Former U.S. ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer criticized Saturday a recent U.S. offer to provide Israel with a package of incentives in exchange for an additional 90-day freeze on West Bank settlement construction.
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In an article published in the Washington Post, Kurtzer called the proposed deal a reward for Israel's bad behavior and said it was "a very bad idea."
"Washington will almost certainly come to regret bribing Israel, Israel may regret receiving such a bribe even more," Kurtzer wrote.
The proposed U.S. incentives package offered to Israel includes a U.S. undertaking not to request a further extension of the freeze following its expiration, and to veto any attempt by the Palestinians to win recognition by the United Nations of their state unilaterally.
The Obama administration would also ask Congress to approve the sale of 20 F-35 warplanes to Israel and, should there be a peace deal with the Palestinians, guarantee its wider security needs. These would supplement the 20 F-35 warplanes Israel already plans to buy using money from annual grants it receives from Washington.
"Previously, U.S. opposition to settlements resulted in penalties, not rewards, for continued construction. Washington deducted from its loan guarantees to Israel an amount equivalent, dollar for dollar, to the money that Israel spent in the occupied territories," said Kurtzer.
Kurtzer added that if the deal went through, it would create a dangerous precedent in U.S. foreign relations.
"It is not clear that Washington has thought through the implications. Will the United States similarly reward Palestinians for stopping their own bad behavior?"
Moreover, said Kurtzer, the agreement is problematic for Israel as well, and "by subjecting Israel's defense needs to the political demands of an American administration, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has done something quite dangerous for Israel - he has made those needs contingent, negotiable, optional."
"Israel's security requirements are now merely a bargaining chip with which to negotiate what Jerusalem will or will not do to advance the peace process."
Kurtzer said that Israel's "bargaining exercise" was "unseemly." However,
he added, the deal has not yet been signed and it was not too late to start over.
Netanyahu unveiled the U.S. inducements to his cabinet last weekend and appeared hopeful the ministers would back plans for a temporary halt to building in the West Bank to overcome a hurdle to the peace talks.
But an Israeli official said on Friday the United States had not yet provided the guarantees that Israel wanted, with Washington reluctant to commit to paper all the promises Netanyahu says he was offered verbally last week.