Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Riots in East Jerusalem as Mitchell Cancels visits

In what Israel’s ambassador to the United States has called “the most severe crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations” in decades, George Mitchell has indefinitely postponed a planned trip to the Middle East.

At the same time hundreds of Palestinians rioted in East Jerusalem today, hurling rocks at security forces who countered with stun grenades and rubber bullets. Tensions were fuelled by the reopening of landmarked synagogue in Jerusalem’s old city and construction projects near the al Aqsa mosque compound.  

As you all know the new round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have been scuppered by  after Israel’s announcement last week of the construction of 1,600 new housing units in Ramat Shlomo Building project in contested East Jerusalem, a predominantly Arab enclave, during Biden’s recent visit, causing uproar in the obama administration.

Netanyahu, hemmed in by his right wing (and frankly racist) coalition partners, defended the decision on the flimsy basis:

“Construction will continue in Jerusalem as this has been the case over the past 42 years.”

Ah, so occupation and creeping annexation by force majeure becomes more acceptable the longer it goes on. Thanks for that Bibi. No doubt the longevity of Communist oppression in Eastern Europe made it OK.

Maybe Obama has picked the right issue to push back on here. Illegal settlement on the West Bank is one of the least popular issues among Israelis. However, Zbigniew Brzezinski, one of the first big foreign policy veterans to back Obama, has been critical of the White House’s stance on this issue.

Obama has not taken on board the internationally-favoured blueprint for peace in Israel and Palestine, involving the sharing of Jerusalem, the resettling of refugees (duly compensated) in Palestine, and land swaps to make up for the Jewish settlements.

If only he had embraced the consensus, writes Brzezinski, “he would have exerted enormous influence on both the Palestinians and the Israelis… So far the Obama team has shown neither the tactical skill nor the strategic firmness needed to move the peace process forward.”

It is often said that only a right wing Government can make peace with the Palestinians – though there seems to be little evidence of this since the tragic assassination of Rabin.

My sense is that Americans, usually Israel’s most staunch and uncritical of allies, have begun to tire of the intransigence of the current administration.

What thinks the Moose?


  1. DTOzone

    and living and working in the New York media, I know pro-Israel bias better than anyone.

    Last week, before this exploded, we had no less than 15 people come into our office or write letters demanding we devote more time talking about “the plight of the Jewish people” and accusing us of being secret Palestinian mouthpieces.

    They are so afraid of losing the influence in government. But they should not fret, the media is on their side;

    A larger question concerns Mr. Obama’s quickness to bludgeon the Israeli government. He is not the first president to do so; in fact, he is not even the first to be hard on Mr. Netanyahu. But tough tactics don’t always work: Last year Israelis rallied behind Mr. Netanyahu, while Mr. Obama’s poll ratings in Israel plunged to the single digits. The president is perceived by many Israelis as making unprecedented demands on their government while overlooking the intransigence of Palestinian and Arab leaders. If this episode reinforces that image, Mr. Obama will accomplish the opposite of what he intends.

    I’m sorry, why should we care about Obama’s poll numbers in Israel? How many electoral votes does Tel Aviv have?

    The gall of someone to suggest Obama needs to be more concerned about what Israelis think of him than what Americans do. I mean why don’t we just renounce our nation and make us a province of Israel?  

  2. HappyinVT


    I will say, however, that I think Israel is in real danger of overplaying its hand.  Gentile guilt only lasts so long and as we get further away from the Holocaust and as people learn that the situation isn’t as one-sided as it is often portrayed the Israelis don’t come out smelling so much like roses.

    I strongly believe that the US needs to pull the plug on some (all?) of our military/monetary support.  Does anyone believe that Israel cannot defend itself?  Does anyone believe that Israel doesn’t have nuclear weapons?  Puhleeze.

    AIPAC is meeting this week, I believe; SoS Clinton is supposed to address them.  Should be interesting.  

  3. creamer

     I understand we have a significant Jewish population, but the policy of Tel-Aviv in regards to the Palestinians is somthing we would condem as illegal and imoral if it were happening anywhere else in the world. Yet we give them cover. If were going to suck up to somone that routinley violates the rights of people, shouldn’t we pick somone with somthing we want?

