Has Israel Been A Responsible Partner Toward Peace? A Timeline of Key Events

Israel and the U.S. are at odds over two issues--how to deal with Iran's nuclear program and Israel's occupation of the West Bank.  Below are key events that every American should know in order to understand how we got here.  Of course, this list is incomplete--one could write a several hundred page book on these topics.  And Israel's defenders will no doubt come up with a list just as long defending Israel's actions and highlighting the evil deeds of Iranians and Palestinians.  They will, for example point out that Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005 and was rewarded by Hamas rockets raining down on them.  They will then use this as proof that they can't withdraw from the West Bank today.  But this ignores  the fact that most of the world, for good reasons mentioned below, consider the West Bank settlements illegal and that no matter how aggressive Hamas is, it does not justify continued growth of the settlements.  It also somewhat simplifies history and distorts the real lesson to be learned from the Gaza withdrawal.

I had to choose between two ways of presenting the information below.  I could either divide this timeline of events into two sections-one dealing with Iran's nuclear program and one dealing with settlements and the occupation.  Or I could present one long timeline combining both categories.  The first way of presenting the timeline makes the conceptual importance of events easier to grasp.  However, it has the disadvantage in that certain events shed light on both topics.  For example, Netanyahu's claim that "America is a thing that is easily moved" was said in reference to Israeli influence on American policy towards the settlements.  But this statement also clearly informs us of his attitude towards America in regards to our approach to Iran's nuclear policy.  I just had to mention Sheldon Adelson's activities in both categories since he  wanted us to nuke Iran and he  actively supports an aggressive Israeli approach to building settlement  and has called the Palestinians an "invented people".  

So which approach should I take? Breaking this information down by category or providing one inclusive timeline?  Well, this is the internet.  I'm not limited by space.  So why not both?

 

 

Timeline For Events Related To Iran's Nuclear Program

 

1992: Then Israeli Knesset member Benjamin Netanyahu predicted that Iran was 3 to 5 years away from having a nuclear weapon. Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres warned that Iran would have nukes by 1999.

1995Netanyahu writes: “The best estimates at this time place Iran between three and five years away from possessing the prerequisites required for the independent production of nuclear weapons.”

2002Netanyahu appeared before Congress in 2002 to urge the U.S. to attack Iraq.  ”If you take out Saddam, Saddam’s regime, I guarantee you that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region."  He went on to say though he didn't guarantee it, the government of Iran would likely fall in the aftermath of an Iraqi invasion.   

September 27, 2012: Bibi Netanyahu went to the UN with a drawing  of a bomb and sounded the alarm that Iran would have a nuclear weapon within about a year.

Oct. 22, 2012: The Mossad, Israel's equivalent of the CIA, wrote a memo contradicting Netanyahu's U.N. address.  The memo said that "even though Iran has accumulated enough 5% uranium for several bombs, and has enriched some of it to 20%, it does not appear to be ready to enrich it to higher levels."  (Iran eliminated its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium after the Mossad memo was written to comply with  the 2013 interim nuclear agreement).  The memo further stated that Iran's plutonium- producing heavy water reactor at Araq would not be completed until mid 2014 at the earliest, and even if it were complete, it could not produce a plutonium-fueled nuclear weapon without a reprocessing plant.  (The Arak reactor has not yet been completed and a limitation of its capability is one of the topics being addressed in negotiations.  The memo notes that Iran has no known plutonium reprocessing plant)  The memo's bottom line was that  Iran was “not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons.  It is working to close gaps in areas that appear legitimate such as enrichment, reactors, which will reduce the time required to produce weapons from the time the instruction is actually given."  See J.J. Goldberg's analysis of the memo in the Jewish Daily Forward.

Oct. 22, 2013: Multi-billionaire casino magnate  Sheldon Adelson advocated that the U.S. should start nuclear negotiations with Iran by dropping a nuclear weapon on an Iranian desert and threatening to follow up with a nuke on Tehran if Iran didn't roll over and give the U.S. and Israel everything they wanted.  Adelson gave $150 million to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign as well as to the campaigns of several Republican senatorial candidates in 2012.  Despite Adelson's large donations, the candidates he supported lost the election.  However,  Adelson still has the ear of the GOP since he has promised to donate twice as much money to those who support Israel in the future.  Adelson demonstrated that his primary allegiance was to Israel,and not the U.S., when he said he expressed regret that he had worn an American military uniform instead of an Israeli uniform and that he hoped his son would become a sniper for the IDF (pay close attention starting at 5:05)  Though Adelson was unsuccessful in bending the American electorate to his will in 2012, Israel Hayom, the newspaper he distributes for free in Israel, was instrumental in helping Netanyahu get re-elected.

