Monday, March 15, 2010

Neither Sticks nor Stones

As could have been guessed, the rhetorical assault over Israel's latest settlement development move has had no effect. We could have seen it coming. We already knew that the full extent of regret on the part of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had to do with the bad timing of the announcement, rather than the substance of the Ramat Shlomo plan itself. This was confirmed by the latest report on Al Jazeera English:

Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has rejected calls from the US to halt settlement plans in occupied East Jerusalem, saying plans for building new homes would go ahead.

In a speech to Israel's parliament on Monday, Netanyahu said construction "will continue in Jerusalem as this has been the case for the past 42 years" in reference to the 1967 occupation of the mainly Arab territory.

Yesterday I reported that we had heard little from Israel's defenders in this country to respond to the level of indignation expressed by Vice President Joseph Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Chief of Staff David Axelrod (presumably speaking on behalf of President Barack Obama). Yesterday AIPAC finally released a statement, which at best can be described as muted:

AIPAC calls on the administration to take immediate steps to defuse the tension with the Jewish State.

Nevertheless, it is clearly a reaction against American indignation, even it is it not a blatant endorsement of Israeli arrogance. If it assumes that defusing the tension is strictly an American responsibility, rather than a joint effort of both the United States and Israel, then the statement is unlikely to improve the reception it is likely to get "in the lobbies of the Congressional buildings," as I put it yesterday. There is no guarantee, of course, that the lobbying power of AIPAC will fall from its currently lofty height. However, if, as is likely, AIPAC is one of the major impediments to our being perceived as an "honest broker" (which would justify why a country like Brazil should now be considering entering as a mediator), then a radical diminishing (if not elimination) of AIPAC influence will be prerequisite to rebuilding our credibility in the Middle East.

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