Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bibi, Don't Take the Deal

As we speak, the Cabinet of the Knesset is weighing whether to accept an American proposal for security guarantees to Israel in exchange for a three month moratorium on building in Judea and Samaria. Despite my being rather right-wing and in favor of continued construction and Jewish presence in our Biblically mandated lands, I'm against the deal for a very different reason: We're essentially discussing a bribe, and taking bribes never works in the end, either for the briber, or the bribed.
Essentially, the "security guarantee" is $3billion in advanced fighter planes. Now, I like advanced fighter planes as much as the next guy. They fly over my house practically every day. But what do fighter planes have to do with the security arrangements in the West Bank? What have they got to do with whether we do or don't build in East Jerusalem? Nothing. And that's what bothers me.
In an op-ed article in the Washington Post, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer writes,
This is a very bad idea. And while Washington will almost certainly come to regret bribing Israel, Israel may regret receiving such a bribe even more.
I agree with him, and found some of his points critical. But while I don't agree with his thesis that Israel is "behaving badly", he's right on the money when he calls the deal a bribe, plain and simple. And we shouldn't take it.
The reason I believe we shouldn't take it is because of the attitude of normal Americans. It's difficult to overstate their justified anger at Wall Street, General Motors, and the other fat cats that the American government bailed out and gave money for no reason. Often, the most angry Americans are the ones who offer Israel the greatest support.
And now we've got our own hands out, asking for money to justify a peace process that no one is their right mind thinks will pan out. Does that smell right? If I was a "regular" American, that would make me pretty mad, and wonder whether all that other money the U.S. gives to Israel isn't also some kind of payout - when it fact it really does represent an important strategic investment in the Middle East.
Taking the money now will only reinforce the very worst stereotypes about the Jewish State: that all we want is America's money, whether it's good for the United States or not.
If Bibi thinks that we should refreeze building for another three months, then he should try to push the initiative through without the promise of new planes. And if he doesn't think it's a good idea, then taking planes as an "incentive" to change our minds is a very bad idea, making us look cheap and petty, and willing to sell our souls (and our ideals), as long as it's for the right price.