Thomas Friedman spelled out the difficult dilemma Israel faces in the aftermath of Netanyahu's victory:

Having won the Israeli elections — in part by declaring that he will never permit a two state-solution between Israelis and Palestinians — it means Netanyahu will be the father of the one-state solution. And the one-state solution means that Israel will become, in time, either a non-Jewish democracy or Jewish non-democracy.  If there is only one state, Israel cannot be Jewish and permit West Bank Palestinians to exercise any voting rights alongside Israeli Arabs. But if Israel is one state and wants to be democratic, how does it continue depriving West Bankers of the vote — when you can be sure they will make it their No. 1 demand.


This dilemma doesn't seem to trouble Adelson.  He's got it all figured out.  Here is how Haaretz described part of an exchange between Adelson and fellow billionaire Haim Saban at the Israeli-American Council conference in November 2014:

At the conference, which also featured top Democratic funder Haim Saban, Adelson also said Israel would not be able to survive as a democracy: "So Israel won't be a democratic state, so what?" he asked Saban, adding that democracy, after all, is not mentioned in the Torah.

 

11/9/14:  Sheldon Adelson is not the only multi-billionaire who supports Israel without reservation.  Haim Saban, Adelson's Democratic counterpart,  has pledged to give "as much as needed" to get Hillary Clinton elected president. At the same conference where Adelson revealed that it wouldn't trouble him if Israel was no longer a democracy, Saban declared  "if he were Israel’s prime minister and a nuclear deal between Iran and the West risked Israel’s existence, 'I would bomb the living daylights out of those sons of bitches.' "  Reporters need to ask Hillary Clinton these eleven questions during the campaign since she will be deeply indebted to Saban if she becomes president.  

3/3/15: Netanyahu tries to kill a nuclear deal with Iran by telling Congress that Iran is less than a year away from developing nuclear weapons and that Iran could hit the United States with its missiles.  Former head of the Mossad, Meir Dagan, called Netanyahu's speech "bullshit" and stated the Netanyahu knew that his claim that Iranian missiles can hit the United States was false.

3/9/15: 47 Republican Senators send a letter to Iran's leadership warning them that  the next president or congress could trash any nuclear agreement if President Obama does not submit the agreement to Congress for its ratification.  Many consider this attempt to undercut the President as treasonous and it may violate the never enforced and probably unconstitutional Logan Act.  Whether or not the letter violated the law, the abrogation of a nuclear deal with Iran in the future would jeopardize American security and put us directly on a path to war.  Tom Cotton, the leader of the gang of 47, has already received money from Sheldon Adelson for his next campaign.

 

Timeline For Settlement/Occupation Related Activities

 

1967: After Israel conquered Gaza, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights in the 1967 Six Day War, the Israeli Foreign Ministry asked Theodor Meron, one of its top legal experts, whether it was legally permissible to settle in the "Administered Territories."  Meron, a Holocaust survivor with a doctorate in international law from Harvard wrote: "My conclusion is that civilian settlement in the administered territories contravenes the explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention."  The first settlement of Kfar Etzion was established through government approved subterfuge less than two weeks after the memo was written.  Contrary to the common misperception in the U.S. that only right wing Israeli governments support settlements, the first settlement was first established under a left-wing Labor government.  I'm sure that over the years Meron has heard every legal argument that Israelis have come up with to try to discredit his memo, but he has not changed his opinion; he recently told Huffington Post that his memo "still represents my best reading of international law."

2001Netanyahu boasted about stopping the Oslo Accord and said that "America is a thing that can be easily moved."
 
2009: Netanyahu gives a speech at Bar Ilan University in which he expresses a desire to see a Palestinian state existing side-by-side in peace.  However, his own father casted doubt on his sincerity when he said, "He doesn't support [a Palestinian State].  He supports the sorts of conditions that they [the Palestinians] will never accept."
 
