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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.

 

Remembering Regina Jonas

Conversion to Judaism is very much in the news today — and for all the wrong reasons. But at the moment, my interest is not in the history of conversion itself, but in the way that it is read into next week’s Torah reading, parashat Lekh Lekha (Genesis 12-17).

The Torah reading opens with God commanding Abraham to set forth on a journey to a place unknown. Abraham sets forth with his wife Sarah, his nephew, all their possessions, and “the souls that they had made in Haran.”

How does someone “make” souls? The midrashic collection Genesis Rabbah, compiled some time in the fifth through eighth centuries, interprets this strange clause as referring to converts. Why did the text say “made” instead of “converted”? To demonstrate that converting someone to Judaism is like creating that person anew. But why the plural? Doesn’t it really mean that he, Abraham, had made or converted those souls? No. Abraham converted the men; Sarah converted the women (Genesis Rabbah 39:14).

 

 

Cold hearts and sub-Saharan Jews

I remember vividly how moved and inspired I was as a child when — at a very early stage of my Jewish education — I was introduced to the sage Hillel and his own youthful entrée to Jewish scholarship.

Hillel went on to become a renowned scholar, a beloved and oft-quoted national leader, and the founder of an important rabbinic dynasty. The brief story — my first “Talmud lesson” — is familiar. Working as a poor woodchopper, Hillel would devote half of his meager earnings to daily necessities. The other half he spent on the fee required for admission to the bet midrash — the Babylonian academy where Torah was taught by the great Shemaiah and Avtalyon. One winter Friday (during the month of Tevet, the Talmud records) he was without sufficient means to enter the citadel of learning. He was turned away. Undeterred, he climbed atop the roof, to listen to the lesson through a skylight. There he stayed until Shabbat morning, when he was found covered by three cubits of snow. “The snow came down from Heaven,” the text (Yoma 35B) says lyrically. (Even in my New England childhood, that daunting volume of snow fired my imagination!)

 

 

Scandals in the rabbinate

In the wake of the recent, highly publicized mikvah scandal, I wonder what possesses men and women who have dedicated themselves to the perpetuation of Judaism and its values to abandon those values.

Often enough this occurs in the domain of sexual wrongdoing, but there also are recorded instances of such ethical offenses as the misuse of discretionary funds for personal or family needs, and criminal activities including the embezzlement of synagogue or Jewish organizational assets. The parties involved often have sterling records of service to the Jewish community and are well-respected as clergy in their denominations and then suddenly all hell breaks loose regarding a discovered transgression that is not a mere peccadillo. Why does this happen?

 

 

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Speaking about the unspeakable

 

A view from the pew

The recent debates over the so-called Jewish State basic law was the catalyst, though not necessarily the true cause, for the collapse of Israel’s coalition government.

What was this debate really about? As a Chanukah gift to ourselves, I suggest that each of us do a Google search of the following list of internationally recognized legal documents: the Balfour Declaration; UN Resolution 181, dated November 29, 1947; the Israeli declaration of independence; and UN Resolution 242, dated September 1967.

Each of these internationally recognized legal documents are proof that for nearly a century, the international community has affirmed and re-affirmed the right of the Jewish people to re-establish ourselves as an independent Jewish state in the land of Israel. You will note as well that over that same century, the Jewish community in the land of Israel and in the diaspora has affirmed our responsibility to recognize the political and religious rights of non-Jewish residents of the pre-1948 community and of the equality under law of all citizens of Israel.

 

 

Divided we fall — united we may stand

As I look out on the world from my vantage point in relatively safe and protected Teaneck, I am often reminded of these lines by the Irish poet William Butler Yeats: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world…”

Here, in the United States, we seem less united than at any time since the Civil War. In much of the Arab world internal sectarianisms and a return to tribalism seem to hold sway. Within the Jewish world we seem to have splintered into ever smaller, more closely defined, exclusive and exclusionary fragments. Even in Teaneck, we are deeply factionalized.

 

 
 
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