August 08, 2003

Security Fence Watch As predicted

Security Fence Watch

As predicted here a couple days back it appears the Israelis are going to delay construction of portions of the security barrier.

Ethan Bronner has some thoughts on all this. And Charles Krauthammer does too.

Krauthammer denigrates the "hardball" State Dept. strategy of potentially holding back loan guarantees in amounts meant to correllate to construction costs for parts of the security wall being built east of the Green Line. He describes the funds as "badly needed."

Meanwhile, Bronner writes: "...the cost of the diversions is unlikely to be very high, so the effect of such a withholding of funds would not be great."

I think, all told, Bronner's got a better sense of the economic impact than Krauthammer on this one. It's not quite de minimis-but it's no biggie given the scope of U.S. aid to Israel writ large.

Regardless, however, we're not there yet. As I had earlier speculated the leak regarding State's proposal was likely just a pressure tactic. And it appears to be working (if to a limited degree) given that Sharon will delay construction of parts of the barrier and discuss more problematic trajectories of the wall with the Bush administration going forward. Not a bad start.

Another take per the NYT article (link above):

"Administration officials have said that the administration is considering reducing $9 billion in loan guarantees for Israel in proportion to the costs of the barrier, to press for changes in its path. But Congressional Democrats were quick to attack the Bush administration for suggesting such cuts.

The senior Israeli official, speaking of the relationship with the Bush administration, said, "we are not under any pressure." He added: "The United States is a very vibrant democracy, and this is a very politically oriented administration. Reality is made sometimes by political constraints."

If the administration did resort to a cut in the loan guarantees, it may amount to only a few million dollars, given the relatively limited portions of the barrier that appear to be at issue."

I'm a bit uncomfortable with the "(r)eality is made sometimes by political constraints" language. It sounds, well, a bit gloating, doesn't it? I think senior Israeli officials (or Palestinian ones for that matter) are better served touting their perceived advantages in negotiations surrounding a contentious issue in more muted fashion.

UDPATE: Here's a pretty good primer on issues not specifically dealt with in the roadmap that have, nevertheless, become pretty central to the current state of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Meanwhile, Haaretz is a bit gloomy that roadmap implementation (remember when we used to call it the peace process?) might go the way of Tenet or Mitchell.

Elsewhere, Yoel Marcus cautions Israelis that, while the national mood is now high, Israelis are "skating on very thin ice." It's not time to fire those security guards just yet, he warns.

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