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Israel May Want to Take a Step Back Here

Via Robert Farley, Yossi Peled, an Israeli cabinet minister, proposes that Israel stop buying U.S. military equipment if the Obama administration continues to insist on a settlement freeze and negotiations with Iran. The Jerusalem Post reports that Peled wrote his cabinet colleagues an 11-page letter lamenting President Obama’s outreach to the Muslim world:

“Obama’s ascendance represents a turning point in America’s approach to the region, especially to Israel,” he wrote in the letter. “The new administration believes that in order to fight terror, guarantee stability and withdraw from Iraq, a new diplomatic slant is needed involving drastic steps to pacify the Muslim world and the adoption of a more balanced approach to Israel, including intensive pressure to stop building in settlements, remove outposts and advance the formation of a Palestinian state.”

This, for instance, won’t go over well:

Peled recommends intervening in American congressional races to weaken Obama and asking American Jewish donors not to contribute to Democratic congressional candidates. He predicted that this would result in Democratic candidates pressuring Obama to become more pro-Israel.

Peled called for the formation of a new body intended to influence American public opinion. The groups he suggests courting include Hispanic Americans and Labor unions in industries that benefit from Israeli military acquisitions.

Now, people who don’t obsessively follow Israeli politics will probably read Peled’s description of Obama’s positions on the Arab-Israeli conflict and ask what’s so controversial about asking Israel to “stop building in settlements, remove outposts and advance the formation of a Palestinian state,” all of which are either longstanding international obligations or principles that previous Israeli governments have accepted in writing. And they’ll probably really not like to read that a foreign government and *ally *believes it should intervene in U.S. elections in order to weaken the popular president so he won’t compel that ally to act on such longstanding international obligations. As for American Jews, about 77 percent of us voted for Obama. And when a Politico story suggested that Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) might face a conservative-Jewish-sponsored primary challenger because of her outspoken views on peace, the progressive Jewish lobby group J Street raised $15,000 for her in four hours.

Farley, in patient terms, outlines why Israel has so much more to lose from this than the United States does, which is so obvious that it means Peled is shouting into the wind here. Netanyahu isn’t foolish enough to act on this memo, since his longtime closeness with the America means he understands that Israel’s indispensable diplomatic asset is its U.S. ally.

So there’s only the slimmest mathematical possibility that anything Peled suggests here going to become reality. The question is why he would allow a letter so damaging to U.S.-Israeli relations to become public. If Netanyahu’s trying to play an inside-outside game, he may want to think twice about the consequences for Israel of causing needless U.S. acrimony.

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