There’s a lot of talk about what Barack Obama and John Kerry should, or can, or might, or won’t do in support of the two-state Israeli-Palestinian peace that has been a stated American policy goal for many, many years, following the collapse of talks. On Friday morning, we learned that Obama has suggested a “pause” in negotiations, to give the parties a chance to consider their futures without an agreement.
If history is any guide, though, we know exactly what the U.S. will do at this juncture: Nothing.
Or, more precisely, if history is any guide, the U.S. will continue to do more of the same. The U.S. will more than likely continue to put more pressure on the Palestinians (who have less to give and less autonomy with which to give it) and almost none on Israel (which is the side with a state-of-the-art military and a whole lot of bulldozers). If history is any guide, the U.S. will continue to allow Israel to undermine American interests in the region with its continued rejectionist policies and actions, and while it’s true that the U.S. may make noises that get Israel’s political class wound up, bottom line, history tells us that there will be no consequences for Israel’s building on Palestinian land or killing of Palestinian civilians. None.
And the simple truth is that Prime Minister Netanyahu knows this. He’s been around the negotiations block a time or two, and to suggest that he feels any concern that this White House is about to do anything substantive to slow his roll is borderline delusional. Since the mid-1990s, Netanyahu has done everything he can to thumb his nose at successive American governments and torpedo any notion of a viable Palestinian state. His efforts having been thus far successful, why on earth would he stop?
After meeting Bibi in 1996, President Clinton famously said, “Who the f— does he think he is? Who’s the f—ing superpower here?”
Not to put too fine a point on it, but I think that Netanyahu has for some years had a pretty clear idea on his relative position to the superpower. As he put it in 2010:
I know what America is. America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction. They won’t get in their way.
If the President and Secretary of State should prove Bibi (and me) wrong, this American-Israeli will be first in line for the celebration. But as I, too, have been around the negotiations block a time or two, I will not be holding my breath.