2012: The Levy Commission, appointed by Netanyahu and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, produced a report that found that settlements in the West Bank did not violate the Geneva Convention and  were legal.  The report cited the International Commission of the Red Cross as the authoritative source for interpreting the Geneva Convention.   The head of the ICRC delegation for Israel and the Occupied Territories responded by tearing the Levy Commission Report to shreds and unequivocally calling the settlements an illegal 
 
Feb. 2013:Oscar nominated film "The Gatekeepers" is released in the United States.   Six former Shin Bet leaders are interviewed and all expressed reservations about Israel's ongoing occupation in the West Bank.    Avraham Shalom, the head of Shin Bet from 1980 to 1986 said that the Israeli Defense Force had become a "brutal occupation force" and compared the way they treated the Palestinians to the way the German Nazis treated the Poles, the Belgians, and the Dutch (though not the Jews.  The way the Nazis treated the Jews was something else altogether.)  He concluded " We've become cruel, to ourselves as well, but mainly to the occupied population, using the excuse of the war against terror."
 
 
Oct. 22, 2013: Multi-billionaire casino magnate  Sheldon Adelson advocated that the U.S. should start nuclear negotiations with Iran by dropping a nuclear weapon on an Iranian desert and threatening to follow up with a nuke on Tehran if Iran didn't roll over and give the U.S. and Israel everything they wanted.  Adelson gave $150 million to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign as well as to the campaigns of several Republican senatorial candidates in 2012.  Despite Adelson's large donations, the candidates he supported lost the election.  However,  Adelson still has the ear of the GOP since he has promised to donate twice as much money to those who support Israel in the future.  Adelson demonstrated that his primary allegiance was to Israel, and not the U.S., when he said he expressed regret that he had worn an American military uniform instead of an Israeli uniform and that he hoped his son would become a sniper for the IDF (pay close attention starting at 5:05)  Though Adelson was unsuccessful in bending the American electorate to his will in 2012, Israel Hayom, the newspaper he distributes for free in Israel, was instrumental in helping Netanyahu get re-elected.

Thomas Friedman spelled out the difficult dilemma Israel faces in the aftermath of Netanyahu's victory:

Having won the Israeli elections — in part by declaring that he will never permit a two state-solution between Israelis and Palestinians — it means Netanyahu will be the father of the one-state solution. And the one-state solution means that Israel will become, in time, either a non-Jewish democracy or Jewish non-democracy.  If there is only one state, Israel cannot be Jewish and permit West Bank Palestinians to exercise any voting rights alongside Israeli Arabs. But if Israel is one state and wants to be democratic, how does it continue depriving West Bankers of the vote — when you can be sure they will make it their No. 1 demand.


This dilemma doesn't seem to trouble Adelson.  He's got it all figured out.  Here is how Haaretz described part of an exchange between Adelson and fellow billionaire Haim Saban at the Israeli-American Council conference in November 2014:

At the conference, which also featured top Democratic funder Haim Saban, Adelson also said Israel would not be able to survive as a democracy: "So Israel won't be a democratic state, so what?" he asked Saban, adding that democracy, after all, is not mentioned in the Torah.

 
Ongoing over the yearsIsrael mostly ignored calls by the rest of the world to stop building in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.  In fact, Israel has been heavily subsidizing West Bank settlement growth at the expense of the Israeli taxpayers within the Green Line.  Read this New York Times article by Jodi Rudoren and Jeremy Ashkenas for a detailed analysis of settlement growth under Netanyahu.
 
Update 3/29/15 6:30 pm: There is a report that Netanyahu has yielded to pressure from the Obama Administration and canceled a building project in the Har Homa neighborhood of East Jerusalem.  This project is especially sensitive.  If it is built it will effectively kill any possibility of a 2 State Solution if it isn't dead already.  Netanyahu is to be congratulated for yielding to reality if this report is true and if he really does prevent construction there.

