Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler
Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Thursday, December 6.
Last week Eugene Kontorovich wrote:
Speaking of the President – credit where credit is due. I have
previously criticized the record of his first three years on Israel, and
stand by that. My criticism was always non-partisan. As I often point
out, the Democratic Party has always been in lock-step with the general
American solicitude for Israel, but Obama in his first three years took a
different, confrontational course.
Yesterday, Lee Smith asked (and answered) Have Obama and Bibi made up?
In the year before the election, he switched gears. I am happy to
observe that since the election, his support of Israel has been what one
would expect of any generic American president. One suspects that
Abbas’s obvious rejection of any serious peace process, and his open use
of Obama as a cat’s paw, began to grate.
The years 2009-2012 may have marked one of the lowest moments in
U.S.-Israel relations—a period full of snubs, including Bibi being
called to the White House and left alone with his staff as the president
ate dinner with his family, constant reproaches, and even insults.
If the recent acquiescence to Israeli moves is a sign of greater
cooperation between Obama and Netanayhu, perhaps it goes back to last
year when the New York Times reported: Obama and Abbas: From Speed Dial to Not Talking:
So, what changed? The fact is that there are just too many important
issues that Washington and Jerusalem need to work together on in the
immediate future. If the peace process per se is no longer at the top of
the list, regional experts and former policymakers I spoke with agree
that the two need to cooperate on establishing some sort of road map for
the future of Palestinian-Israeli relations. Most important, the allies
need to work together on the region’s most pressing concern: Iran’s
nascent nuclear-arms program.
Some have argued that Israel’s recent campaign against Hamas commanders
and its long-range missile arsenal in Gaza may have been a test-run for a
more extensive attack against Iranian nuclear sites. If so, Operation
Pillar of Defense suggests that the pattern looks something like this:
Israel pulls off the military campaign while the United States does the
diplomatic and political work. With Gaza, that amounted to keeping the
Europeans quiet and the more delicate act of reminding Egyptian
President Mohamed Morsi that Egypt’s national interests are best served
by keeping the peace with Israel. Any campaign against Iran is going to
involve yet more coordination, if not camaraderie.
The Americans have their own frustrations. Some officials doubt that
Mr. Abbas is willing to take risks to pursue an agreement. His regular
threats to step down as the Palestinian Authority’s leader make some
question why Mr. Obama should make an investment in him. And with no
hope of progress, they ask what would be gained by putting the president
in touch with him.
Smith apparently confirms this:
“You pick your moments based on where you think the diplomacy is,” a
senior official said. “The president’s currency is so valuable in
diplomacy that if you don’t husband it, then you don’t have it when you
One thing both the Americans and the Palestinians agree on is that this
is not one of those moments. Mr. Abbas has written off the prospect of a
new American initiative for the rest of Mr. Obama’s term, Mr. Shaath
What changed the dynamic between Washington and Jerusalem, she said,
“is that they tried with the peace process and failed. The
administration has made a realistic assessment of where the two parties
are and adjusted expectations to match.” In other words: It’s clear to
the United States and Israel that the Palestinian leadership is not
ready to make a deal right now. (And even if it was, it’s unlikely the
majority of the Israeli electorate would be willing to go for it.)
That’s essentially what Clinton said this past weekend at the Saban
Forum in Washington. “If and when the parties are ready to enter into
direct negotiations to solve the conflict,” Clinton told a room full of
senior American policymakers, Israeli officials, and journalists,
“President Obama will be a full partner.”
(Elliott Abrams, who is quoted by Smith, recently argued that the severe European reaction to Israel's decision to build in E1 was done with American approval if not encouragement.)
Is it possible that President Obama has realized that with his regular
refusals to negotiate with Israel Mahmoud Abbas has rendered himself
irrelevant? Or does the American government realize that Abbas has no
real power at this point?
Labels: Barack Hussein Obama, Binyamin Netanyahu, Middle East Media Sampler, Soccer Dad