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Carrots, not sticks, can stop Israel’s settlement growth

 
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Ironically, while the United States offers carrots to the hostile regime in Iran to encourage it to change its policy on nuclear enrichment, the administration seems bent on using sticks on its ally Israel to force a change in its settlement policy. The approach is counterproductive and should be changed to one focusing on offering incentives for Israel to freeze settlements and evacuate Jews living outside the blocs of consensus settlements. Here are a few possible incentives to explore:

1) Set a deadline for eliminating Iran’s nuclear facilities. If the United States takes out Iran’s nuclear capability, then Israel has no more existential threat to worry about and does not have to take risks to do the job itself. Israel would be thrilled, but there’s little evidence President Obama has any intention of taking the necessary measures to stop the Iranian program and few American officials are willing to risk the consequences of a military operation. This would, nevertheless, be the most powerful incentive to change Israeli policy.

2) Sign a formal defense treaty with Israel. Though the United States has said it will defend Israel, a formal treaty would significantly reduce the threat of an Iranian strike and would also enhance its deterrent against groups such as Hezbollah. Many Israelis fear the constraints such a treaty may place on their freedom of action, but why not give them the choice?

3) Admit Israel to NATO. Israel’s army could contribute to the alliance and the alliance could all but eliminate the Iranian threat because it would force the Iranians to abandon the idea they can win a nuclear war with Israel. NATO forces would also be more reliable than U.N. peacekeepers to patrol borders, which would make it easier for Israel to make territorial concessions to the Palestinians as well as the Syrians and Lebanese. As with a U.S. treaty, Israel would have some trepidation about the restrictions NATO might seek to impose, especially with regard to nuclear weapons. The United States also could not make this deal alone.

4) Offer a generous compensation package to relocate settlers inside Israel. It is anathema to many U.S. officials to pay Israel to reverse a policy that America has long opposed, but any peace agreement will inevitably involve a significant financial role for the United States, so why not make a down payment on peace now? The most ideological settlers will still resist, but most settlers moved to the territories for economic reasons and will be receptive to financial incentives to relocate.

5) Pressure the Arabs to buy the land from the settlers. Jews bought land from Arabs to build their state; the Arabs should adopt the same tactic. This would be a good test for the Saudis, in particular, who feign concern for the Palestinians. Let them offer settlers money for their land. The Arabs will claim it’s already their land, but saying it won’t make it so.

6) Provide Israel with a large number of Joint Strike Fighter aircraft. These planes could help Israel achieve a significant upgrade to its air capability. As it is, Israel is expected to get some planes but cannot afford the large numbers it would like. There would be little downside to making the offer, though it may not be a significant enough benefit to offset the political risk of abandoning the settlements.

7) Finance the Red-Dead water project, which involves building a canal from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. This project will significantly increase the water supply in the area and thereby address one of the most critical issues affecting the economies of Jordan, the future Palestinian state, and Israel. An even better solution would be for Obama to find partners to help pay for the project.

Benjamin Netanyahu may offer the best chance for progress in the peace process because his national security policies give him greater credibility in Israel to make risky decisions. Beating him with a stick, however, is likely to bring down his government. This would only put negotiations off by months or years, and his successor may be no more malleable to Obama’s will.

If the president wants to stop settlement growth and move toward a peace agreement, it would be wise to drop the stick and offer Israel carrots.

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Stay tuned for the return of comments

Jeff posted 08 Aug 2009 at 06:38 PM

With millions of Americans out of work, California literally broke, Mitchell Bard calls on the US to provide yet more money and gifts to Israel in order for it to stop something that every US president has opposed and is considered to be illegal every place in the world but Israel. Perhaps he should take to heart what he wrotein an article that was published in the No. California Jewish Bulletin on May 14, 1993 when the US was in far better shape than it is today::

“President Clinton has asked the American people to make sacrifices to help ease the budget deficit and revitalize the economy. With everyone being asked to do their share, the question being asked is why should Israel be exempt?”

Victor Williams posted 09 Aug 2009 at 07:11 AM

Why must the West Bank be Judenrein?  We are expected to to welcome Palestinian Arabs into *our* homeland, and indeed we do so willingly (including offering Israeli citizenship in both 1948 and 1968).  In return, we are also expected to remove our people from their homes in Eretz Yisrael, as if their existence is somehow a stain on the land.  Why is no-one asking that Jews be given the same courtesy in (another) proposed Arab nation that we give in the one Jewish nation?  Draw the border where you will, but Jews should stay where they are.  Say NO to ethnic cleansing in Yesha!

Michael Hess posted 09 Aug 2009 at 05:13 PM

Why should Israel be rewarded for criminal activity?

