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‘Dangerous’ Netanyahu policies behind US-Israel tensions, NYT says

PM’s bitter criticism of US non-veto of anti-settlement UN vote, Kerry’s Mideast peace speech maligns US leaders, editorial argues

US President Barack Obama speaks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum on March 22, 2013, in Jerusalem, Israel. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images/JTA)
US President Barack Obama speaks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum on March 22, 2013, in Jerusalem, Israel. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images/JTA)

An editorial in Wednesday’s New York Times attributed the heightened diplomatic tensions between Israel and the United States to the “dangerous evolution in Israeli policy” under the leadership of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In the piece titled “Is Israel Abandoning a Two-State Solution?” the paper said the US abstention in the United Nations Security Council’s anti-settlement resolution vote last Friday and Secretary of State John Kerry’s Mideast peace speech on Wednesday had triggered “more than the usual amount of outrage, name calling and threats” by Netanyahu and his allies.

The prime minister’s bitter criticism of the Obama administration’s policies toward Israel “misrepresent the history of Israeli-American relations, malign Mr. Obama and his secretary of state, John Kerry, and confuse what should be a serious debate over the future of a negotiated peace between Israelis and Palestinians, which seems further away every day.”

Netanyahu has condemned Resolution 2334 as “reckless and destructive” and not only blamed outgoing US President Barack Obama for withholding a veto but also accused him of actively formulating and orchestrating its passage. Washington has denied the allegations.

The New York Times editorial defended Obama’s Israel record, saying the outgoing president has “used the American veto and its diplomatic muscle more assiduously than any previous American president to shield Israel from unwarranted criticism.”

Despite the UN’s “shameful bias against Israel,” the paper said the US government is not obliged to “shelter Israel from international criticism that is consistent with decades-old American policy and with American interests.”

The increase in Israel’s settlement activity under Netanyahu’s government mean the prime minister’s “lip service” in support of an independent Palestinian state was no longer convincing, the editorial said.

Illustrative image on an Israeli settlement in the West Bank on October 6, 2016. ( FLASH90)
Illustrative image on an Israeli settlement in the West Bank on October 6, 2016. ( FLASH90)

“Right-wing Israeli settlers have been quite open for decades about their patient approach to claiming Jerusalem and the West Bank by strategically placing settlements to prevent the creation of a viable Palestinian state.”

The piece went on to argue that critics who claim Obama’s Israel policies will only result in more settlement building are the result of “cynical logic of the settlement movement.”

“When the world is silent, Israel can build settlements; when the world objects, Israel must build settlements. Under any scenario, settlements will grow, and the possibility of a two-state solution will recede,” it said.

While the editorial noted that Israeli settlements were not the only impediment to reaching a lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace, it said continued building of West Bank settlements was an “obstacle to any eventual deal, and they are Israel’s responsibility.”

It argued that the Netanyahu’s pro-settlement government was increasingly advancing the vision for a one-state solution that would see near full Israeli control of the West Bank and the bulk of its Palestinian residents moved to either Egypt of Jordan.

The editorial pointed to a Wednesday op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by the US’s former UN ambassador John Bolton — rumored to be shortlisted for deputy secretary of state in Trump’s administration — in which he advanced the one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The “scalding diplomatic confrontation” between Israel and the US was further attributed to Netanyahu’s “lamentable practice of making his government a more nakedly partisan player in American politics than any foreign government in memory, save Russia.”

The New York Times said it was “hard to see” how Netanyahu’s political meddling and his government’s pro-settlement policies served Israel’s long term interests.

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