Timely Warning: Israel’s Settlements Put US Ties at Risk

October 29, 2014

An article in The Atlantic pointed out something that all of us in the pro-Israel, pro-peace, pro-democracy community have known for some time: there is a deep problem in the US-Israel relationship primarily caused by the pro-settlement, anti-peace policies of the current Israeli government.

Much of the media attention here and in Israel has focused a single word attributed to an unnamed official characterizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in terms the White House has called “inappropriate and counterproductive.” We agree that such ad-hominem attacks have no place in relations between close allies.

Aside from revealing a double-standard among many in Washington who remained silent when Israeli officials made egregious ad hominem attacks against US officials in recent months, the focus on this one word has distracted attention from the serious issues raised in the article.

J Street has been warning for months that Israel cannot continue to push ahead with its reckless settlement policy without suffering serious consequences. There are huge costs to Netanyahu’s apparent decision to throw in his lot with the settler movement, not least damage to the crucial US-Israel relationship.

Driving ahead with settlements also puts serious obstacles in the way of ever reaching a two-state solution with the Palestinians; it deepens Israel’s diplomatic isolation, gives fuel to the global BDS movement, exacerbates tensions in Jerusalem and the West Bank and it ultimately will threaten Israel’s future as a democracy.

The Obama administration has been stalwart in its support of Israel. The military relationship between the two nations has never been stronger. The US-funded Iron Dome missile defense system protected millions of Israelis against Hamas rockets last summer.

When Israel has needed US help, the President has been there. Secretary John Kerry put his heart and soul into working for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, only to be dismissed by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, speaking on the record, as “obsessive and messianic.”

According to the article, the administration may, after next week’s election, lay out a “public, full lay-down of the administration’s vision for a two-state solution, including maps delineating Israel’s borders” based on the 1967 lines with land swaps. J Street has been calling on the administration to do this and would welcome such a move.

The article in The Atlantic is timely in reminding us of the true state of USA-Israel relations created by Netanyahu’s policies. Israelis should pay attention, not to the sensational quote but to the serious substantive problem that the article highlights.