American foreign policy Barack Obama Benjamin Netanyahu Israel Israeli settlements

If U.S. says talk of sanctions on Israel is “premature,” doesn’t that mean they’re possible?

Am I the only one who finds significance in a new p-word used by the State Department: “premature?”

Asked at a press briefing if the U.S. was considering putting financial pressure on Israel to get it to comply with American demands, State Department spokesperson Richard Wood said, “It’s premature to talk about that. What we’re trying to do is to create an environment which makes it conducive for talks to go forward.”

It is impossible for an event or action to be “premature” unless there is a chance that it will happen. In other words, this was close to a public admission that financial and other sanctions are in the Obama administration’s tool kit…It might have been a poor choice of words. Or it might have been the strongest signal yet that this American administration is not willing to put up with business-as-usual from the Israelis. As any parent knows, the most effective punishment is one you hold in abeyance, hoping you never have to use it…

25 thoughts on “If U.S. says talk of sanctions on Israel is “premature,” doesn’t that mean they’re possible?

  1. I think its a mistake.

    The appropriate incremental shift towards Israel is to abstain on the next unimportant non-binding general assembly resolution (an important one they should stand by Israel).

    There is increasing sentiment in Israel to turn down US military aid, because of the strings attached.

    At governmental levels, there has already been a meltdown with decreased intelligence transfer, which is a primary reason that Israel embraces the political/military relationship with the US at all.

    Israel, without accountability to the US, can be a reckless gambler.

  2. Comment no. 1-
    The Palestinians are not living up to their part of the roadmap. The US has demanded for years that they end the genocidal Judeophobic propaganda in their official government-run media. Is it “premature” to speak of American sanctions against the Palestinians?

    Comment no. 2-
    I pray daily that the US end the financial aid it gives to Israel. Israel doesn’t need it and it damages the Israeli economy. It is given for political reasons. The vast majority of the military aid money is spent in the US. For example, combat rations and army boots for the IDF, which used to be made in Israel are now made in the US. Thus, we see that the “aid” actually causes unemployment in Israel. Thus, I hope they end the aid and bring the jobs back to Israel. I am sure that Obama can explain to the American workers laid off that their sacrifice is helping the downtrodden Palestinians.

  3. Y-BD:

    Of course the U.S. should also insist that Palestinians should stop the incitement. But what are the additional “sanctions” you would like to impose on them?

  4. Dan-
    Surely you are aware of the financial aid the US gives the PA, not to mention arms, military training and what-not. The PA is totally dependent on international handouts to cover the its expenditures….more than 50% of its budget is financed by foreign countries… it a dhimmi “jizya” tax (i.e. if the foreigners don’t cough up the money they will be “endangering their interests and citizens in the area”).

  5. It looks like the moment you ‘progressives’ at J-Street and Israel Policy Forum have been dreaming about for years is at hand….your chance to demand sanctions against Israel. I can’t wait to see your representatives marching up to the White House and the members of the House and Senate saying “we who represent American Jewry (unlike AIPAC) demand the imposition of unilateral sanctions against Israel until they do what Obama wants!”. I am sure most will say “Of course! American Jews want sanctions to be placed on Israel” and they will gladly go along.

  6. You can’t say that of me, you generalizing opportunist.

    Hopefully, Israel does feel that it is important to itself to avoid picking a fight with the US. It is currently escalating from minor differences, to more significant confrontations.

    The US has defended Israel historically on the basis that it is a country in which the rule of law supercedes opportunity, but that is decreasing.

    The United States is a friend of Israel for three important reasons, all undeniable:

    1. Intimate social and economic connections
    2. Strategic foreign policy and related military and intelligence cooperation
    3. Support for its democracy, rule of law

    The strategic foreign policy motivation is slightly declining, with a less partisan approach (us/them) of the Obama administration.

    The support for Israel’s insistence that it operates primarily under the rule of law is declining, that largely due to Israel’s behavior, and more importantly the FLAUNTING of its indifference to international, civil, and even Israeli law.

    The support on the basis of intimate social and economic relations are declining slightly (less so than the others), with the polarization around Israeli politics internationally, and particularly among American Jews.

    If only the relationship of loyal unquestioning Zionist (expansionist flavor) is important to you, then continuing to flaunt the disrespect for the rule of law will serve your purpose.

    That is a formula though to isolation again. In spite of great progress in many other areas, the final problem to resolve remains. That is the normalization of political and civil life for Palestinians.

    Right now now they are citizens of no nation, and with subordinated civil and property rights, under Israeli formal occupation. (The legal meaning of temporary administrative responsibility.)

    Do the accounting yourself.

  7. Dan-here, just in time for the point I was trying to make to you about American’s payment of jizya tax to the Palestinian Authority, here is news about the latest $200 million dollar payment. Every time they dhimmi Americans pay up, the Palestinians talk about reform and efficiency, but it is never carried out and they point out how HAMAS will take over if the American’s don’t continue to pony up the protection money. They really have the Americans and EU over a barrel. They can live on the international dole forever, knowing that the suckers who keep paying them can never stop.

