Stephen Walt on Pressing Netanyahu

Harvard Professor and Realist thinker Stephen Walt looks at eight ways by which the Obama administration, if it wishes, could exert pressure on Israel for concessions on the Palestinian track and the many other “wedge” issues that are likely to separate it from Netanyahu and his new government.

It’s definitely worth the read on his blog on the Foreign Policy magazine website.

I personally would be thrilled if the administration would return to the formulation used by the Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations that Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory are “illegal” and a violation of the Geneva Conventions, because the vast majority of international lawyers who have studied the issue have concluded that’s precisely what they are and because I think such a statement would actually make the Israeli public sit up and pay attention. Of course, the neo-conservative wing of the Reagan administration, backed by Jerry Falwell and other Christian Right leaders, dropped the “illegal” characterization, and neither George H.W. Bush, nor Bill Clinton had the courage to revive it, despite the persistent view in the State Department’s legal department that the the settlements do indeed violate international law.

Jim Lobe

Jim Lobe served for some 30 years as the Washington DC bureau chief for Inter Press Service and is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy and the influence of the neoconservative movement.



  1. I too would be thrilled if we once again termed the settlements illegal, which would be nothing more than a statement of fact. Since we’re traveling in dreamland at the moment, let me say that I would be even happier if we immediately terminated all military and economic aid to Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

  2. But I fear that an isolated Israel could act in a uncontrolled manner, like a crazy cowboy, against Iran. In Italy we have a proper word for it: cane sciolto.

  3. Cane scioloto. My Italian is a little rusty — does it mean a dog on the loose? I don’t recognize that we in America, if we were to cut the Israeli dog loose, would have any responsibility for its actions. The commitment made by Harry Truman sixty-odd years ago (so that he could win the ’48 election) should not bind me or my fellow citizens who were not even born at the time.

    I happen to favor a U.S.-Iranian entente, which if achieveable would do much to smooth our way out of both Iraq and Afghanistan, and would moreover guarantee the security of Gulf oil supplies. If we traded our Israeli dog for a Persian, the former would not dare bite the latter, for fear of our retaliation. But as I said in my previous comment, this is the stuff of dreams — the Israeli hold on the Congress and the mainstream media will always keep us tied to the Israeli dog.

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