 

Combined Timeline

 

1967: After Israel conquered Gaza, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights in the 1967 Six Day War, the Israeli Foreign Ministry asked Theodor Meron, one of its top legal experts, whether it was legally permissible to settle in the "Administered Territories."  Meron, a Holocaust survivor with a doctorate in international law from Harvard wrote: "My conclusion is that civilian settlement in the administered territories contravenes the explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention."  The first settlement of Kfar Etzion was established through government approved subterfuge less than two weeks after the memo was written.  Contrary to the common misperception in the U.S. that only right wing Israeli governments support settlements, the first settlement was first established under a left-wing Labor government.  I'm sure that over the years Meron has heard every legal argument that Israelis have come up with to try to discredit his memo, but he has not changed his opinion; he recently told Huffington Post that his memo "still represents my best reading of international law."

 

1992: Then Israeli Knesset member Benjamin Netanyahu predicted that Iran was 3 to 5 years away from having a nuclear weapon. Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres warned that Iran would have nukes by 1999.

1995: Netanyahu writes: “The best estimates at this time place Iran between three and five years away from possessing the prerequisites required for the independent production of nuclear weapons.”

2001: Netanyahu boasted about stopping the Oslo Accord and said that "America is a thing that can be easily moved."

2002: Netanyahu appeared before Congress in 2002 to urge the U.S. to attack Iraq.  ”If you take out Saddam, Saddam’s regime, I guarantee you that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region."  He went on to say though he didn't guarantee it, the government of Iran would likely fall in the aftermath of an Iraqi invasion.   

2009: Netanyahu gives a speech at Bar Ilan University in which he expresses a desire to see a Palestinian state existing side-by-side in peace.  However, his own father casted doubt on his sincerity when he said, "He doesn't support [a Palestinian State].  He supports the sorts of conditions that they [the Palestinians] will never accept."

September 27, 2012: Bibi Netanyahu went to the UN with a drawing  of a bomb and sounded the alarm that Iran would have a nuclear weapon within about a year.

2012: The Levy Commission, appointed by Netanyahu and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, produced a report that found that settlements in the West Bank did not violate the Geneva Convention and were legal.  The report cited the International Commission of the Red Cross as the authoritative source for interpreting the Geneva Convention.   The head of the ICRC delegation for Israel and the Occupied Territories responded by tearing the Levy Commission Report to shreds and unequivocally calling the settlements an illegal occupation.

Oct. 22, 2012: The Mossad, Israel's equivalent of the CIA, wrote a memo contradicting Netanyahu's U.N. address.  The memo said that "even though Iran has accumulated enough 5% uranium for several bombs, and has enriched some of it to 20%, it does not appear to be ready to enrich it to higher levels."  (Iran eliminated its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium after the Mossad memo was written to comply with  the 2013 interim nuclear agreement).  The memo further stated that Iran's plutonium- producing heavy water reactor at Araq would not be completed until mid 2014 at the earliest, and even if it were complete, it could not produce a plutonium-fueled nuclear weapon without a reprocessing plant.  (The Arak reactor has not yet been completed and a limitation of its capability is one of the topics being addressed in negotiations.  The memo notes that Iran has no known plutonium reprocessing plant)  The memo's bottom line was that  Iran was “not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons.  It is working to close gaps in areas that appear legitimate such as enrichment, reactors, which will reduce the time required to produce weapons from the time the instruction is actually given."  See J.J. Goldberg's analysis of the memo in the Jewish Daily Forward.

Feb. 2013:Oscar nominated film "The Gatekeepers" is released in the United States.   Six former Shin Bet leaders are interviewed and all expressed reservations about Israel's ongoing occupation in the West Bank.    Avraham Shalom, the head of Shin Bet from 1980 to 1986 said that the Israeli Defense Force had become a "brutal occupation force" and compared the way they treated the Palestinians to the way the German Nazis treated the Poles, the Belgians, and the Dutch (though not the Jews.  The way the Nazis treated the Jews was something else altogether.)  He concluded " We've become cruel, to ourselves as well, but mainly to the occupied population, using the excuse of the war against terror."

Oct. 22, 2013: Multi-billionaire casino magnate  Sheldon Adelson advocated that the U.S. should start nuclear negotiations with Iran by dropping a nuclear weapon on an Iranian desert and threatening to follow up with a nuke on Tehran if Iran didn't roll over and give the U.S. and Israel everything they wanted.  Adelson gave $150 million to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign as well as to the campaigns of several Republican senatorial candidates in 2012.  Despite Adelson's large donations, the candidates he supported lost the election.  However,  Adelson still has the ear of the GOP since he has promised to donate twice as much money to those who support Israel in the future.  Adelson demonstrated that his primary allegiance was to Israel, and not the U.S., when he said he expressed regret that he had worn an American military uniform instead of an Israeli uniform and that he hoped his son would become a sniper for the IDF (pay close attention starting at 5:05)  Though Adelson was unsuccessful in bending the American electorate to his will in 2012, Israel Hayom, the newspaper he distributes for free in Israel, was instrumental in helping Netanyahu get re-elected.

