Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Delicate Balance: Israel, Palestine, and the US

The US and Israel are rubbing each other the wrong way, evidenced by two reports issued today, one from each country. The US is likely to release a report compiled by retired general James Jones that is critical of Israeli policies in the West Bank. When word of this report got out, Israel released a statement complaining about the US intervening too often in minor Palestinian matters.

News about the US report says:
Jones was appointed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice following the Annapolis peace conference last November. His assignment was to draft a strategic plan to facilitate stabilization of the security situation, as a necessary accompaniment to Israeli-Palestinian final-status negotiations. In this context, he assessed the PA security forces in the West Bank, whose reform is being overseen by another American general, Keith Dayton. Jones has visited the region several times and met with senior Israeli government officials and army officers. According to both Israeli and American sources, the envoy's conclusions about Israel are scathing.
And then Israel said:
Senior officials in the U.S. State Department, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, have repeatedly complained to Israel recently over relatively minor Palestinian issues that it would have ignored until a few months ago, Israeli officials say.

Complaints about settlement construction or army operations that kill Palestinian civilians have always been the norm. But Israeli officials are worried by the State Department's new tendency to intervene in a much broader range of issues.
One such case was:
Washington's demand that 10 Gazan Fulbright scholars be allowed to enter Israel for visa interviews at the U.S. consulate in East Jerusalem. However, Israel refused, saying they had been blacklisted for security reasons.

Rice personally intervened. In addition, an Israeli official said, the consulate leaked the story to the New York Times to embarrass Israel.
This could test the bond between the two countries, not just on these issues, but on the fundamental policies of Israel itself. American supporters of Palestinian issues have long been pressing their government to stop condoning Israeli tactics, but if the US continues intervening at Palestinians' behest, it may not be allowed to intervene at all.

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