When I heard that the U.S. and Israel had inked a ten-year memorandum of understanding on defense aid, the first thing I thought of was the “understanding“ the late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon thought he had with the Bush Administration in May 2003, that “housing could be built within the boundaries of certain settlement blocks as long as no new land was expropriated, no special economic incentives were offered to move to settlements and no new settlements were built.” In the context of any future deal that might have been reached with the Palestinians, this condition would have been a fundamental necessity for Israel. We are talking about major suburban Israeli areas with upwards of 400,000 inhabitants. How could there possibly be restraints on Israel’s ability even to build high-rises?
The Obama administration thought differently and in June 2009 came out with an ironclad denial that such an understanding had ever been reached. Hillary Clinton, who was quite familiar with the highly unpalatable condition that this restriction on natural growth would impose, nonetheless endorsed the denial with full- throated conviction. Then of course, having shattered the confidence of the Israelis, the Clinton/Obama team began the aggressive introduction of “formulas” to “restart” the collapsed peace process.
The other major “breach of understanding” between the Obama administration and Israel came about during Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014. Having absorbed an endless stream of Hamas rockets (over 1,000) aimed solely at Israeli population centers, Israel had no choice but to defend its citizens. Using unprecedented discretion so as to avoid collateral damage, the Israelis moved into Gaza. The intensity of the fighting caught the attention of the world. On July 22 after a stray Hamas missile landed well outside the protective perimeter of Ben Gurion Airport, the FAA suddenly decided to prohibit American airlines from flying into Ben Gurion Airport. Only after massive pressure did the administration agree to walk back the FAA restriction, releasing the de facto mini-embargo. In August of 2014, after the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, Israel needed to replenish its dwindling supply of Hellfire missiles. In accordance with a decade- long agreement, Israel asked the U.S. to transfer the missiles out of a virtual storage facility for Israeli “bought and paid for” ordnance. Instead of honoring this solemn agreement, the administration decided to withhold the transfer. Only after another round of intensely pressured negotiations was the resupply authorized.
Forgive me, but contrary to some members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the signing of this MOU does not have me jumping for joy. Sure, it was a ten-year deal that hit some significant milestones. But no matter how good the deal is, what we now know with certainty is that a new die has been cast. Even when Israel is up against the wall, significant protocol and precedent can, with the “delete” key, be vanquished from existence. Coupled with the duplicity of the Iran deal, we are left with the question of whether, even under a new regime in 2017, the toothpaste can ever possibly be put back in the tube.
Yes, we have a ten-year deal. But that “deal” is stacked against the tumult of a region in unparalleled upheaval. The EU, gutted by streaming Islamist immigrants, will be under great duress, eager to appease the “Arab street.” We have the rumor that Obama as his last and final legacy will facilitate a Security Council resolution that will strip Israel of its strategic borders.
This MOU will in no way gird Israel against the dangers it will face due to the Obama administration’s undermining of the traditional U.S. alliance with Israel.