The time has come for Israel to be forced to comply with UN resolutions and international law.

The colonization of land outside of Israel is illegal. Each and every “settlement” is illegal, Ban Ki-Moon has spent the last several weeks informing a succession of Israeli ministers of this well-known fact.

Iran is not about to nuke Israel. Israel is doing a fine job of destroying itself by the sheer greed and arrogance of a people who think they can steal land and resources from the indigenous people the land belongs to.

Israel can know peace when it goes back to living within its own borders; if it does not succeed at destroying itself over the “settlers” who have caused all of this grief.
Grief that I must add that increase the threat of terrorism worldwide.

Jan posted 09 Aug 2009 at 11:55 PM

I suspect that Palestinians might not have a problem with Jews living in a Palestinian state as long as they are not in Jewish only settlements where Palestinians are barred from living. Also it should be a given that Palestinians can live anywhere they want in Israel which has reserved 93% of the land only for Jews.

Michael Hess is absolutely correct regarding the illegality of settlements. There is not one settlement built on the territory occupied by Israel in 1967 that is legal under international law. And that includes settlements built in illegally annexed East Jerusalem. Unfortunately Israel has defied international law for all too long.

Perhaps the best solution, given that any space for a Palestinian state has shrunk to almost nothing, would be a secular democratic state for Israelis and Palestinians regardless of their religion.

 

Tzitz, tefillin, and the halachic process

Recent weeks have seen much discussion about the permissibility of women wearing tefillin.

Although I do not question the sincerity of the parties involved, and maintain high regard for the individuals involved, I see this as an opportunity to reflect on the unique mitzvah of tefillin and on maintaining the integrity of the halachic process. In addition to the specific halachic question involved, this controversy also raises the broader question of how halachah functions, and I would like to provide some perspective on both of these issues.

 

 

Ask the right questions

With the arrival and maturation of my generation, the Millenials, the question “Who is a Jew?” is rather passé.

Forget the halachic dimensions to this endlessly debatable topic. Forget all the moralizing arguments over the issue. Forget the demographically induced paranoia, the post-Holocaust hand-wringing, the Israeli legal maneuvering (not to mention the pandering that comes with it), and the denominational infighting. And — for heaven’s sake! — forget the Pew study.

The fact is that “Who is a Jew?” is the wrong question. To maintain our relevance — to regain it, really — the question we must ask today is “Why be Jewish?”

 

 

Holy water

Two weeks ago I visited a place in Israel that I had never seen before.

Shafdan, as the place is called, is a high-tech water reclamation plant just a few kilometers outside of Rishon Letzion. It looked a little like Area 51 in Nevada and it smelled a bit like the New Jersey Meadowlands. But what is happening there is amazing.

In the simplest of terms, Shafdan takes more than 90 percent of waste water — that’s water from kitchen and bathroom sinks, showers, drains, and toilets — from a large region in northwestern Israel. Shafdan repurifies the water, and then it can be reused.

 

 

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Passover reflections

Freedom is a tricky entity.

It can open avenues of positive imagination and creativity because a free people’s potential belongs ultimately to them and need not answer to a master who may limit that potential.

This is why the Haggadah must open with questions. Indeed, the Talmud tells us that if a person celebrates Pesach alone, he must ask himself the questions that lead into the story of the Exodus. The right to question, the ability to challenge authority, is the sign that a person ultimately is free. As long as an authority can say, “Keep that unacceptable idea to yourself,” you are not free. Therefore our Festival of Freedom must start with questions, which are always in some way subversive.

 

 

Why be Jewish? I’ll answer the question myself

In March I wrote in the Jewish Standard about the challenges posed to the organized Jewish community by my generation, the much- (if not, over-) discussed Millennials (“So, really, why be Jewish?”).

We need to refocus ourselves, I said, by turning away from questions like “Who is a Jew?” The key Jewish question of our time is this: Why be Jewish? “With the arrival and maturation of my generation, the Millennials, the question, ‘Who is a Jew?’ is rather passé,” I wrote. “The fact is that ‘Who is a Jew?’ is the wrong question. To maintain our relevance—to regain it, really—the question we must ask today is ‘Why be Jewish?’”

 

 

Hudson County is welcome to the federation

I read Joshua Einstein’s op-ed piece in last week’s Jewish Standard with great interest (“Hudson County needs a federation”).

He’s made a great case for creating a formal connection between Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey and the Hudson County Jewish community. His argument makes sense. Northern Hudson County has been in our coverage area for many years, so we already have connections there. We now provide services to southern Hudson, including those services Einstein mentions, and more. So it all seems like a natural fit.

 

 
 
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