This week, Israel announced that it would be accelerating its plan to build nearly 1,000 “settlement” houses in East Jerusalem. These houses, planned in and around the provincial capital of Palestine, seem to suggest that Israel is not serious about a “two-state solution,” with some fearing more deadly outbreaks to come.
While the topic of Israeli aggressions toward the Palestinian state is by no means a new story, it is becoming more difficult, even for the most biased of sources, to call Israel anything but an occupying state. While Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed public support for a two-state solution with Palestine, past aggressions and this week’s announcement paint a much different picture. Although the U.S. was quick to criticize the Israeli plan, no formal changes have been outlined in our relationship to Israel despite the apparent tension between Netanyahu and the Obama administration.
Unfortunately, international relations are not so easy to direct and predict. While Netanyahu has taken every recent chance to win over the ultra conservative in his country (obviously causing some friction with Obama), Israel itself has long been considered our most stable ally in the Middle East. Every year, we send funds overseas to Israel despite their human rights record with Palestine and recent pushback to a two-state solution. In the name of having a “stable” partner in the region, we have completely ignored Israel’s transgressions even when they chose to interfere with U.S.-Iran Nuclear talks. While the benefits of military launch points, diplomatic strongholds and having a vested interest in the Middle East all have their merit, it seems that U.S. is allowing itself to be extorted.
Whether it is sympathy for the Jewish nation or simply a fear of backlash from U.S. voters, something seems to be holding the Obama administration back from taking a harsher stand with Israel.
Seeing as we were a visionary force for the creation of Israel (and thus the inherent conflicts with Palestine), this hesitancy is not terribly hard to grip. With news stations showing ISIS attacks and a general image of the Middle East in chaos, more pressure than ever is on the Obama administration to prove it can handle the region. Yet, is holding on to an increasingly hostile and ungrateful ally really worth a few votes in the midterm election?
One of the main criticisms from the Obama administration of Netanyahu is that he is “cowardly.” Specifically, the administration is disappointed with Netanyahu being so willing to bend to his hardline conservative voters instead of previous commitments. Obviously, this is a common criticism of politicians who at the end of the day are looking to keep their jobs (lest we forget Obama’s “evolution” on gay marriage to a position he openly held before talks of the oval office came into play). In this case, however, both politicians are equally guilty of selling their ideals for votes. As awful as Netanyahu is for essentially announcing a state-sponsored invasion of Palestine, isn’t Obama just as culpable for not doing something about it?
The fact remains that here in the U.S. many votes are cast based on the president’s handling of our ally Israel. Condemning a provocation against Palestinians is unlikely to change these votes much, but gives Obama the chance to shake his head and appear to fight for the moral side. Every partisan in this country is eyeing the midterm elections carefully, and that unfortunately means that our national policy will only be as firm as it is loud until Nov. 4. Both Congress and the president have long given up on action before the election, but that doesn’t mean that we have to.
We must not lose perspective during this political season, especially when it concerns the actions of our allies. Time and again Israel has shown itself to be an aggressive nation toward Palestine, but I fear the danger is greater now than ever. With the violence that is so easily shunned giving way to legislation, the American public will undoubtedly pay less and less attention. Netanyahu’s plan is a clear indication that a two-state solution is all but a fairy tale for Israel; the U.S. needs to send a clear message that we do not agree. This message can be conveyed in any number of ways, but I’d say start by cutting their aid.