Thomas Friedman spelled out the difficult dilemma Israel faces in the aftermath of Netanyahu's victory:

Having won the Israeli elections — in part by declaring that he will never permit a two state-solution between Israelis and Palestinians — it means Netanyahu will be the father of the one-state solution. And the one-state solution means that Israel will become, in time, either a non-Jewish democracy or Jewish non-democracy.  If there is only one state, Israel cannot be Jewish and permit West Bank Palestinians to exercise any voting rights alongside Israeli Arabs. But if Israel is one state and wants to be democratic, how does it continue depriving West Bankers of the vote — when you can be sure they will make it their No. 1 demand.


This dilemma doesn't seem to trouble Adelson.  He's got it all figured out.  Here is how Haaretz described part of an exchange between Adelson and fellow billionaire Haim Saban at the Israeli-American Council conference in November 2014:

At the conference, which also featured top Democratic funder Haim Saban, Adelson also said Israel would not be able to survive as a democracy: "So Israel won't be a democratic state, so what?" he asked Saban, adding that democracy, after all, is not mentioned in the Torah.

 

December 2013: Under heavy lobbying by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, 59 Senators signed the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013.  Had this act become law, its claim that Iran had no right to enrich any uranium would have killed any chance for a nuclear deal since  Iran would never completely give up its right to enrich uranium.  What's worse, the act's Wag-the-Dog clause would have effectively given Israel the ability to drag the U.S. into a war with Iran.   Former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, recently tweeted that AIPAC was "Israel's national strategic asset."  Why AIPAC isn't required to register as a foreign agent is beyond me.

11/9/14:  Sheldon Adelson is not the only multi-billionaire who supports Israel without reservation.  Haim Saban, Adelson's Democratic counterpart,  has pledged to give "as much as needed" to get Hillary Clinton elected president. At the same conference where Adelson revealed that it wouldn't trouble him if Israel was no longer a democracy, Saban declared  "if he were Israel’s prime minister and a nuclear deal between Iran and the West risked Israel’s existence, 'I would bomb the living daylights out of those sons of bitches.' "  Reporters need to ask Hillary Clinton these eleven questions during the campaign since she will be deeply indebted to Saban if she becomes president.  

3/3/15: Netanyahu tries to kill a nuclear deal with Iran by telling Congress that Iran is less than a year away from developing nuclear weapons and that Iran could hit the United States with its missiles.  Former head of the Mossad, Meir Dagan, called Netanyahu's speech "bullshit" and stated the Netanyahu knew that his claim that Iranian missiles can hit the United States was false.

3/9/15: 47 Republican Senators send a letter to Iran's leadership warning them that  the next president or congress could trash any nuclear agreement if President Obama does not submit the agreement to Congress for its ratification.  Many consider this attempt to undercut the President as treasonous and it may violate the never enforced and probably unconstitutional Logan Act.  Whether or not the letter violated the law, the abrogation of a nuclear deal with Iran in the future would jeopardize American security and put us directly on a path to war.  Tom Cotton, the leader of the gang of 47, has already received money from Sheldon Adelson for his next campaign.

Ongoing over the yearsIsrael mostly ignored calls by the rest of the world to stop building in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.  In fact, Israel has been heavily subsidizing West Bank settlement growth at the expense of the Israeli taxpayers within the Green Line.  Read this New York Times article by Jodi Rudoren and Jeremy Ashkenas for a detailed analysis of settlement growth under Netanyahu.

Update 3/29/15 6:30 pm: There is a report that Netanyahu has yielded to pressure from the Obama Administration and canceled a building project in the Har Homa neighborhood of East Jerusalem.  This project is especially sensitive.  If it is built it will effectively kill any possibility of a 2 State Solution, if it isn't dead already.  Netanyahu is to be congratulated for yielding to reality if this report is true and if he really does prevent construction there.