My Final Offer Is This: Nothing

Former Bush Jr. and Obama Defense Secretary Robert Gates sums up the advantages to the US of its relationship with Israel, according to this column by the wildly erratic Jeffrey Goldberg. As with this morning’s post about the decline and fall of the Republican Party, there’s nothing new here for anyone who’s been paying attention, but it’s noteworthy that higher-ups in the US are starting to notice these things:

But it was Robert M. Gates, the now-retired secretary of defense, who seemed most upset with Netanyahu. In a meeting of the National Security Council Principals Committee held not long before his retirement this summer, Gates coldly laid out the many steps the administration has taken to guarantee Israel’s security — access to top- quality weapons, assistance developing missile-defense systems, high-level intelligence sharing — and then stated bluntly that the U.S. has received nothing in return, particularly with regard to the peace process.

Senior administration officials told me that Gates argued to the president directly that Netanyahu is not only ungrateful, but also endangering his country by refusing to grapple with Israel’s growing isolation and with the demographic challenges it faces if it keeps control of the West Bank.  …

Last year, when Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel was marred by an announcement of plans to build new housing units for Jews in East Jerusalem, Gates told several people that if he had been Biden, he would have returned to Washington immediately and told the prime minister to call Obama when he was serious about negotiations. …

The reason the administration’s hard feelings toward Netanyahu matter now — and the reason several officials spoke to me on this subject last week — is that the U.S. is once again going to the mat for Israel at the United Nations, where Palestinians intend to seek recognition of an independent state in September.

The White House plans to contest this resolution in the General Assembly (where the move already has majority support), and the U.S. would most likely veto it in the Security Council. The Obama administration is right to oppose this ploy, which would undermine the chances of reconciliation and could lead to an explosion of violence on the West Bank. But they’ll oppose it in spite of Netanyahu, not to help him.

Dislike of Netanyahu has deepened in a way that could ultimately be dangerous for Israel. Time after time, the White House has taken Israel’s side in international disputes — over the UN’s Goldstone Report, which accused Israel of committing war crimes in Gaza; over Israel’s confrontation with the pro-Hamas Turkish “flotilla,” in which nine people were killed; and on many other issues. …

Netanyahu’s alienation of the White House has not gone unnoticed in Israel. Tzipi Livni, the head of the Kadima Party, said in a recent interview with me and Atlantic editor James Bennet that the average Israeli is more attuned to the importance of maintaining good relations with the U.S. president than is the current prime minister.

It wouldn’t be a Jeffrey Goldberg column without some wild, unexamined, unverifiable assertions about Israel’s critics and rivals (in this column, Iran and the flotilla), but despite his commentary, his reporting is worth considering.

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One Response to My Final Offer Is This: Nothing

  1. dedc79 says:

    I don’t have any idea how things will work out but if they go badly for Israel, I’m sure everyone will be second-guessing the time that was squandered over the past three years when the West Bank was relatively stable and the Palestinian Authority was actually interested in negotiating. The thing is, plenty of people (Gates included, apparently) have been second-guessing israeli strategy for years now and the israeli government hasn’t listened.

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