Enough carrots. It’s time for the U.S. to use sticks to change Israeli Policy

Jul 22, 2023
Then Vice President Joe Biden visit to Israel March 2016.

It’s hard to know whether to cry or laugh reading the highlights of the hour-long conversation Joe Biden had with the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman on Tuesday, after meeting President Isaac Herzog.

One can cry over the impotence and uselessness of the strongest superpower in the world when it comes to its protégé, Israel. And one can laugh at the reversed roles of the ant and the elephant.

One can cry that America has learned nothing and forgotten nothing about the only way Israel can be dealt with, if one really wants to influence it, and one can roll over laughing at how Israel continues to make a fool of the United States.

The outcome is the same: Israel can continue doing anything it wants, enact anti-democratic laws, carry out pogroms against the Palestinians and continue with the apartheid – the United States won’t lift a finger.

Even when Washington grumbles, rages, fumes, condemns and even delays inviting the prime minister – the most awful doomsday weapon – Israel doesn’t have to take it seriously. America talks and never shoots. If it ever wants to influence Israel, something that has yet to happen, it will have to start shooting, as the American saying goes.

The terrible Biden, who isn’t inviting our Netanyahu, despite all the suffering of the Jewish people, “pleads” with Israel. Pleads. Friedman may have written that Biden conveyed a clear message that the legislation must stop, but this message is hollow, as were most of those that preceded it.

Over the years Israel has learned to ignore these messages. Nothing bad happened to it. This can only mean that the pleader himself doesn’t really want to see the side he’s pleading with change its ways. Biden is paying lip service to Israeli democracy and isn’t saying a word about what his country will do if Israel doesn’t heed his plea.

Without a price tag, Mr. President, nothing will change. Haven’t you yet learned this, after so many years of assessment and “reassessment”? And how easy it is to influence Israel with deeds: You want a visa waiver, treat Arab Americans decently. And lo and behold, Israel does as it is told. Enough with the carrots, it’s time for the sticks, especially if America holds Israel dear.

Just as it led the longest (and most sterile) “peace talks” in history, so the United States is doing with the regime coup. In both cases it’s not only America’s right to intervene, it is its duty, and in both cases it’s betraying that duty. All the right’s blather about these being internal Israeli affairs is absurd.

The occupation is certainly no internal matter, and changing the regime in Israel requires the United States’ intervention, as long as it finances and supports Israel by virtue of those “shared values.”

Those who believe Israel must solve its problems by itself must also admit that this experiment has failed and is hopeless. The superpower has responsibility for the regional reality here. We’d have had a different Middle East and a different Israel had America been different.

No other country has the power to change reality like America, and no other country has so betrayed its duty. Endless peace plans, empty talk about the two-state solution, which Biden keeps promoting shamelessly, knowing it’s leading nowhere. And Israel is further than it has ever been from ending the apartheid.

It is America’s right to gorge Israel with its taxpayers’ money, to arm it to the teeth and support it blindly in international institutions. But why not condition all this support on something? On something in return? On a change of direction?

It can only mean that the entire business isn’t really important to the U.S. either – neither peace, nor some justice for Palestinians nor the danger to democracy. It’s only lip service the U.S. is paying to look good to itself and some of its voters. The day America really wants to exert influence, it will know exactly what it must do: Cut the bullshit.


First published in HAARETZ July 20, 2023

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