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Thursday, July 09, 2009

A 'win-win' situation?

Although the United States is denying that the number of homes that can be completed under a deal over the 'settlement freeze' is 2,500, reports on Thursday morning describe the deal that appears to be falling into place as allowing both the Americans and the Israelis to claim victory.
According to senior government officials, under this type of solution, Israel would declare a moratorium of a few months on the settlement issue, possibly half a year, while the US would give Israel a green light to complete a still-to-be-determined number of housing units in the settlements that are in advanced stages of construction.

Officials in the Prime Minister's Office would not confirm media reports that work on some 2,500 housing units in the settlements would continue.

Under this type of arrangement, US President Barack Obama would be able to claim a victory in getting Israel to agree to a moratorium on any new housing starts in the settlements, while Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu could claim that he did not agree to a complete freeze, and that housing construction would continue.

In addition, US Mideast envoy George Mitchell would continue efforts to extract normalization gestures from at least some countries in the Arab world.

A State Department spokesman on Wednesday night denied the media reports on the 2,500 housing units.

Israeli officials said that Obama was continuing pushing hard on the settlement issue because of a feeling he needed some breakthrough here to be able to go to the Arab world and build coalitions to help the US deal with mounting problems in Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran.

Once agreement is reached on the settlement issue, and the US gets some gestures from the Arab world, the next step would possibly be an event - likely an international conference - where a "to do" list would be presented regarding what needed to be done to move the diplomatic process forward.
I think it has to be said: Obama is the one who has apparently blinked. Obama blinked because Obama needs some kind of success in some sphere. His poll numbers are dropping, the American economy is tanking, his two key programs - cap and trade and nationalizing health insurance - both appear to be in serious trouble, and the Russians made him look like a fool earlier this week. He needs something he can point to as an accomplishment.

But the 'international conference' would be hosted by the Russians so it's questionable how much credit Obama would get for it. And there are no guarantees that the 'Palestinians' and the Arab countries - who want a total freeze for an indefinite period of time - will be willing to come to a 'conference.' For that matter, even the Europeans seem dumbfounded by the possibility that this type of deal will be made between the United States and Israel.
A senior European Union official rules out any compromise with Israel over the issue of settlements, unless reached in the framework of a final-status agreement with the Palestinians.

Robert Rydberg, head of the Middle East desk in the Swedish Foreign Ministry, stressed on Monday it was inconceivable for the international community to legitimize natural growth of the settler population, since all settlements beyond the Green Line were illegal.

Rydberg, whose country holds the EU presidency, said the only conceivable compromise would come with Israeli and Palestinian agreement on borders in an all-encompassing final-status agreement between the two parties.


Rydberg, who also serves as deputy director general of the Swedish Foreign Ministry and is a former ambassador to Israel, noted that the United States was interested in the EU's playing an active role in the peace process, and that the U.S. meticulously coordinates its positions with the EU and other members of the Quartet.

He noted with satisfaction the latest statements by Hamas on Israel. He said that although Hamas was approaching the Quartet's demands, it still must live up to all of the Quartet's conditions before the latter would engage with the Islamic group.

He also said the EU was trying to "close gaps" with Arab countries like Syria and Libya, in a bid to engage them in the efforts to make progress in resolving the Middle East conflict.
Either Rydberg hasn't gotten the EU's position straight or - more likely - the US did not 'meticulously coordinate its position' with the Europeans this time.


Is this a 'win-win situation'? I'd call it a win for Netanyahu. I'm not happy with any 'settlement freeze,' but Netanyahu seems to have made the 'freeze' as light as possible without fouling up Israel's relations with the United States.


At 3:45 PM, Blogger Ashan said...

Not so fast with the "win-win", Carl. Check this out: http://www.israpundit.com/2008/?p=15113#comments. "MR. KELLY: No, that report, and that Israeli media outlet, is inaccurate. What I can say is that Senator Mitchell and Defense Minister Barak did have good, productive discussions, but our position has not changed. And that’s that..."

Notice how this amateurish, obfuscating and downright lying administration constantly contradicts itself. Biden says Israel can defend itself vis-a-vis Iran, but Dear Leader say "No green light." And now this.

What a disaster. Can't Netanyahu just say "No!" and keep his little monkey, Barak, in his cage?

At 4:07 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

That's assuming there is an agreement in the works.

Hopenchange, any one?

At 4:40 PM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...


As I understand it, the only part of the report with which the State Department is truly taking issue is the number 2500.

If in fact the Americans are still insisting on a full freeze, there will not be a deal.

Kelly's comments refer to the specific report in Maariv that I blogged yesterday. Today's reports are much more widespread and give the impression that the only thing under dispute is the number.


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