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The Threat Behind the Freeze Deal

Why the carrots are really sticks

Marc Tracy
November 18, 2010
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In a parenthetical aside I wish I had pursued further, a couple days ago, examining the United States’s proposal to offer Israel aid and security guarantees in exchange for a 90-day extension of the construction freeze, I wrote, “(Israel was probably due for a military upgrade for Iran-related reasons anyway).” Today, Gershom Gorenberg devotes most of a column to an insightful rereading of the deal: Starting from the point that the things that U.S. is offering are things they probably would have offered anyway, he comes to the conclusion: “The carrots are really sticks.”

He argues:

The offer of the planes is not exactly unusual in U.S.-Israeli relations. It fits the consistent policy since 1967 of giving Israel the means to defend itself, so that the United States will not have to. Providing arms is also a way of creating jobs stateside. It’s likely that the F-35 deal was already in the works and has now been made contingent on Israeli actions.

As for the diplomatic moves, these are all things that Washington is already doing. In fact, “keeping up pressure on Iran” is a backward way of saying, “not answering your request to send in our Air Force.” As for American vetoes in the Security Council, this is an old tradition. …

The U.S. offer translates as, “When Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad carries out his plan to declare a state next year, you want us to veto U.N. recognition? Stop the cement-mixers. You want us to keep the inspectors away from your reactor? Please see the instructions above.”

In Gorenberg’s reading, then, the deal represents the Obama administration putting the screws to the Netanyahu administration to an even greater extent than they are getting credit (or blame) for. Gorenberg thinks this is a good thing; reasonable people could differ. But regardless, it is a fresh and revealing way to look at the situation.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.

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