Comments: US-Israel relations

Pundits comment on the tense relations between Israel and the US over settlements.

Jewish settlers have demonstrated against the US opposition to settlement expansion [AFP]

Relations between the United States and Israel have been tense since Israel announced plans to build 1,600 new homes in occupied East Jerusalem while Joe Biden, the US vice-president, was visiting the country.

But speaking to a pro-Israel lobby group in Washington DC on Monday, Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said that “Jerusalem is not a settlement” and reiterated that Israel has the right to build there.

Al Jazeera spoke to a number of experts about the tense ties between the two allies and Netanyahu’s defiant speech.

Mustapha Barghouti, independent Palestinian politician

“President Obama has to decide whether he wants the United States to be part of the solution [of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict] and in this case he has to pressure Israel to freeze settlement activities.

“I think the American president is facing the same dilemma that all American administrations faced in the last two decades: can he have an independent American policy in the Middle East or will he continue to have a policy dictated by Israel and the Israeli lobby?

“If he chooses not to have an independent American policy, then there will be no solution in the Middle East and he will have to face the consequences of the effects of the Palestinian issue on all other issues that concern the United States.”

Fawaz Gerges, professor of Middle East politics and international relations at London School of Economics

“I think we’re seeing the beginning of change. We’re seeing that the Obama foreign policy team believes that the status quo is no longer viable … What the administration has not done is tell us what it means by its vision of peace. 

“The Obama administration does not have the political will to exert pressure on its ally [Israel] and tell its ally … that ‘you must not build in East Jerusalem because occupied East Jerusalem will be the capital of a new Palestinian state, you must freeze and stop all settlements on the West Bank’.

“Any American president has a limited political capital and Barack Obama, even though he’s genuine, even though he wants to achieve peace during this term, does not seem to be really ready at this particular moment to spend his precious political capital by exerting pressure on Israel.

Ron Kampeas, Washington bureau chief of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency

“[The current US-Israeli tensions] is not a minor niggle and it’s not the worst crisis in 35 years either. 

“One of the big differences between this crisis and tensions between the United States and Israel in 1991, when George W Bush was president, and during the first Lebanon war when [Ronald] Reagan was president, [is that those tensions] led to actual threats or cut off in assistance; of loan guarantees in the case of Bush and fighter jets in the case of Reagan

“There has been no threat, nobody is touching any assistance so far in this case.”

Stephen Walt, professor of international affairs at Harvard University’s John F Kennedy School of Government

“More and more people in the United States and elsewhere, including supporters of Israel, realise that a one-state solution is ultimately going to be very bad for Israel and could cause a lot of conflict and hardship, at least in the short term, for Palestinians.

“If there isn’t a two-state solution, Israeli and American interests are going to continue to diverge. Even if they’re able to smooth over the problems of the past weeks … this sort of thing is going to keep happening if Israel becomes more and more of an apartheid state.”

Source: Al Jazeera

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