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Decisions for Israel

I have no problem with the idea that Israel is a sovereign nation that doesn't have to listen to anybody or do anything it doesn't want to do. If it wants to continue constructing illegal and counterproductive settlements then that's, like, its journey, man, and no one can tell another person, or country, have to live their journey.

That gets harder, though, when Israel is taking $3 billion a year in aid from the United States, a country with a stated policy opposing the settlements and prioritizing the peace process. Israel's game right now is to gamble that they can oppose the Obama administration's policies without suffering any actual consequences. That may be true. For awhile. But it's not a very safe place for Israel to be in the long-run. Israel shouldn't want American politicians waiting for a chance to radically change the relationship between Israel and the United States and punish Israel for years of ostentatious intransigence. Such an opportunity would, by definition, involve a moment of real weakness on Israel's part, and that's probably not something they want American leaders to see as a welcome and overdue opportunity.

By Ezra Klein  |  July 20, 2009; 11:05 AM ET
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right on bro

Posted by: LZ85 | July 20, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

The Israelis know that no American politician is going to suggest cutting aid. Why should they listen?

Posted by: SimonCox | July 20, 2009 11:18 AM | Report abuse

those that support these settlements, will reap what they sow.
the usurping of land and the inhumane way the palestinians are being treated, is being watched by the entire world.

support j street. i hope they continue to grow as a collective voice for justice in the jewish community.

Posted by: jkaren | July 20, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

You are back! For quite a while, I didn't see any anti Israel posts, in which you were more pro Hamas than even the average palestinian.

Posted by: truck1 | July 20, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

The $3 billion we give to Israel and the $2 billion we give to Egypt annually are basically the US bribe to both countries to maintain the Camp David peace between them.

It has little or nothing to do with the Palestinians or with Israeli settlements on the West Bank.

Posted by: Vizcacha | July 20, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

So, Ezra, you've got no problem with billions of dollars of US aid going to the repressive government of Egypt? Israel's the only country that inspires you to use foreign aid as a stick?

Posted by: tomtildrum | July 20, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Not to mention our public money going to support a theocracy. What's up with that?

Posted by: bluegrass1 | July 20, 2009 1:46 PM | Report abuse

In international politics with domestic US constituencies, it is far far harder to stop doing something than to start something new. Look at the Cuban trade embargo by the US. How many votes will this garner in Congress for removal? Maybe 30-40% in the House, and 10% in the Senate.

The US financial support for Israel (military and non-military) is even more strongly embedded. There is no chance this will be removed, and without that chance being in the 40-50% range, Israel will not change course.

The one thing I think Obama can do is change the US posture on collective security organizations. The US veto in the UN Security Council has been a shield to protect Israel's position from hostile resolutions, and similar US support has been present in the EU and NATO. This could swing some part of Israeli public opinion since they dread being labelled appropriate to their conduct.

In the UN vote on Gaza before Obama took office in January, "Fourteen of the Council’s 15 members voted in favour, with only the United States abstaining."

This was a change of direction for the US, which usually vetoed this kind of resolution. Obama has signaled there may be more of this, and it could make a difference. Israeli governments don't last long if the US is leaning against them - Netanyahu was a previous casualty from this tactic, and I'd bet they are wary of it happening again.

The best part is that Obama can largely do this change of attitude/support without the congress. Diplomacy is clearly the executive branch stick that might work.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | July 20, 2009 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Well, either a theocracy or ethnocracy, depending on how you define "Jewish state". Either way, just a tad bit against our core principles. I suppose you could make the argument that it's analogous to Indian reservations, but I'm not sure how well that holds up, or if the comparison is even that flattering anyway.

Posted by: bluegrass1 | July 20, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

tomtildrum, it depends how much our relations with Israel are a matter of strategic interest versus ideological/cultural alignment. Obviously it's both, but certainly providing aid to Israel with no strings attached is not in our strategic interest. If we're helping them, it should be on our terms.

Posted by: bluegrass1 | July 20, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

It is emphatically *not* Israel's own business if they build settlements outside of their borders -- unless you think it would just be North Korea's own business if they invaded South Korea, for instance.

It's simple. If Israel thinks the West Bank is part of Israel, then they need to extend the rights of citizenship to the people who live there. If not, then Israel cannot simply annex portions as it sees fit, granting rights to the residents of an area only after that area has been purged of goyim.

Posted by: davestickler | July 20, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, last post should have started with "regardless of the aid situation..."

Posted by: davestickler | July 20, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

"Well, either a theocracy or ethnocracy...."

Neither, actually. Arab citizens of Israel can vote.

Posted by: tomtildrum | July 20, 2009 5:22 PM | Report abuse

The founders of Israel, Herzl, Weizman, Ben Gurion and Dayan, would be gratified to know that a young punk has "no problem" with the idea of Israel.

Posted by: truck1 | July 21, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

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