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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Obama: 'Eternally obtuse'

Eli Lake is reporting in Tuesday's Washington Times (via Twitter) that Israel has made a 'secret offer' on a 'settlement freeze' in advance of Prime Minister Netanyahu's tripartite meeting with President Obama and Abu Mazen later Tuesday. But if Lake's description of the offer is accurate, it's nothing that hasn't been reported in the media here before: Six to nine months of 'freeze' except for 2,500 - 3,000 units already approved (apparently including the extra units approved last week) and no 'freeze' in Jerusalem. But here's what's more interesting: Lake quotes former negotiator Aaron Miller - not a friend of Israel by any stretch - saying that because the Arabs have stiffed Obama, the Israelis have him over the barrel:
A U.S. official, speaking on the condition that he not be named because the negotiations are continuing, said Mr. Mitchell has received private assurances from some Gulf Arab and North African states to grant over-flight rights to Israeli jets, open interest sections in Israel and end a travel ban against Israelis if Israel freezes settlement construction. Saudi Arabia, guardian of Islam's holiest sites, has not agreed to these steps absent a peace agreement.

"Thus far, the Arabs have stiffed Obama and the Israelis in their own exquisite way are stiffing him," said Aaron David Miller, a former senior Middle East adviser to six U.S. secretaries of state. "He is not getting a comprehensive settlement freeze. In fact, over the next 18 months, it may look like a construction boom; 2,500 to 3,000 new units is a lot of construction and to boot the Israelis will never agree to anything on Jerusalem."

Mr. Miller, however, also acknowledged that no American president has gotten the Israelis to agree on any kind of settlement freeze.


"The problem with the Obama administration policy is not the man, Obama or Mitchell; it's the mandate," Mr. Miller said. "It should be clear to all but the eternally obtuse that a conflict-ending agreement between Benjamin Netanyahu and a divided Palestinian national movement is probably out of reach. The question then becomes what is the connection between trying to get the Arabs to do partial steps for normalization and the Israelis to do a partial settlement freeze and the Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement?"
Actually, Miller pegged the problem but did not want to say so explicitly: Obama is eternally obtuse. He put himself in this corner by raising a 'settlement freeze' in the first place, and now Abu Mazen doesn't want to let him climb down the tree on which he is stuck.

In Tuesday's JPost, Amir Mizroch argues that everyone is saying no to Obama (pictured at the top looking for a penny he lost in Russian Prime Minister Putin's office) because of the American economy.
It's the economy, stupid.

Everyone has worked it out by now: The great secret is out. America's economy has made Obama a weak president, and he will likely remain weak throughout his first term. He has about two years to pull the American economy out of its free-fall before he begins his reelection campaign. If he can do it, and that's a big if, chances are good that he'll get reelected, and in his second term he can try to pull some geopolitical strings. But for the next three years, expect to see a world that says no to Obama. No meaningful and dramatic diplomatic initiative can come out of the White House in the next three years, as long as Obama remains weak.
Sorry, but I don't agree, at least not when it comes to Israel. The American economy was an absolute disaster when Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat went to Camp David and signed a treaty. And it was deep in recession when Yitzchak Rabin and King Hussein signed a treaty. The reason Israel is saying no is because Prime Minister Netanyahu understands that if he doesn't say no, he won't have a coalition, and because Israel understands it's in our best interests to say no. If Obama is going to be 'eternally obtuse' (in Miller's words), we don't have to play along with him.


At 10:09 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Obama is weak now. Six months ago, he was very popular with Americans and Netanyahu was the one who wasn't trusted by most Israeli Jews. Today, their political positions have switched. Obama can't get Congress to pass his politically controversial health care plans and he has even less clout on the Middle East. That's one plane that's never going off the ground.


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