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>> Haaretz


Haaretz - March 28, 2010

by Zvi Bar'el

If there's a photo the White House should issue after Benjamin Netanyahu's visit, it's a group portrait of the prime minister, his Iraqi counterpart and the president of Afghanistan embracing Barack Obama together. 

They are all heads of governments attached to the U.S.'s umbilical cord. They all experience insecurity in the region, and the world is concerned about each of the three's security. Washington manages domestic policy for each of them, since each poses a danger to American foreign policy. In Iraq, Washington is involved in disagreements among Sunnis, Shi'ites and Kurds. In Afghanistan, Washington dictates conditions to the president to help advance its war against Al-Qaida. And when it comes to Israel, the United States showed clearly last week that it will not allow domestic Israeli politics to interfere with American foreign policy. 

The group photo is a fitting picture of how Israel's situation has deteriorated during Netanyahu's short term in office. We're not talking about yet another clumsy Israeli foreign minister whom no one wants to meet, or irksome building permits. Netanyahu poses a threat to Israeli security because he tips the balance of U.S.-Israeli relations, which are essential for our survival. And not only these relations. If Washington gives Israel the cold shoulder, it will be showing the way for other important countries, from Britain to Egypt and Brazil to Turkey, to do the same. Israel is no longer an exotic citron, but has been exposed as just another lemon.

We may mock Netanyahu for the impolite reception he received in Washington; we can snipe about the late hour of his meeting with Obama, past Israeli television's prime time, and ask why Obama abandoned the talk for dinner with his children. But then we remember that this isn't some other country's prime minister who is being kicked around; this danger on wheels is our own. 

In a properly-run country, concerned about its own survival, thousands would have met the prime minister on his return, calling for his resignation. In such a country, gangs of squatters who steal land and buildings in Jerusalem would be considered organizations opposed to the nation's security interests. They would be taken to court, at least. In Israel, they are a symbol of national pride. 

This arrogant government is sure that ever since it annexed the occupied territory in Jerusalem, it granted Israel control for all eternity. Jordan's King Abdullah can tell the lovers of eternity what happened to the so-called legal annexation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem to Jordan. This is the same Jordanian East Jerusalem that Washington will recognize as the capital of Palestine. 

For generations the settlers have been blamed for posing an obstacle to peace, for acting against the policy of the government, which, poor soul, can't stand up to these bullies. And so, while Washington believed that the Israeli government wanted to take action against such subversive organizations but had problems, it showed restraint, gave in a little about the construction freeze, patted Netanyahu on the shoulder and granted extensions to the government so it could manage its own affairs. 

There is no longer any basis for this approach. The Israeli government, and the seven wonders in charge of it, are inseparable from the bullies. And so Washington had to conclude that the government and prime minister were simply lying. 

Washington's main interest is no longer whether the peace process will advance, because there are no guarantees that even direct talks with the Palestinians will end in an agreement. Washington's interest is to preserve its standing in the world against a small state and its crafty government, which made it a laughing stock. This will be a true test of the United States' ability to apply foreign policy. What is good for Iraq and Afghanistan, Washington figures, will also suit Israel now, because if Israel rebuffs Washington, Iraq and Afghanistan will, too. 

And so the American formula is the same for all three. The United States will take care of the security of Israel/Iraq/Afghanistan, but security will not be measured only in the number of weapons sold to them, but also in the creation of conditions that will avoid the need to use them. To a certain extent, it will also be measured by these countries' willingness to agree to U.S. policy. In this way, a new condition has been created that should have been applied a long time ago. According to it, any country that is willing to harm the international standing of the United States is gambling on its own security. This is not a threat, but a clarification.

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