The Jewish right has always had a special place in its rogues gallery of enemies for Dan Kurtzer, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel and Egypt. I've always thought that was because his pro-Israel credentials are so strong that his critiques of Israeli policy have to be taken seriously – except, of course, by those who believe Israel is the only nation in the history of the world incapable of making mistakes or pursuing flawed policy.
Kurtzer did it again today with a Washington Post op-ed arguing that the Obama administration's offer of a big incentive package in return for Israel's agreement to a one-time 90-day extension of its West Bank settlement freeze is a bad deal for both countries and for the cause of peace in the region.
The administration, he writes is “prepared to pay off Israel to freeze only some of its settlement activity, and only temporarily. For the first time in memory, the United States is poised to reward Israel for its bad behavior.”
Has the Obama administration thought through its offer? Kurtzer, a seasoned and thoughtful observer, obviously thinks it hasn't.
He asks: if the administration wins a temporary, partial settlement freeze with an incentives package, will they pay the Palestinians “to, say, halt the incitement against Israel and Jews in their public media and some educational materials - something that shouldn't have been going on in the first place?”
He cites a long list of problems with the offer, including one that “should worry Israel profoundly. If it goes through, this deal will shake the foundation of the U.S.-Israeli strategic partnership.”
Since the 1980s, he writes, the U.S.-Israeli strategic relationship has “been insulated from the vicissitudes of politics and diplomacy.”
That, Kurtzer says, would no longer be true if the deal goes through. “By subjecting Israel's defense needs to the political demands of an American administration, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has done something quite dangerous for Israel - he has made those needs contingent, negotiable, optional. Israel's security requirements are now merely a bargaining chip with which to negotiate what Jerusalem will or will not do to advance the peace process.”
Give it a read; Kurtzer's analysis is one of the best takes yet on a move that suggests to me that this administration is completely lost in the morass of Middle East politics and diplomacy.
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