America's Inconsequential Anger
At Wednesday’s State Department briefing, Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner addressed the issue of Israel’s decision to expand settlements in the West Bank, saying: “We do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity. And we want to see these parties… refrain from these kinds of actions and to get back into negotiations.”
Associated Press reporter Matt Lee responded thusly:
As an Israeli who is also an American, I can’t tell you how grateful I am when people actually ask that question.
The US government has opposed the settlements since they started, and successive Administrations—Republican, Democratic, conservative, liberal, two-term, one-term—have made at least some minimal effort toward establishing a Palestinian entity in the West Bank and Gaza.
The establishment of a full-fledged Palestinian state has been America’s official, stated foreign policy goal since the Administration of George W. Bush. American Presidents, Vice Presidents and Secretaries of State have said over and over and over again that settlements get in the way of a two-state resolution and that the US “does not accept the legitimacy of Israeli settlement activity.”
And Israel rolls on.
So what is the consequence for Israel of America’s anger? Exactly nothing. Indeed, when the legitimacy of West Bank settlements came to a vote in the United Nations last year, the US voted against its own stated policy.
In 2001, describing how he’d successfully manipulated the Clinton Administration with Israel’s Hebron withdrawal, Benjamin Netanyahu told a group of settlers: “I know what America is. America is a thing you can move very easily, move in the right direction…They won’t get in our way.”
Netanyahu may be a man of over-weaning self-confidence and almost monumental hubris, but that was the simple truth.
On Wednesday, Toner informed Lee that the US “continually raises” the issue of the new settlement expansions with the Israeli government.
Lee: How effective would you say that has been over the past couple of years?
Toner: I’m not able to give it a grade.
Lee: Can I volunteer to give it a grade? If you continually tell someone not to do something and they continue to do it over your objections, I think that gives you an F.
Of course, it could be argued that there are very real consequences to America’s doing F-level work regarding Israel: The unraveling of the two-state dream, and the end of Israel as a Jewish democracy.
As an American who is also an Israeli, I dearly wish that my American government would acknowledge that non-action has consequences, too. My Israeli government is driving the country’s future off a cliff.