support for Israel’s rights with support for whatever the heck Israel might do.

Such thing has never existed and never likely will exist.

In WWII we were allied with Great Britain, closely allied. Never was it asked of us, nor expected of us, that we would do whatever Britain asked of us.

And we sure as hell didn’t. We pointedly refused to shape our support to insure that the Empire would be preserved, and indeed told them that the Empire must be sundered.

We’ve incurred enormous costs for Israel and likely will continue incurring them.
They owe us every bit as much and much more than we owe to them.

And not even the Israelis claim “sovereign rights” to the West Bank.

You claims are ill-considered and not reasoned well.

audiculous on November 15, 2010 at 5:14 PM

“The United States will not support the use of any additional land for the purpose of settlements during the transition period. Indeed, the immediate adoption of a settlements freeze by Israel, more than any other action, could create the confidence needed for wider participation in these talks. Further settlement activity is in no way necessary for the security of Israel and only diminishes the confidence of the Arabs that a final outcome can be freely and fairly negotiated.”

Reagan Plan, September 01, 1982

audiculous on November 15, 2010 at 5:27 PM

the threat that the UN will consider peremptory, non-negotiated declaration of a Palestinian state

What the UN declares is pretty much irrelevant. They do not have the legal authority to declare anything, and their moral authority went out the window over their anti-semitism, oil for food, and child rape in Africa.

Vashta.Nerada on November 15, 2010 at 5:48 PM

Whether Israel, as a sovereign nation, has the irreducible right to negotiate her own borders is the kind of bedrock principle on which the US position should be firm and unmovable.
+++++++++++++++++++++
Hell, apparently we don’t have the right to enforce our *own* borders, let alone support other nations rights to negotiate theirs… Obama is destroying us not only domestically, but internationally

fabrexe on November 15, 2010 at 5:50 PM

Shallow, Sophomoric, and Appalling

Just form the title alone, I knew it was about obama and his administration.

audiculous does not at all seem to be concerned with all the cool stuff the PA has to deliver under a million plans and roadmaps they signed in their so called pursuit of a state. for some reason he/she/it is very concerned with what Israel has to do. What exactly has the PA done for US lately anyway ??

runner on November 15, 2010 at 5:51 PM

runner, audiculous is no fan of any of the Palestinian factions and doesn’t disregard their corruption, criminality and/or hostility to most of that which audiculous respects.

how does that change the nature of the argument advanced by JED that the US must do or refrain from any damn thing that the Israelis wish?

It remains baseless to assert that the US is unreservedly obliged to another nation and that is the point being argued.

audiculous on November 15, 2010 at 5:58 PM

audiculous on November 15, 2010 at 5:14 PM

You are correct, but don’t expect to make any headway here. The mainstream right fetishizes Israel.

exlibris on November 15, 2010 at 6:01 PM

It remains baseless to assert that the US is unreservedly obliged to another nation and that is the point being argued.

audiculous on November 15, 2010 at 5:58 PM

No it’s not, as Dyer has explained in two responses to your comments.

Weight of Glory on November 15, 2010 at 6:11 PM

how does that change the nature of the argument advanced by JED that the US must do or refrain from any damn thing that the Israelis wish?

That is not his argument. The minutia of Israel’s negotiating position vis-a-vis PA is Israel’s own business. Our business is fighting terrorism, helping those who fight terrorism, making sure that our allies remain allied, and that democracy continues to make inroads in the ME. As far as this nonsense about what to build and where, any smart person who follows the ME “peace” process should know by now, that land for peace does not exist in arab minds. Israel offered the West bank and gaza in full in ’67 and they rejected it, again offered in 2000 (?) and hey rejected the offer. I doubt that Israel construction permits is what’s really bothering them, and we should not entertain PA’s crazy whims at the expense of our solid ally.

runner on November 15, 2010 at 6:14 PM

Negotiations! In international diplomacy! Shocking that such things can happen! Appalling!

AngusMc on November 15, 2010 at 6:22 PM

Weight of Glory,
Love Dyer as I do, i must beg to differ with your comment. Dyer has not explained the nature and source of our unreserved commitment, she has merely asserted it without explanation.

Saying that it rests on “principle” w/o identifying the principle is vaporous.
It has always been the position of the US that the settlements are a hindrance to a peace deal.

audiculous on November 15, 2010 at 6:31 PM

runner, I would agree with Dyer that the “minutia” belong to the negotiating parties.

Please point out how urging a freeze to settlement expansion during negotiation is part of that micromanaging.

As the US is brokering the talks, and long has been, we’ve always had expectations and stated them. I do believe that we’ve always demanded, as conditions for talks, that the Pals renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist.
We’ve always let it be known that we would provide Israel with superior weaponry and that we would never support claims to trim Israel back to the originally proposed borders that were accepted by Ben-Gurion and furiously rejected by the Arabs.

audiculous on November 15, 2010 at 6:44 PM

Well, Obama wants America to adopt a French-style social network, so why not a French-style foriegn policy while we’re at it?

drunyan8315 on November 15, 2010 at 6:49 PM

Any “waffling” on our position to back Israel come hell or high water will simply embolden terrorists and invite more attacks on Americans. If the terrorists sense we are “teetering” in this relationship – they will strike us hard to fell the tree.

