President Obama is so desperate to keep Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu glued to the peace talks negotiation table for two additional months, that he appears to have authorized an “incentive package” to Israel that is demeaning, dehumanizing, and insulting to Palestinians.
The “package” deal is said to be contained in a letter from Obama that has been delivered to Bibi Netanyahu. A report of the letter has been “leaked” by a David Makosky, a close associate of Obama advisor Dennis Ross.
The New York Times reports that “the package of incentives for Israel was devised largely by Dennis B. Ross.” (Ross is pictured above with Prime Minister Netanyahu.)
Mark Landler wrote in the Times that the US is offering Israel:
military hardware, support for a long-term Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley, help with enforcing a ban on the smuggling of weapons through a Palestinian state, a promise to veto Security Council resolutions critical of Israel during the talks and a pledge to forge a regional security agreement for the Middle East.
Talk about giving away the store in a deal that cheats the original store owner, just look at the significance of this package, the implications of which Mark Landler does not describe in detail, sparing his pro-Israel readers the ugly meaning of the deal.
The package promises that the United States will support a long-term Israeli “presence in the Jordan Valley”, an American guarantee that gives away yet more Palestinian land, the rich farm area that runs along the Jordan River and which, of course, allows Israel to protect itself from a mighty Jordanian army which might pour across the Jordan river to attack a hapless nuclear power. The absurdity of that image is mind-boggling.
The package is nothing less than another American endorsement of Israel’s take over of Palestinian land.
The US will also “help” Israel prevent any arms “smuggling” into Gaza. And, pray tell, how will that be done? By assuring Israel it may retain a security barrier in the south of the Gaza Strip, more land confiscation and further assurance that blockade of all Gaza will continue?
And how about that part of the “incentive package” that the US will veto Security Council resolutions critical of Israel during the talks. So what is new? The US already automatically vetoes all resolutions “critical of Israel”. Would this mean that if Israel bombed Iran, and the UN sends up a protest resolution, even that act of war would get a US veto because the US always keeps its word?
What do the Palestinians get as their part of the “incentive package? Reuters is reporting that the US promises the Palestinians that it will support their preference for the outline of a border between the West Bank and Israel along the Green Line.
Since Israel’s “apartheid” (separation) wall, built well within the 1967 Green Line, is already such an established “fact on the ground”, the emptiness of that promise should be obvious to anyone actually paying attention to the negotiation process.
The “incentive package”, so generous to Israel and demeaning to the Palestinians, could not be accepted by Netanyahu by himself. He needs to gain the support of his right-wing Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman who told the United Nations General Assembly recently:
Israel should drop plans to negotiate a peace deal within the next year, and pursue a two-stage interim pact that could lead to decades of negotiations and the redrawing of Israel’s borders to separate Arabs and Israelis.
Lieberman’s ultra conservative racist worldview is embarrassing to many American Jews and Israeli citizens, but he does lead a political party that could block any effort by Netanyahu to accept the insulting “incentive package” Dennis Ross has delivered to Bibi.
At first, the Israeli government rejected the US proposal, but this might change now that the Israeli Cabinet, on Sunday, passed a new citizenship law drafted by Lieberman’s right wing party that would require “every non-Jew wishing to become a citizen to swear loyalty to Israel as a Jewish state.”
The Jerusalem newspaper Ha’aretz, reports that in the Cabinet meeting twenty-two ministers voted in favor of the proposal. Eight ministers were opposed.
Prior to the Cabinet vote,
Netanyahu said the amendment to the citizenship law would require that “anyone seeking to become a naturalized Israeli citizen will declare [that] he or she will be a loyal citizen of the state of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”
Gideon Levy’s Sunday Ha’aretz column opens with this headline:”The Jewish Republic of Israel: Swearing an oath to a Jewish state will decide its fate. It is liable to turn the country into a theocracy like Saudi Arabia”.