  8. So, turn the corner.

    Don’t stay stuck in delaying the peace process. Put your weight and intelligence INTO it.

    Make it happen.

    Peace is cheaper for all concerned, and in MULTIPLE ways.

  9. Y-Ben, you have to understand the way guys like Dan and Rich look at this. Basically it’s this, you just live in Israel. So what the hell do you know about it. If you just listened to us. We wise ones, all will be well. Meanwhile, you people, with your insistence in not just absorbing punches. And hanging on to Jewish religious sites. Well, we find that kind of embarassing in front of our liberal friends. Do I have it right, Dan and Rich?

  10. If it is possible, to intentionally delay it or to even abstain, has to be a great negligence.

    I think it is possible.

  11. Bill Pearlman-
    In line with your last comment, there was a radio interview with a guide at Yad VaShem (the Israel Holocaust Memorial Center) who yesterday led a 4-hour long tour of the center for a group of Palestinian teenagers, from the Shechem region, the first time this has ever happened (the guide spoke to them in Arabic). He pointed out that it is quite rare even for Israeli Arabs to visit the place. He pointed out that the kids knew nothing about the Holocaust. After the end of his presentation, he asked them what they had learned. One said “I see we are not the only ‘victims’ in history”. This illustrates the folly of tours like this, at least regarding the belief that somehow this will break down the walls of hostility. I recall reading how there are organizations that bring together Israeli and Arab kids for summer programs in the US (I think this is the “Abraham Fund”, among others) and when the groups start talking together, they inevitably break down into arguments about who is the bigger “victim”, the Jews or the Arabs.
    None of this means anything to the Arabs. Showing that Jews are bigger “victims” simply shows them that they have to get their act together as the Germans did in their war against the Jews.
    Our right to Eretz Israel HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE HOLOCAUST (in spite of Obama’s speech of historical revisionism in Cairo) or with us being history’s biggest “victims” (the Arabs insist they have captured this prize in any event). We have to show them OUR HOLY PLACES, our historical connection to the country, and our obstinance in holding on to them. When Yoram Kaniuk says he can’t wait to hand over OUR HOLY CITY, JERUSALEM, all the Arabs think is that he is a sap who will be a pushover and eventually hand over Tel-Aviv as well. The only thing the Arabs respect is Jewish “Tsumud” (steadfastness) for our land and holy places, not our whining about us being “victims”.

  12. The significance of Arabs becoming familiar with the holocaust is that compassion is then possible.

    Your last statement “The only thing the Arabs respect is Jewish “Tsumud”(steadfastness) for our land and holy places, not our whining about us being “victims””, conflicts with the possibility of acceptance of the other.

    You can be steadfast about what is lawfully Israeli’s. Beyond that would be rationalized criminality.

  13. The Arabs can only respect Israeli “tsumud” if it allows them a role other than as the colonized or the passive spectators to the active ongoing colonization of their fellow Arabs. This means that Israel must continue to maintain Jabotinsky’s Iron Wall while giving the Palestinians a chance to build their own state outside of it. Ben-David’s role for the Palestinians is as perpetual “hewers of wood and drawers of water.” That worked out quite well for the Afrikaners who had similar plans for their native population.

    Peace came in Northern Ireland because the Northern Irish Catholics were given a chance at equality inside Northern Ireland after it was demonstrated to the extremists that the state could not be destroyed. Ben-David would have had the unionists continue the policies of discrimination that led to the outbreak of the conflict in the late 1960s. Ian Paisley also argued that the republicans only respected force. But he only got peace once he was able to offer something to the Catholic population besides “tsumud.”

  14. The only “equality” the Palestinians are offering us is to push us into the sea. They can never agree to live side-by-side with us. It is not a question of us being Afrikaners who believe we are “destined to rule inferior races”, but simply a matter of survival. I have repeated numerous times that almost all Israelis, including “right-wingers” would agree to a “reasonable compromise” and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state if we could believe they would really live in peace with us, but the large majority of Israeli now realize that there is no such option. Just listen to what the Palestinians themselves say. FATAH people are now saying openly they never agreed to peace with Israel, that they will always leave the “armed struggle” option open, etc. Then, of course, there is HAMAS. Read their charter, and what it says about Jews (not just “Zionists”). Then come back to me and tell me what you think.

  15. And what are the Palestinians offering Tom, the Arabs in general. Please enlighten me. Or let me put it another way. Forget that little number at Josephs Tomb for a second. Since you obviously feel that this is Israel’s fault, and if it only did A, B, and C this would all be wound up by next Tuesday, what would you do if you were the Israeli PM. What’s your brilliant plan.

  16. Tom-
    Ian Paisley won, the IRA lost. Northern Ireland is still in the United Kingdom, with the blessings of the IRA.