This is not to even mention the signal it sends to Iran to “go ahead and use nukes on Israel – we might not get involved”.

HondaV65 on November 15, 2010 at 7:16 PM

@audiculous: When was the last time this country conditioned the continuation of our support for an allied nation’s sovereignty on that nation’s compliance with our demands?

We recognized Israel after the Zionists accepted the UN partition vote. You are inferring that that made recognition conditional on Israel’s permanent adherence to the relevant predicate resolution – but that resolution was mooted by the Arabs’ own rejection of it. Incidentally, partition would have given much of the Negev and Galilee to the Arabs. Is that your position too? And if not, on what basis do you prefer the 1948 armistice line – ratifying territory conquered in war – to boundaries accepted by the future State of Israel in accordance with peaceful procedural norms?

Do you suppose Britain ought to threaten to abrogate the 1783 Treaty of Paris because America “filched” the Southwest from Mexico, the Philippines from Spain, for that matter stomped on Confederate independence after Ft. Sumpter? Well of course the Brits were tempted to recognize the South, at least before Vicksburg and Gettysburg. I’m sure that would have done them a world of good in their subsequent struggles with Germany.

Seth Halpern on November 15, 2010 at 7:19 PM

No “p” in Ft.Sumter. Sorry, DeMint.

Seth Halpern on November 15, 2010 at 7:22 PM

Seth, perhaps you can point out where we’ve presently” conditioned the continuation of our support for an allied nation’s sovereignty on that nation’s compliance with our demands?”

again, the large issue is that the occupation of the West Bank is distinct from Israeli sovereignty.

but the point here is that we’ve done no such thing and issued no such threat.

leaks of a rumor about a possibility of failure to vigorously champion Israel’s endless occupation doesn’t fit the bill and unless you or anyone can point to something actual, the ‘plaint amounts to little or less.

I certainly do not prefer the ’39, ’47, or ’48 lines. I support the rough outline Barak offered to Arafat, but even that is not the issue.

the Israelis are being told to stop expanding further, on a temporary basis, into territory that they don’t own, and have little or no expectation of retaining in any deal, order to help continue the talks. restraint doesn’t threaten them at all.
failure to pursue the talks harms us and them.

audiculous on November 15, 2010 at 7:41 PM

@audiculous: The claim as I interpret it is that the US might permit the UN to supersede Resolution 242 – which stipulates negotiations over disputed territory and the principle of land for peace – and unilaterally and unconditionally recognize a Palestinian Arab state. In other words, as Israel will not comply with Palestinian Arab demands on its own, the UN, with American acquiescence, will override her previously accepted prerogative to barter over borders as a sovereign entity and establish a (presumably) West Bank/Gaza/East Jerusalem Arab one by fiat, regardless of Arab intent. To be sure, for the US to connive at such an insidious jab at our own international position, not to mention Israel’s, would be at least arguably consistent with our current Chief Executive’s weary weltanschauung. That would not make it any less a cataclysmic and unprecedented diplomatic assault on a perennially endangered friend.

Seth Halpern on November 15, 2010 at 8:33 PM

Seth, I’ve seen the claim about the rumor. Haven’t seen anything to support the truth of it. The JPost story mentions no threat and no threatening actions by the US.
The story mentions the opposition to any freeze from something called the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip and any threat is found in the interpretation from the settler lobby, a group not looking for any likely peace deal.

“This is the test for the ministers,” the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip said in a statement it issued to the media. “Are you building or surrendering?” it asked.

When people such as the author start writing posts calling out Obama just as if this rumor were fact, it says something about the mental and moral imbalance of the author’s position.

audiculous on November 15, 2010 at 9:06 PM

sorry, should have closed the quotation after “asked”
that last paragraph was all my own.

audiculous on November 15, 2010 at 9:14 PM

Only learned, intellectual, smart, clean, bright, and articulate people can argue that a sovereign nation should cede land to an adversary that demands destruction of said sovereign nation.

23 adversarial states surround one nation one sixth the size of Missouri.

Name the countries that surround Israel and name one contribution any of them has made to humanity in the past ten centuries.

Oh, and thanks for vindicating the bible albeit inadvertently…fools.

Inanemergencydial on November 16, 2010 at 1:02 AM

a sovereign nation should cede land to an adversary that demands destruction of said sovereign nation.

No one here is making that argument. I kinda remember that a condition for beginning the talks is that the Pals have to admit that Israel has a right to exist.

And talking in hope of reaching terms for peace is sorta different than ceding any of the land that Israel is now occupying.

audiculous on November 16, 2010 at 12:57 PM