I am puzzled by the special place the Israeli government has in the hearts of American politicians. I can understand, of course, why Americans of Jewish descent would feel affection for the land of their fathers. When I was growing up in Jamaica, my grandparents cherished their Scottish roots. And I can appreciate the reverence that Christians feel for the earth on which Jesus walked and which bequeathed us so much of our ethical and spiritual heritage.
But while I understand the ties that bind Americans to the land and its people, I do not understand the American government’s blind loyalty to the rulers of Israel.
Throughout history Israel has had good rulers and bad rulers. Rehoboam springs to mind as one of the bad ones.
I see Benjamin Netanyahu as another. He is not as bad as Avigdor Lieberman would be, but he is a lot more dangerous than Ehud Barak, or even Tzipi Livni. He certainly is no friend of the American government.
That fact was highlighted this week while U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was visiting Israel to promote a peace agreement with the Palestinians (Netanyahu is shown above greeting Biden). Netanyahu’s Interior Minister Eli Yishai picked that time to announce that he would build 1,600 new households in a part of the Occupied West Bank that the Israeli government had annexed into Jerusalem.
It was precisely this policy that has led Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to reject peace negotiations.
It is no secret that the current Israeli government has no real interest in pursuing an accord with the Palestinian people or in ending colonization of the Palestinian West Bank. But to proclaim it so brazenly during Biden’s visit was a shocking insult to the U.S.
If I were Joe Biden, I would have packed my bags and left the country. Instead, he showed up 90 minutes late to a state dinner hosted by Netanyahu to complain about the way he was treated, “I condemn the decision,” he said, calling it “precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now and runs counter to the constructive discussions that I’ve had here in Israel.”
Netanyahu has apologized for the timing of the announcement, but not for the substance. And I fail to see what Biden expects to achieve by remaining in the Mideast. It is time to abandon the “peace talks” charade and to distance America from the dangerously bellicose interests that have risen to power in Israel.
Still, I don’t expect any change in Washington. The Obama administration, like its predecessors, will probably continue to curry favor with any government that represents Israel. That’s a political fact of life in America.
But it’s bad news for the rest of the world.
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