It was the “poof” heard ‘round the world. Or at least halfway ‘round the world. Speaking before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry described the sequence of events leading to the current crisis in talks between Israelis and Palestinians, which came to a head with the announcement of 700 hundred new Israeli settlement homes.
Israel’s announcement on Wednesday that its naval commandoes had seized a civilian ship laden with Iranian rockets bound for militant groups in Gaza came a day late to be included in the bill of particulars against Iran in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual conference. But it did come in time for a briefing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee by Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, who used it to bolster the argument that Iran’s only true face is the terrorist one.
Earlier this week, Reuters broke the story that Iraq had signed a deal to purchase $125 million worth of arms and ammunition from its eastern neighbor and former bitter enemy, the Islamic Republic of Iran. If carried through, the deal would violate a UN arms embargo on Iran, in place since March 2007. It’s the latest evidence of the new relationship that has steadily developed between two countries that fought a hugely destructive war between 1980 and 1988.
The recent contretemps over actress Scarlett Johansson’s work for an Israeli company partly based in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank highlights the growing prominence of the international movement to pressure Israel economically to end its occupation. But it also highlights the need for American progressives to speak more clearly and explicitly about the policy outcome they’d like to see.
The American approach to peacemaking between Israelis and Palestinians has tended to prioritize different concerns for either side. For the Israelis, the focus is usually on security, for the Palestinians, sovereignty. But a recent episode in the West Bank highlights the need for greater attention to Palestinian security needs in the context of continuing Israeli occupation.