Tuesday, November 27, 2012
A Nagging Thought
Last week a friend left a comment on this blog that got into my head and wouldn't leave me alone.
It was a short comment, but it got so far under my skin that I quite literally have been losing sleep over it.
The relationship between Israel and the US is not what one could possibly call 'balanced'. Sadly, Israel needs the US far more than the US needs Israel. We are dependent upon the US not only for an unhealthy level of foreign aid, but also for its veto at the UN security council.
Although Israel certainly has some value to the US as an ally in the Middle East, and as a test bed and sometimes partner for the development of defense and aerospce technology / products. It is a rare thing indeed for my country to find itself in a situation where our American patron is figuratively 'over a barrel' and genuinely has no choice but to do something for us... or we simply won't budge.
We found ourselves in such a position last week.
The Obama administration, mere days after its election victory, was placed in a very awkward position by Israel's untimely decision that we'd (once again) had enough of the missiles from Gaza and launched a military operation against Hamas.
As much as every US administration in the past half century has wanted to be the one to bring peace to the middle east, the last three or four US presidents have really been in a diffiuclt position because not only can't they get Israel and the Palestinians to play nice together, they are excruciatingly aware that, for better or worse, the Arab world holds the US responsible for pretty much everything Israel does.
So you can imagine, having the stink of Israel beating the crap out of Hamas in Gaza hanging over every US diplomat for the next four years was certainly not how the Obama administration had envisioned kicking off its second term.
Within microseconds of the Israel Air Force introducing Ahmed Jabari to his 72 virgins, the US began trying to figure out how to broker a cease fire in such a way as to demonstrate that it had been the US that stayed Israel's hand.
Less than a week into the operation, Hillary Clinton flew over here and began meeting with Israeli officials... and magically within a few days our Prime Minister and his spokespeople were starting to talk publicly about the possibility of a cease fire. The message she conveyed to Israel's PM from President Obama was probably something along the lines of, "You backed the wrong horse in our elections and now we own you, bitch. Wrap this up or we start turning off the spigot on your jet fuel and F-16 spares."
Take note that it wouldn't be enough to have Israel simply declare that the goals of its operation had been met. No, it had to do so at an odd moment in the midst of one of the most intense days of Hamas rocket fire on southern Israel so as to prove that neither the decision nor timing were Israel's own.
During these few days of strong-arming, the US probably trotted out all manner of threats and enticements to bring Israel around. But until Israel actually said 'yes', the balance of power was momentarily shifted in Israel's favor, just enough that we had what the arbitrage crowd likes to call 'leverage'. We couldn't ask for just anything... but we could certainly ask for something!
So far as details of the cease fire terms trickle out, pretty much everything I'm seeing are concessions that Israel made to Hamas: Easing of border restrictions... Palestinian fishermen allowed to go further to sea... Palestinian farmers being able to go closer to the border fence, etc., and nothing in return.
Which brings us to the tantalizing comment that has gotten so far inside my soul and won't let me sleep:
"Israel should have demanded [Jonathan] Pollard's release as part of the deal."
And just like that I realize how badly we squandered this rare moment of leverage we had with the US.
How many hundreds of Arab terrorists has Israel been forced to set free as part of deals the US pressured Israel to accept? How many times have we squandered our meager political capital on empty promises and un-enforceable agreements?
And here, for the briefest of moments last week, we held the keys in our hands to free just one of our own... and we let the moment pass.
Posted by David Bogner on November 27, 2012 | Permalink
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I actually was hoping that the deal was made under the table and that when Dec 25th comes around and the pardons/clemency/time serve commuted are announced Pollard will be on the list. It would certainly make Bibi look better....as of now he came out of this like a real loser in the eyes of the south, the youth who were pumped up to do their service, etc....
Posted by: Lenny Solomon | Nov 27, 2012 10:13:53 AM
I can't think about Hillary Clinton without thinking about how she harangued the prime minister for -- what was it -- 45 minutes? Gee, I wonder how long she spent haranguing the rocketeers in Gaza....
Posted by: Rahel | Nov 27, 2012 10:41:24 AM
Posted by: Dave | Nov 27, 2012 5:04:49 PM
Now that missiles from Gaza can reach major population centers,Israel should make the US stand up to its pledge to stem the weapons flow into Gaza. If the US and Egypt don`t act, Israel will be forced to employ more destructive weapons and tactics in any future round. The US can`t be forced to act,but Israel should make the consequences of inaction clear.
Posted by: ED | Nov 27, 2012 6:39:19 PM
Here is a petition to the White House regarding Pollard. First it needs to reach 150 signatures so that it will be publicly posted on the White House's "We the People" petition site. Then if it reaches 25,000 signatures by mid-December, the White House (by its own ground rules) will be obliged to answer it.
Posted by: Mark L. Levinson | Nov 27, 2012 10:38:58 PM
My impression is that there was much more media talk of US pressure regarding Lebanon and the first Gaza war than this time around.
Posted by: zalman | Nov 28, 2012 1:58:30 AM
Levinson's petition link is broken... says the page is no longer available. Imagine that.
Posted by: ProphetJoe | Nov 28, 2012 10:09:30 PM
I hate to disagree but Israel should not make concessions to get Pollard released.
To the extent Israel has leverage or can get things from the US, it should ask for things that will help it materially in its struggles against its adversaries and/or protect its citizens.
The US should release Pollard because it's the right thing to do. Pollard, as a patriot, shouldn't ask Israel to make concessions that would weaken it in exchange for his release or give up something that would strengthen it.
A patriot shouldn't ask the country he loves to do things that weaken it in exchange for his freedom.
A patriot should act to stengthen the country he loves, not to be a reason it makes concessions.
Posted by: Jonathan | Nov 30, 2012 4:22:43 AM
the link to the petition is
Posted by: Almoni | Nov 30, 2012 8:08:22 PM