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April 01, 2009

Are You Smarter Than an Israeli Prime Minister?
Posted by Michael Cohen

Last night I was arguing with my father that states generally make rational decisions vis-a-vis their perceived national interests; Ilan's post below about the new Netanyahu government in Israel really tests my thesis.

Not only do you have the new Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman declaring that "Israel was not bound by commitments it made at a U.S.-sponsored conference to pursue creation of a Palestinian state" but the same story in Ha'aretz indicates that the new Israeli government also intends to distance itself from the U.S. led Annapolis peace process, which of course embraced the idea of a two-state solution.

This is the diplomatic equivalent of Bibi Netanyahu putting a "kick me" sign on his back and inviting the US government to go to town. If Barack Obama had any desire to put pressure on Israel to make concessions for peace, the Netanyahu government has just given him a golden opportunity. It's one thing for Israel to drag its feet on the peace process; its quite another to poke a sharp stick in America's eye and declare that they are not going to abide by agreements reached under the auspices of US diplomatic initiatives.

As Mahmoud Abbas's spokesman succinctly put it,
"This is a challenge to the international community and to the United States that adopted the two-state solution." He's exactly right and it's very difficult to imagine the Obama Administration taking this sort of thing lying down. And none of this will be good for Bibi's already poor public image; Israel is one of the few countries where pissing off America is not a smart political move.

Perhaps Bibi has been reading too much Stephen Walt, but I don't think the Israel Lobby is going to have much of a leg to stand on in arguing against US pressure on Israel in response to this. Bibi has given Obama a golden opportunity to almost painlessly put pressure on Israel's new government. Let's hope he takes it.


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I doubt that Lieberman thinks that Israel can stand up to American pressure. Stupid he is not. Maybe they think that the only way to arrive at a deal is if they are seen as having to give into American pressure. Bibi could claim that he really doesn't want to make compromises 1, 2, and 3, but what can he do, America is Israel's strongest ally and they have no choice. I could be wrong and things might get nasty, but right-wing does not necessarily mean politically stupid. In no small response to present Israel-American relations, I am currently reading Irwin Wall's book France, the United States, and the Algerian War. A very interesting read about strong allies and what happens when one of them (the US) disagrees strongly with the policy of the other (France).

Also, see this blog post for an interesting take on Bibi's interview and American-Jewish Washington politics.

Also, see this blog post for an interesting take on Bibi's interview and American-Jewish Washington politics

Also, see this blog post for an interesting take on Bibi's interview and American-Jewish Washington politics

Pretty great article.I would say if Israel's next prime minister intends to prevent Teheran from acquiring the means to implement its stated aim of destroying Israel, he or she must be prepared to stand up to America....

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