Israel-Palestine relations not U.S. concern

Freedom New Mexico

The United States and Israel are said to be trying to dial back a sense of mutual outrage that has developed over the blindsiding of Vice President Joe Biden last week in Israel, followed by complaints from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, press secretary Robert Gibbs and presidential counselor David Axelrod, expressing U.S. outrage at what Mrs. Clinton called an “insult to the United States.” What should be de-emphasized, instead, is the curious notion that it is up to the United States to design and broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement and micromanage the process of establishing a two-state solution.

If the United States contented itself with having diplomatic relations with two entities — Israel and the Palestinian Authority — that are in the midst of what appears to be a currently intractable dispute over territory, diplomatic life would be much simpler.

One can understand why the Obama administration was especially embarrassed by the announcement, during Biden’s visit to Israel, that Israel planned to build 1,600 new housing units in east Jerusalem. President Obama demanded a year ago that Israel stop building new settlements entirely on the West Bank of the Jordan River, then discovered that his demand had no effective leverage over Israel except to cut off some $3 billion a year in military and economic aid, which he wasn’t about to do.

It was humiliating to learn this, but it was a slap in the face for the Israeli government (or elements of it; it is still murky whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knew in advance) to announce new settlements just when the vice president was visiting to proclaim the United States’ loyalty to Israel.

In the midst of the flap the U.S. decided not to send former Sen. George Mitchell, designated as the American negotiator/honest broker to create a two-state peace settlement between Israel and Palestine, on a planned trip. Instead, it ought to send the good senator back into retirement. There are solid reasons for both Israelis and Palestinians to want a two-state solution, but neither is especially interested in the idea just now.

In Ramallah last week, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas dedicated a public square to the memory of Dalal Mughrabi, a 19-year-old girl who in 1978 led the deadliest terrorist attack in Israeli history, killing 38 Israelis. That hardly sounds like a friendly gesture leading to the threshold of peace.

The United States has enough problems just now without trying to micromanage Israeli-Palestinian relations. It should take advantage of this public spat to pull back from that unwise ambition.