The National (Editorial)
November 15, 2010 - 1:00am

An enabler is not the same thing as a friend. In its relationship with Israel, the United States has rarely understood the difference.

This American naïvety has been exploited by Benjamin Netanyahu more frequently than perhaps any Israeli prime minister. But for the sake of peace and the region's security, the Americans cannot continue to enable those elements of Mr Netanyahu's coalition and of Israel's population who have shown little interest in compromise. If the Americans cannot get the Israelis to change their behaviour and soon, the Palestinian Authority will have little reason to believe that the US is an honest or appropriate broker of a two-state solution.

Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, has made it clear that he will not return to direct talks with Mr Netanyahu until Israeli settlers stop building on land that may be included as part of a future Palestinian state. In return for a 90-day halt to settlement construction in the West Bank - excluding Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem - the US has offered Israel some of the most sophisticated weaponry in the world, 20 F-35 fighter jets, costing US taxpayers $3 billion. This should also go a long way to address Israel's stated concern about its security.

But if past performance is any indicator of future results, the Israeli prime minister is likely to reject this latest US offer. After an eight-hour meeting with the US secretary of state Hillary Clinton on Friday, Mr Netanyahu said only that he would bring the proposal to his government. And during a meeting of Mr Netanyahu's cabinet yesterday, at least four of its members were reported to have expressed vociferous objections to the latest US proposal. The remarks of Mr Netanyahu's vice premier, Silvan Shalom, were particularly revealing: "The strategic covenant between the United States and ourselves cannot be dependent on certain actions."

If the friendship between the US and Israel is indeed a "strategic covenant", based on the US providing Israel carte blanche to break international law, then the Americans are ill-suited to be a broker for peace. The Palestinian people and their leaders would be better served by pursuing other partners for peace and other avenues to statehood than the US-led effort. As Saeb Erakat, the chief negotiator for the Palestinian Authority, wrote in The National yesterday: "It will make no sense to continue in a process where the occupying power is not willing to implement previous obligations and the third parties involved do not have not have the will to apply international law."

The US is a poor friend to peace if it continues to enable Israel. It must show that it can hold the Israeli government accountable.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017