Levy’s column, written for his Jerusalem readers, begins
“Remember this day. It’s the day Israel changes its character. As a result, it can also change its name to the Jewish Republic of Israel, like the Islamic Republic of Iran. Granted, the loyalty oath bill that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking to have passed purportedly only deals with new citizens who are not Jewish, but it affects the fate of all of us.
From now on, we will be living in a new, officially approved, ethnocratic, theocratic, nationalistic, and racist country. Anyone who thinks it doesn’t affect him is mistaken. There is a silent majority that is accepting this with worrying apathy, as if to say: “I don’t care what country I live in.”
Also anyone who thinks the world will continue to relate to Israel as a democracy after this law doesn’t understand what it is about. It’s another step that seriously harms Israel’s image.”
Finally, we must ask: Who is this Dennis Ross, the American diplomat who has emerged as the peace talks point man for the Obama Administration, shoving aside George Mitchell and even Secretary of State Hillary Clinton while engaging in deal making with the likes of Avidor Lieberman?
Ross is a long time neoconservative operative working within the American Israel Public Affairs Committee network. Makowsky is his colleague who currently works for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), a neoconservative think tank founded in 1985 by Martin Indyk, a former research director of AIPAC.
Before joining the Obama team, Ross was a Middle East peace negotiator for President Bill Clinton. With Democrats out of power during the Bush years, Ross worked for WINEP.
At the start of the Obama administration, Ross was given a broad range of responsibilities in the State Department, none of which involved Israel because Ross was regarded by some as “an unsuitable diplomat for the Middle East because of his strong ties to Israel.” Earlier in 2010 Ross was moved from State to the National Security Council. The website Rightwebpicks up the story:
According to a report in Haaretz, unnamed “diplomatic sources” in Israel speculated, among other reasons, that Ross might have been moved out of State and into the NSC because of a book he cowrote with David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), which is titled Myths, Illusions, and Peace—Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East.
In the book, which was written before Ross was tapped to serve in the administration, Ross and Makovsky express views at odds with the approach taken by the Obama State Department, including arguing that the United States must delink Iran policy from issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Nathan Guttman of Forward, [an American Jewish publication] wrote that some experts saw Ross’s move to the NSC as an “olive branch to Israel,” which has chafed at Obama’s tough line on Israeli policies toward Palestinians.
Aaron David Miller, a former Mideast peace negotiator, told Guttman, “It’s clear that if Obama wants to advance something on Iran, and on the Israeli-Palestinian front, he will need to reach a modus vivendi with Israel, and that will require someone who knows the Israelis well.”
It is now clear that Dennis Ross, a longtime neoconservative and Israeli supporter ensconced in the Washington establishment, has assumed a major role in US-Israel relations.
Meanwhile, in Sirte, Libya, on Friday the Arab League voted to walk what the New York Times referred to as a “diplomatic tightrope”. The League agreed to give American peace process negotiators one additional month to reach an agreement with Israel on a settlement freeze.
The League has long been a paper tiger which issues statements but does little to support its members, especially the Palestinians. One major Arab League member, Egypt, for example, supports Israel’s Gaza blockade by closing off its border with Gaza.
Jonathan Cook, a British journalist who works in the West Bank, has suggested that Obama’s “incentive package” for Israel would have gained a two month settlement construction freeze long enough to extend the freeze through the US November elections.
Too bad we don’t have Helen Thomas sitting in the front row at Obama’s press conferences. She could ask the president to explain the Dennis Ross letter drafted for Obama. No other White House journalist seems to care.
Could it be that Thomas was sandbagged by that renegade rabbi into making an ill-advised statement in a street corner interview, just so she could be ousted from her job?
Meanwhile, if you are wondering what the Jordan Valley “security border” that Obama promised Israel in the “package” deal, looks like, the United Nations map at the right side of this page provides an overview of the space Obama proposes become a permanent part of Israel. The red areas on this map represent land under Israel’s total control. Obama’s offer would simply codify that reality.
Sure seems like a lot to give away to get only a two month extension of talks that are going nowhere in the first place.