‘A shift in US policy toward Israel?’
Nevertheless, this blog entry by Haraatz Chief US correspondent, Shmuel Rosner, is well worth reading.
It's posted in its entirety to show exactly how closely intertwined US and Israeli policy really is and how Israelis know - long before Americans ever find out - exactly what our nation's next moves in Middle East policy will be.
Of course, that brings us back to the age old question of what shapes US Middle East policy - US interests or Israeli?
Maybe it's both. Theories abound. But one thing's for sure - it aint our interests.
The first sign came late last week when an Israeli official told me to pay careful attention to Philip Zelikow's key note speech at the Washington Institute's "Weinberg Founders conference". Zelikow is Condoleezza Rice's senior advisor - and he was speaking here Friday night. The next day, people were still struggling to put his speech into the proper perspective. Does it really mean a major shift in U.S. policy on the Arab-Israeli conflict?Note, the process must "show signs" of progress - not necessarily substance.
Zelikow was quite clear, and what remains to be seen is the way in which his words translate into policy. He said that in order to keep the European allies and the moderate Arab states on board, as the U.S. tries to confront Iran's nuclear plans, the Israeli-Arab peace process will have to show signs of progress.
It's the "give us Iran and we will give you Israel" policy, one evidently unhappy attendant of this conference told me. Others were playing it down, saying it was just rhetoric - and that no plans for real, meaningful, negotiations exist anyway. "What will they ask Israel to do, meet with Abu Mazen? - so you'll meet with Abu Mazen," one experienced American said.You gotta love it. These people have no qualms admitting publicly that the whole so-called 'peace process' is nothing but an empty farse.
However, Zelikow did say something of some significance. He was in fact establishing a link between dealing with Iran and progressing with the Palestinians. He was also saying that it was in Israel's best interest: It is threatened by Iran in a fundamental way, and working toward a solution there is worth the price it might be asked to pay in other areas.The obvious implication, of course, is that Palestinians do not pose a fundamental threat to Israel - no matter how often and how strenuously Israelis complain. The threat Hamas poses to Israel is akin to that of a housefly.
In the past couple of days, Zelikow was not the only U.S. official I heard talking about this "new" policy, this projected renewed emphasis on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. But he was the one explaining it in the most honest way. The U.S. is simply too dependent upon the Europeans in handling Iran, the war on terror and other issues. The U.S. has no other choice but to give them the only thing that matters to them and that will enable them - politically speaking - to cooperate with Washington.Thanks for the tip, Shmuel. We will listen carefully, with special emphasis, thanks to you.
Right now it is difficult to predict what this "new policy" will mean in practice. This coming Tuesday, the President is scheduled to speak at the UN and his speech should clarify things for everybody. Will he go as far as Zelikow? The advice he gets from people in his administration can sometimes be contradictory. If he chooses to follow Zellikow (and Rice) he will go in one direction. If he chooses to follow the advice of others (Cheney?), the Zelikow strategy will not play an important role.
And of course, there's the more probable prospect of trying to have it both ways. Bush will not change course in an abrupt way, but rather will modify his current policy. He talked about some of the things with Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and she didn't seem bothered by it. Some guests at the Washington Institute conference (proper disclosure: I'm also a guest) think she just didn't understand what Bush and Rice were telling her. But I find this suggestion strange: Livni was talking positively about the President's speech next week, as if she knew it was something Israelis should look forward to.
I write this short report rather hastily, and more analysis of the new policy - if it really exists - should follow. But here's an early tip I can give already: listen carefully to Bush's speech. This will not be the routine "I'm-George-Bush-and-you-all-know-my-policy" speech. Zelikow has made it very clear.