  17. YBD,
    I don’t write my replies to convince either you or Pearlman since you seem to be too close-minded to really consider what I’m saying. I’ve never proposed that Israel give up control of the West Bank without a peace treaty by the Palestinians. I also don’t have a problem with the demand for a demilitarized Palestinian state, although the demand for explicit recognition of a Jewish state is an unnecessary demand–if Israel defines itself as a Jewish state and the Palestinians and Arabs recognize it that will amount to de facto recognition of it as such.

    The unionists won, but they didn’t annex Dundalk or other border towns or start settling the 26 counties with the justifications that you use. Had they done so Ireland would never have given up its legal claim to Northern Ireland and there would not be peace in Northern Ireland.

    My brilliant plan is to stop all new settlements and put a freeze on settlements including so-called “natural growth.” Israel agrees to a return to the 1967 borders in exchange for peace and a territorial swap for the settler blocs. And I follow the rest of the Clinton parameters. Maybe if Israel would stop expanding its settlements it would get credit abroad for having agreed to the parameters when Arafat rejected them.

    Instead of “tsumud” and expansion, I propose containment and compromise. Containment worked during the Cold War. When the Arabs are willing to give up the dream of a mass return then Israel will make peace with them, but it will try not to antagonize those Arabs under occupation by taking their land.

  18. “Instead of “tsumud” and expansion, I propose containment and compromise. Containment worked during the Cold War. When the Arabs are willing to give up the dream of a mass return then Israel will make peace with them, but it will try not to antagonize those Arabs under occupation by taking their land.”

    Sounds reasonable to me.

    I really could care less if the Arabs recognize Israel as a Jewish state. That essentially means insisting they change their [ethnically chauvinistic] attitude rather than their behavior.

    I’m more concerned with their actions.

    If they give up right of return–that’s enough.

    On another note…when you read Arabs’–including Arabs in America– comments on news blogs and other forums…you start to see where YBD and Bill are coming from (at least I do).

    The commentary is belligerent and war mongering. They are extremist in far greater numbers than Jews are.

    There’s no getting around that.

  19. Suzanne-
    What have I ever said that was “belligerent and warmongering”? Do you consider a refusal to accept Arab demands as being in those categories?
    I don’t recall Pearlman as making statements of that sort, either.
    To me “belligerent and warmongering” statements would be of the type “Kill them all”…or “throw them all out of the country”, or “the only good one is a dead one”. What I do is point out the reality of the situation and that is the one thing the “progressives” can’t handle, because they automatically assume everyone in the world, including the Arabs, have the same values as themselves, and that simply is not true.
    Just look at the things they say, particularly to their own people.

  20. Suzanne-
    My apologies. What you wrote was somewhat vulnerable to being misinterpreted. When you said you can understand “where we are coming from” I mistakenly thought you meant we were something like the Arab radicals on the Jewish side.
    I am glad you are being exposed to this Arab thinking. Over and over we see the “progressives” on our side assuming that the Arabs must, deep down, be just like them, i.e. reasonable people who can eventually be persuaded to come to a rational compromise. This is not the case. The Arabs have a very different worldview and value system.

  21. Yaakov

    Actually my exposure to Arab thinking has been face to face!

    In situations where I did not let on that my mother is Jewish.

    I am quite good at listening without reacting. And what I have seen–I do not exaggerate–is this crazy wild look in Arabs’ eyes when they talk about Israel.

    That look is very scary–let me tell you!

    I have listened to religious Zionists go on about Arabs–and at times it’s been annoying. I even argued with them.

    But they didn’t have that homicidal look. lol!

  22. It is interesting to see how “progressives” react to things like what you have witnessed. An interesting example is Dr Bernard Avishai, the creator of the “Hebrew Republic” solution – see his blog at

    He wants Israel to stop calling itself a “Jewish state” and to call itself a “Hebrew Republic” which he thinks Israeli Arabs will identify with since they speak Hebrew (this, of course, was forced on them, but that is of no interest to him).
    In any event, when talking about “settlers” and Haredim (people he calls “Judeans” as opposed to the normal “Israelis”-the secular Left) he says how they are a different people and that Obama’s job is to get the “Israelis” to use force to get rid of the “Judeans” who are supposedly preventing a peace agreement.
    In any event, while he gets worked up thinking about “Judeans” he is full of empathy for the Palestinians. However, in one column, he mentioned how he took a taxi from Ramallah to Jerusalem. He, being from North America, didn’t identify himself as being Israeli. The driver then started in saying something to the effect that the day is coming that the Palestinians will kill all the Israelis. Avishai admitted that he was getting a little nervous. But seeing this has not affect his fairly-tale view of things. See his latest posting on “drawing borders” and how he believes that once Israel gives up Judea/Samaria there will be brotherhood, economic cooperation, confederation…..ultimately paradise. It is truly an interesting psychological phenomenon how he completely denies what he himself has observed to be true…Arab rejection of peace with Israel on any terms.

  23. Ya’akov,
    So how do you think Israeli Arabs feel when they hear or read of Jewish mobs yelling “Death to the Arabs.” Both sides have many people who relate emotionally to the conflict and seem to have a vested emotional interest in keeping it going.

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