by Joel Beinin
Responding to the Israeli voices and actions noisily advocating a preemptive strike against Iran, Ha-Aretz columnist Uzi Benziman (July 21, 2008) writes, "Before bombing Iran, it would be best [for Israel] to solve the conflict with the Palestinians. By the way, there does appear to be a link between the two threats." While Benziman doesn't specify the links, there are at least two significant ones.
First, the effect of foregrounding the Iranian nuclear threat, which both the International Atomic Energy Agency and US intelligence agencies say does not now exist, has been to take the spotlight off Israel's continuing occupation of the Palestinian territories. The agreement brokered by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to open the Gaza Strip crossings last November was only a partial palliative at best. No political progress has been made on the Gaza front since Israel and the US continue to isolate and reject negotiations with Hamas, which they simplemindedly define as a terrorist organization allied to Iran. According to the latest report of the Crisis Group, in the West Bank, Israel has not loosened its closure regime or halted its military incursions. The economy has not grown much. And the Palestinian Authority has used harsh tactics against Hamas sympathizers, including torture, that undermine good governance. Meanwhile, the negotiations launched at Annapolis in November 2007 are on life support and President Bush is taking no heroic measures to resuscitate them.
Second, the political forces in the United States who have been loudest in advocating a confrontational stance towards Iran are the same forces that have obstructed Palestinian-Israeli peace. Prominent among them are AIPAC, the ADL, the ZOA, the Council of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and right-wing evangelical Protestants exemplified by John Hagee's Christians United for Israel.