The more things change... Obama bringing back linkage
If you thought that the Obama administration has learned anything about the Middle East in the last four years, you are dead wrong, at least if an article in Sunday's Times of London (behind a paywall) is correct. The article claims that in honor of his trip to Israel, President Hussein Obama is offering Prime Minister Netanyahu a deal: 'Progress' on the 'Palestinians' in exchange for more pressure on Iran
According to the
report, the US promised to raise the heat on the Iran issue in return for more
open talks with the Palestinian leader even if core
issues such as Jerusalem and the issues of Palestinian refugees is not
The Times quoted Aaron David Miller, of the Woodrow Wilson
Center, an adviser on the Middle East to six US secretaries of state as saying
"Barack Obama does not want to be the American president on whose watch Iran
acquires a nuclear weapon or be accused of presiding over the demise of what’s
left of the two-state solution."
This is so wrong. If turning up the pressure on Iran is the right thing to do (which it is), then that ought to happen regardless of what happens with the 'Palestinians.' Doing it this way just tells the 'Palestinians' to keep being their intransigent selves, to force Netanyahu to bargain with himself - or with Obama - and to just sit and wait for Netanyahu to give up everything. Just like 'moderate
Mahmoud Abbas Abu Mazen told the Washington Post's Jackson Diehl
four years ago.
Yet on Wednesday afternoon, as he prepared for the White House meeting
in a suite at the Ritz-Carlton in Pentagon City, Abbas insisted that his
only role was to wait. He will wait for Hamas to capitulate to his
demand that any Palestinian unity government recognize Israel and swear
off violence. And he will wait for the Obama administration to force a
recalcitrant Netanyahu to freeze Israeli settlement construction and
publicly accept the two-state formula.
Until Israel meets his demands, the Palestinian president says, he will
refuse to begin negotiations. He won't even agree to help Obama's envoy,
George J. Mitchell, persuade Arab states to take small
confidence-building measures. "We can't talk to the Arabs until Israel
agrees to freeze settlements and recognize the two-state solution," he
insisted in an interview. "Until then we can't talk to anyone."
What's interesting about Abbas's hardline position, however, is what it
says about the message that Obama's first Middle East steps have sent to
Palestinians and Arab governments. From its first days the Bush
administration made it clear that the onus for change in the Middle East
was on the Palestinians: Until they put an end to terrorism,
established a democratic government and accepted the basic parameters
for a settlement, the United States was not going to expect major
concessions from Israel.
Obama, in contrast, has repeatedly and publicly stressed the need for a
West Bank settlement freeze, with no exceptions. In so doing he has
shifted the focus to Israel. He has revived a long-dormant Palestinian
fantasy: that the United States will simply force Israel to make
critical concessions, whether or not its democratic government agrees,
while Arabs passively watch and applaud. "The Americans are the leaders
of the world," Abbas told me and Post Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt.
"They can use their weight with anyone around the world. Two years ago
they used their weight on us. Now they should tell the Israelis, 'You
have to comply with the conditions.' "
But what's more amazing is that this time, Netanyahu is apparently going along with it
. Abu Mazen is the winner.
Two of the prime minister’s aides will arrive
in Washington this week in an attempt to link the Iranian and Palestinian
issues, The Times reported. If the report over Obama's attempt to appease Netanyahu is authentic,
the White House is receptive to the link.
What could go wrong?
Labels: direct talks, Iranian nuclear threat, linkage, Middle East peace process, two-state solution