Congress Shows Lack of Leverage With Threat To Cut Off Aid

Withholding Aid Only Reduces American Influence on Palestinans

By Larry Derfner

Published October 07, 2011, issue of October 14, 2011.
  • Print
  • Share Share

As an Israeli who sees the occupation as a plague both on Palestinians and on Israelis, I think it’s a good thing that Congress just held back $200 million in economic aid to the Palestinians as punishment for their statehood bid at the United Nations. It’s a good thing, because now that the Republican Party (and much of the Democratic Party) is indistinguishable from Likud USA, American involvement only makes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict worse, so the less influence America has over here, the better.

And the withholding of the $200 million gives the United States even less influence over the Palestinians than it had after President Obama, at Israel’s behest, did them in at the United Nations.

The Arab League has already offered to make up the $200 million to President Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. The United States can even hold back on all $600 million it gives annually to the P.A.; there are plenty of oil-rich Muslim regimes that would love the honor of displacing America in Palestine. And if the P.A. goes broke, the 76-year-old Abbas says he’ll have no qualms about closing down the whole operation and letting Israel police the refugee camps, villages and cities and float the economy of 2.5 million Palestinians.

So who’s threatening whom? Congress has no leverage whatsoever over Abbas. This gray eminence has become, for the first time, a national and Third World hero by defying America and going for it at the U.N.; if anybody thinks Abbas now going to bow down to Congress’s demands, withdraw his statehood bid and thereby become a national and Third World quisling, it ain’t gonna happen.

America has taken itself out of the picture in Middle East peacemaking. It can help Israel go to war and even win a war, but not make peace. In the past two years, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israel lobby and a radicalized GOP have overpowered Obama, the United States is no longer merely pro-Israel — it is pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian, pro-Israel and anti-Muslim.

American policy in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become unrecognizable. Never before have there been major contenders for the presidency speaking out not only for Israeli security, but also for Israeli settlements, for Israel’s right to rule what Republicans now obligatorily refer to as Judea and Samaria. Never before did a party campaign on the message that anything less than 100% support for Israel and 100% opposition to the Palestinians amounts to letting the terrorists win.

What happened to America? Why does Netanyahu’s worldview now seem to infuse the nation?

I think what has happened is that since 9/11, Muslims have become America’s new Communists, its new nemesis. Israel isn’t America’s friend now just because it represents the Judeo side of Judeo-Christianity, or because it’s a symbol, albeit outdated, of the sort of underdog Americans love. No, Israel is now America’s friend also for the most potent of geopolitical reasons: because it is the enemy of America’s enemy, its new nemesis, the Muslims.

Muslims have been Israel’s nemesis, too, and long before 9/11. So Americans and Israelis now find themselves in exactly the same boat, with a common enemy. The identification between the two countries has become complete. Now anybody who pressures Israel is strengthening the Muslims, which means that anybody who pressures Israel is strengthening America’s enemy.

This, I believe, is what ultimately lies behind Obama’s cave-in to Israel, behind the Republicans’ conversion to the cause of Greater Israel and behind Congress’s withholding of $200 million to the Palestinians. America has a new enemy, and American public opinion and politics have followed suit.

So now, if you were a Palestinian, would you want such an America to mediate your nation’s conflict with Israel? Would you trust such an America to lean on Israel to make it get its soldiers and settlers out of your face and let you have your freedom and independence? No, you wouldn’t. If you were a Palestinian, you would be in the market for a new mediator, which is where the Palestinians are today.

And as an Israeli who sees the occupation as a plague on all concerned, I’ve also had it with American mediation. All it’s doing for my country now is enabling its most nationalistic and militaristic tendencies, helping it slide into the next war, helping it lose its place in the democratic world, helping it self-destruct. If that’s “pro-Israel,” give me neutrality. Please.

Larry Derfner is a former columnist at the Jerusalem Post. He writes on his personal website, Israel Reconsidered.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.