The message that Baker delivered to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee is long overdue. Calling for the return of annexed territory to the Palestinians, before a hostile audience and during a week when Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin was scheduled to meet with U.S. officials, is a welcome sign that the Bush Administration is not terrified of playing political hardball in the Middle East where human rights issues are concerned.
However, strong words will ultimately produce no more than a huff and a puff. The government of Israel will continue to be unswerving in its willingness to relentlessly trod on the rights of the Palestinians or anyone else who gets in its way.
In order to implement an effective Middle-East policy vis-a-vis Israel, the United States is going to have to hit them where it hurts--in the pocketbook. The Israelis will be pleased to listen to us admonish them in any language we choose as long as we're willing to cough up $1.8 billion in military aid and $1.2 billion in economic support. That's a lot of money. It ought to buy more than an arrogant disregard for the human rights of others. It does in Central America. Why is Israel so different?