  4. Shaun Appleby

    Of the right of wrong of Israel’s position it strikes me as incredibly short-sighted for an ally who depends on the American alliance for their survivial to make us look weak as a matter of political strategy.  Biden said it all:

    “This is starting to get dangerous for us,” Biden reportedly told Netanyahu. “What you’re doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That endangers us and it endangers regional peace.”

    Mark Perry – The Petraeus briefing: Biden’s embarrassment is not the whole story Foreign Policy 13 Mar 10

    Yes, it is and Petraeus knows it.  One thing you can say about Obama’s Iraq/Afghanistan strategy is that their are some pretty sharp and capable minds running it:

    On Jan. 16, two days after a killer earthquake hit Haiti, a team of senior military officers from the U.S. Central Command, arrived at the Pentagon to brief Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The team had been dispatched by CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus to underline his growing worries at the lack of progress in resolving the issue. The 33-slide, 45-minute PowerPoint briefing stunned Mullen. The briefers reported that there was a growing perception among Arab leaders that the U.S. was incapable of standing up to Israel, that CENTCOM’s mostly Arab constituency was losing faith in American promises, that Israeli intransigence on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was jeopardizing U.S. standing in the region, and that Mitchell himself was “too old, too slow … and too late.”

    Mark Perry – The Petraeus briefing: Biden’s embarrassment is not the whole story Foreign Policy 13 Mar 10

    Israel’s Right-wing government, obsessed with Iran as an ‘existential’ threat, is now perceived at the highest military levels as endangering our regional security.  Two things are important to consider, one that the Obama administration has wisely decoupled the Iran issue from its negotiations with Israel and that Netanyahu was aware of the CENTCOM report, and the implications for the broader US-Israeli alliance, at the time of Biden’s arrival recently.

    This was more than a diplomatic gaffe or insult, this incident is the tip of the iceberg of a sea-change in the contemporary US-Israeli relationship on several levels.

  5. HappyinVT

    Comittee under “Cross-cutting Challenges to Security and Stablity” in reference to CENTCOM’s AOR:

    Insufficient progress toward a comprehensive Middle East peace. The enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests in the AOR. Israeli-Palestinian tensions often flare into violence and large-scale armed confrontations. The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the AOR and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support. The conflict also gives Iran influence in the Arab world through its clients, Lebanese Hizballah and Hamas.

  6. HappyinVT

    The Israeli government is a coalition.  What are the chances of the left side of the coalition pressuring Netanyahu?  Or, what effect, if any, could this have on the coalition?

  7. HappyinVT

    reluctant “yea” on HCR.  He’s announcing his vote Wednesday and it will be interesting to see what he has to say.

  8. via goldberg:

    I’ve been on the phone with many of the usual suspects (White House and otherwise), and I think it’s fair to say that Obama is not trying to destroy America’s relations with Israel; he’s trying to organize Tzipi Livni’s campaign for prime minister, or at least for her inclusion in a broad-based centrist government.  I’m not actually suggesting that the White House is directly meddling in internal Israeli politics, but it’s clear to everyone — at the White House, at the State Department, at Goldblog — that no progress will be made on any front if Avigdor Lieberman’s far-right party, Yisrael Beiteinu, and Eli Yishai’s fundamentalist Shas Party, remain in Netanyahu’s surpassingly fragile coalition.

    i tend to agree… and i think obama and clinton are playing this perfectly. domestically, in israel its already being framed by the opposition that netanyahu views his own personal ambition as more important than the US-israeli relationship. which, is viewed by many israeli’s as sacrosanct. livni:

    “I suggest that we avoid getting carried away and calm down.” She said, “If the prime minister proposes everybody calm down and says everything is okay, it’s time for him to hear the truth. It’s not predetermined that the entire world is against us. Reality can be changed. This calls for a prime minister with vision and a path who does not leave national security in Eli Yishai’s hands.”

    unlike many, i do believe that this israeli announcement was in fact a mistake. not in the sense that it wasn’t deliberately timed to by the fringe right to be announced during biden’s visit. but rather that netanyahu wasn’t aware of it timing.

    amongst other things, it has created an opening for kadima as both they and meretz filed a no-confidence vote this week.  

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