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Friday, October 28, 2011

Just how badly Obama blew it

There's nothing really new in David Ignatius' Washington Post column on the part of Condoleeza Rice's book that deals with the 'peace process.' After all, the narrative was essentially disclosed by Jackson Diehl of the same newspaper in an article I have linked dozens of times. But it's fascinating to see just how badly Obama messed up whatever opportunity was there by his insistence on being the anti-Bush.
And what happened to this miraculous package? Because it’s the Middle East, you know the answer: It died, with the United States on the sidelines hoping and praying but Olmert and Abbas too weak politically to take the leap.

The collapse came the moment it seemed to become real. In September 2008, Olmert showed Abbas a map charting the boundaries of the new state. According to Rice, he asked Abbas to sign the deal on the spot, but the Palestinian leader balked and asked to consult his experts first. Olmert wouldn’t let him take a copy of the map, and the follow-up meeting never happened.

President Bush tried to revive the deal when the leaders separately visited Washington in November and December, but by then Olmert was under investigation for corruption charges, and Abbas apparently decided he could get a better deal with a Democratic president. “The conditions were almost ripe for a deal on our watch, but not quite,” writes Rice.

What followed this near-miss? That’s the most depressing part of the story. Rice kept mum, but she gave the new administration details of Olmert’s offer, including a State Department version of the map. She hoped the United States would use Olmert’s plan as a building block for negotiations — and perhaps even submit it to the U.N. Security Council.

But in one of President Obama’s biggest mistakes, he decided to start negotiations all over — and to demand an Israeli settlement freeze as a test of wills. What a mistake. He was outfoxed by Benjamin Netanyahu, the new Israeli prime minister. Three years later, the peace process is a lifeless corpse.
I don't think it's fair to say that Obama was 'outfoxed' by Netanyahu. He demanded (and continues to demand) something that no Israeli Prime Minister - not Olmert or Livni either - could ever give him. Netanyahu did the only thing he could have done under the circumstances - fight Obama off.

Moreover, I don't believe that Rice is correct that the deal could have gone through. Even if the parties could have reached an agreement, Olmert did not have the political standing to sell a deal to the public. He was desperate to stay in office and out of jail and everyone here knew it. That's why he was willing to go so far to make a deal. And that's why the public would not have accepted it.

Turning it over to the UN also would not have worked - it would have been a betrayal of Israel. The deal with the 'peace process' since Day One has been "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed." Taking a partial deal like that and demanding that further negotiations start from there violates that rule.

But read the whole thing.

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At 1:34 PM, Blogger Sunlight said...

Haven't seen this book yet. I'll be curious to see whether she mentions rockets falling onto Israeli civilians as any issue whatsoever in her "outfoxing" calculations. In seeing the Palestinians as parallel to MKL's civil rights movement, I'm wondering if her eyes became unable or unwilling to see rockets or suicide bombers. What an insult to MLK.

At 3:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Carl, but acknowledging Olmert did not have standing to sell a deal because his straightened circumstances gives some cover to the Palestinian claims that--by walking away and never responding to his insistence they must sign now on the deal--they were not only waiting for better (or impossible to realize) terms from Obama but they were walking away from a deal Olmert could never have implemented.

This said, Obama is a SCOAMF is a SCOAMF is a SCOAMF.

But we knew that.


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