For parents, discipline is, by far, the most difficult of everyday parenting skills. Punishments and rewards should be meted out fairly and consistently in a way that the child eventually understands what behavior evokes which response. At least, that is, in a perfect world. For the United States, its "child" is not only unruly, it has come to call the shots, much like a frayed parent who continually gives in to their wayward child just to keep them quiet, all the while convincing themselves that their parenting skills are just fine.
Israel is, by definition, one of those kids you hate to encounter at the supermarket, kicking and screaming until his tired and embarrassed parent gives in and heeds his often ridiculous demands. When the parent/child relationship is flipped topsy-turvy like this, it becomes glaringly apparent that something is just not right.
Over the past few months, the United States’ "tough" front regarding Israel has been chipped away piece by piece. Once upon a time, President Barack Obama was extremely adamant about halting settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, using language the Israelis are not used to, including phrases like "the settlements have to be stopped." As the months went by, these turned into a liquid "settlements are not helpful" and "undermine peace efforts", which seemed to only strengthen Netanyahu’s harsh retorts. "Jerusalem is not a settlement," the Israeli premier responded to US criticisms of settlement expansion in the eastern sector of the city. "Jerusalem is the capital of Israel." Netanyahu must believe in hitting two birds with one stone, silencing the US on settlements along with reiterating his government’s position on the holy city as Israel’s eternal and undivided capital.
Obama, clearly weakened since he took office, both by his inability to deliver on his campaign slogan "Yes we can" but also by mid-term election results, has now begun to grasp at straws where Israel is concerned. The emboldened Netanyahu obviously detects this weakness in the US President and is taking advantage of it. When US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton first proposed an incentives package to Israel earlier in the month, Netanyahu held back. According to the offer, which Netanyahu is now trying to push for approval in the top echelons of his government, entails the United States granting Israel 20 F-35 strike fighter jets valued at $3 billion in exchange for a 90 day freeze. In addition, the US would guarantee its veto on any anti-Israel resolution in the UN and possibly address border issues. Just please, Israel, heed our request just this once.
As Israeli tradition would have it, Netanyahu is not giving in too easily. Just like a bratty kid who wears his parents down to the point that they bribe him with unnecessary and frivolous gifts just to make him stop crying, Netanyahu is pushing the US to its limit. Even though the US is bending over backwards for Israel, the premier is still holding out, telling his cabinet of seven that he would not even put the proposal before them until he has America’s guarantees in writing.
The question is not why Israel is holding out but why the US is groveling. Israel has always played the role of the bad-tempered child, kicking and biting until its mighty "super-power" parent gives in or at least turns a blind eye to its unacceptable behavior. The US’s "time out" for Israel when it disobeys –” for example continuing to announce settlement construction in Jerusalem and the West Bank – is a lukewarm chiding when it should really be a full-blown punishment. President Obama is fully aware that settlements, including those in east Jerusalem are illegal under international law. He is also aware that as long as settlements exist and continue to grow, there can never be a just and lasting peace. There is also no doubt that he is aware of Israel’s real intentions, of wanting to grab as much land as possible and block any possibility of a viable Palestinian state in the near future.
It is really very scary to see just how much the United States jumps through hoops for Israel. This recent package of incentives alone is enough to see that the US is not concerned with pushing forward a viable and just peace but rather about appeasing Israel and frankly, encouraging its tendencies towards war. How do 20 fighter planes promote peaceful dialogue? They don’t.
Meanwhile, the Palestinians, supposedly a key player on the negotiations scene, are never asked what they think. The leadership has, nonetheless, made it clear it does not appreciate the fact that the US is bribing Israel with fighter planes which could very well be used against their own people just so they could hold out on more settlements for a mere 90 days. President Abbas has said that one, he will not accept any freeze that does not include Jerusalem and two, he refuses to link the peace process with any US offer of military aid to Israel.
Unfortunately, like in so many other insistences, the Palestinians’ point of view is not of significance. There is no doubt that once Netanyahu accepts the US’s package (and he will after a bit more drama), the Palestinians will once again be pressured to accept a backseat on the negotiating bandwagon. No matter that the demands for a freeze in all West Bank and Jerusalem settlements have been disregarded once again. No matter that no one has bothered to correct Netanyahu by saying that east Jerusalem is occupied territory under international law and cannot be recognized as part of Israel’s "capital." What is important is the "unbreakable bond" between Israel and the United States. Israel will get what it wants and the US will always facilitate even when it knows better and even when its actions are not always in its own best interests. Forget about the Palestinians. Just like the weary mother in the supermarket who ends up buying her kid another sugary treat so he will stop howling even as critical bystanders click their tongues, the US is once again kowtowing to Israel’s tantrums, surely even against its own better judgment.