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ECONOMIC SCENE: Sanctions on Iran and Israel could defuse Middle East

For centuries, nations have resorted to economic sanctions when diplomacy has failed.

A Jewish settler piles up rocks to build a structure on a hilltop near the Israeli West Bank settlement of Maaleh Mikhmash near Ramallah on July 28. The Obama administration has asked Israel to halt settlement construction and could consider sanctions in its efforts to broker Middle East peace.

AP / Sebastian Scheiner

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To stop the construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the Obama administration could threaten to suspend the $3 billion a year it sends to Israel. That’s a move urged by former US Rep. Paul Findley, founder of a nonprofit group calling for even-handed US policy in the Middle East.

To keep Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, key nations could stop buying its oil and selling it much-needed gasoline. Those are two elements of a 12-point Iran policy proposed by Jennifer Mizrahi, head of the Israel Project, a pro-Israel nonprofit.

For centuries, nations have resorted to economic sanctions when diplomacy has failed. “It’s an intermediate tool ... much preferable to declaring war,” says John Williamson, an economist at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

But does it work?

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