In President Obama’s June 2009 Cairo Islam speech, he called for a Palestinian state and a freeze on Israeli settlements. The Obama administration seemed to be announcing a neutral U.S. policy in all things Middle East or at least a less pro-Israel approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. How naive we were.
Recently, Israel made the U.S. look ridiculous again by announcing the building of 1,600 new settler homes in an area of the occupied West Bank. The announcement came while Vice President Biden was in Israel to emphasize President Obama's commitment to Israel's security in the face of a possible Iranian nuclear threat. Clearly, this incident is another illustration of Israel's lack of interest or incentive to engage in meaningful peace negotiations with the Palestinians and its Arab neighbors and a snub of U.S. efforts to jumpstart peace negotiations. Does Israel want or need peace? Apparently not.
Israel has exploited the Israeli-Arab conflict by pioneering a successful defense and home security-related economy. It now enjoys a booming prosperity while it is in conflict with its neighbors. Israel’s economy is based on the prospect of continual conflict. Consider, Israel is the leading source of home security gadgetry and anti-terrorist technologies. Israel has over 600 security and homeland-security related companies. Israel is now the fourth-largest arms dealer in the world. The key products and services are high-tech fences, unmanned drones, biometric IDs, video and audio surveillance gear, air passenger profiling and prisoner interrogation systems, precisely the tools and technologies Israel has used to lock in the occupied territories.
Does Israel still need a close and supportive relationship with the U.S. to survive? Probably not. Israel's vulnerability in the Middle East is just a myth. The Arab states do not pose a direct threat to Israel at this time. Even though an Arab alliance has a quantitative advantage, Israel can rely on its technological and military dominance. Israel has a nuclear monopoly in the region, although there is fear that Iran will develop this capability. It has a military superiority vis-a-vis any possible coalition of Arab forces. It has the fourth largest air force in the world after the U.S., Russian, and China. It is the only state in the region with its own defense industry. It has the most modern military in the region with about160,000 personnel.
Before, it was David (Israel) versus Goliath (the Arab ring states). Now Israel has become the neighborhood bully.
Thus, it can be argued that a continued war on terror is good for Israel’s defense and home security-related industries. The closure of the occupied territories serves at least two purposes: to keep the Palestinians caged in and to advertise its defense and home security-related industries. Israel is achieving its goals of slowly taking over the entire country and driving out the non-Jewish population without the necessity of engaging in peace negotiations.
Clearly, the U.S. is not going to use any leverage it may have to force Israel to the negotiation table. Why? Because the conventional wisdom in the White House and in Congress is that it would be political suicide to threaten to cutoff foreign aid, military aid or loan guarantees to force Israel into meaningful peace negotiations. All that remains to the U.S. is bluster and outrage, which Israel and the Arab world have long realized signifies little or nothing. This is the price we pay for our lockstep support of Israel. As a result, the prospect for peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the next several years is slim to none.
Ralph E. Stone is a retired Bay Area attorney.