When the Americans truly want something from Israel, they know exactly how to get it: with threats and force. It’s a pity they don’t use this tactic when it comes to the occupation.
Avigdor Lieberman didn’t understand what happened when he was repaid in kind. He forgot how the Americans had informed then-defense ministry director general Amos Yaron that the Pentagon’s phone had been disconnected. That happened after the Americans accused Yaron of lying to them about an arms deal with China, The Bush administration knew, of course, that Yaron did not act on his own behalf, but it decided to make do with his head.
When it came to Lieberman, Washington only told him to swallow his tongue and tuck his tail between his legs. That was a language that Lieberman, like all of us, understands.
The defense minister didn’t know what hit him. Why was his predecessor Moshe Ya’alon permitted to tongue-lash Secretary of State John Kerry, and Benjamin Netanyahu permitted to suck up to the Republican-majority Congress while he was disciplined? Why the discrimination?
The very fact that Lieberman issued his disparaging “Munich agreement” announcement in the heat of a United States election campaign in which the seriousness and the experience of the Democratic administration in addressing global issues is being challenged, shows just how ignorant and primitive the man is.
The real question, however, is why the U.S. refuses to link its enormous aid package to Israel to progress in the Palestinian arena. The only reasonable answer is that the occupation and the apartheid regime in the territories simply don’t figure in the equation to the degree they should.
Israel is an important ally, its military potential is at the service of the U.S. at all times. But the relationship is not reciprocal. Washington in effect vetoed an Israeli attack on Iran by refusing to supply the necessary means. The Netanyahu-Barak government gritted its teeth but was silent. The White House asked Israel not to intervene in the invasions of Iraq, not to lift a finger in Syria, and Israel obeyed once again.
The United States has an interest in those areas by dint of being a power with global responsibility. The Palestinian issue is completely marginal, even meaningless, to it, as is Israel’s long-term future.
It’s only natural that Barack Obama, a black social activist from Chicago, shies away from Israeli Zionism, which rejects the fundamental rights of another nation. But Obama is president today, not a social activist. As such, he is not prepared to use drastic means, such as lifting the American veto in the United Nations. Above all, he does not create a direct association between military aid to Israel and progress toward the two-state solution.
As a superpower, the United States seeks calm and stability. Ariel Sharon once characterized Israel as an American aircraft carrier. The definition pretty much holds today: To the Americans, it’s enough for the sea to be calm; but for us, as a free society, it’s the road to perdition.
Are there any practical measures that can be taken in this regard? If not for the many problems faced by the European community, a European flanking maneuver might be fruitful. Public opinion and the political elite there, especially in the founding states of the European Union, loathe Israel’s policy in the territories. Western Europe today is the genuine ally of everyone who fears for our future.
But the majority of Europeans are no longer capable of distinguishing between Israel within the 1967 borders and Israel the occupier. The hostility toward the occupation and the apartheid in the territories causes Israel to be perceived as a single colonialist unit. That package must be taken apart and the settlements placed beyond the fence. Israel within the Green Line belongs naturally to the West; the territories are not Israel, but rather a colony that heaps shame on Zionism and on Jewish history.