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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Obama throws in the towel on 'negotiations'?

Barry Rubin points out a subtlety in a communique issued by Hillary Clinton and Tony Blair after a meeting on Thursday that may signal a significant policy shift.
First paragraph:

“This Administration has, from the beginning, worked to bring about comprehensive peace in the Middle East, including a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On that issue our approach has been three-fold: (1) to help build the economy and capacity to govern of a Palestinian state; (2) to renew political negotiations to enable the earliest possible establishment of that state; and (3) to achieve these in a manner that ensures the security of Israel and of the Palestinians.”

Wait a minute. Note the shift in priorities, very subtle but very important. Up until now, in every statement made by the Obama administration, item 2 has been in the top position. Last September, the president of the United States announced that intensive talks to reach a comprehensive peace agreement would start in early November! Three months later they aren’t even in sight. So now the administration has shifted gears and the main priority is a process of state-building and community organizing among the Palestinians to get them ready for the grand opening ceremonies. That makes sense as far as it goes.

Notice it doesn't even say the "earliest possible" renewal of political negotiations but implies that the economic and infrastructure change--not talks--will achieve the "earliest possible establishment" of a Palestinian state.

In light of this shift, the second paragraph reads:

“Consistent with Prime Minister Fayyad’s plan for a future Palestinian state, Tony Blair, as the Quartet representative, will intensify his partnership with Senator Mitchell in support of the political negotiations. In his role as Quartet Representative Tony Blair will continue, with full support by and coordination with Senator Mitchell, to mobilize the efforts of the international community: (1) to build support for the institutional capacity and governance of a future Palestinian State, including on the rule of law; (2) to improve freedom of movement and access for Palestinians; (3) to encourage further private sector investment; and (4) to bring change in the living conditions of the people in Gaza.”
This is NOT all good news. If Fayyad were to somehow be viewed as 'succeeding' then a second-term Obama who does not have to stand for re-election (or a new US President with a lot of goodwill from the American people, as Obama had a year ago) would push Israel quite hard to just give them their 'state' regardless of Israel's security concerns. Rubin doesn't believe that's likely to happen, and he views this as the Obama administration putting the 'peace process' on the back burner. Read the whole thing to find out why.

Al-AP takes the exact opposite view of Rubin's.
In a written statement, Clinton said she had spoken to Blair on Thursday about developments in the region. As a result of that call, she said Blair would broaden his current role as representative of the so-called Quartet of Mideast peacemakers to "intensify his partnership" with Mitchell in support of the attempt to revive political negotiations.

Blair's spokesman, Matthew Doyle, said the former prime minister would "deepen his partnership with Senator Mitchell" in support of the political negotiations, but provided no details. The spokesman also said that while the Quartet had made "real progress" on the West Bank, a new strategy was needed for Gaza.
Note that al-AP doesn't quote the statement, and that a 'new strategy' for Gaza leaves open the possibility of 'negotiating' with Hamas.

Rubin appears to be correct. The 'Middle East peace process' is being shunted to the back burner where the administration will try to keep the flame from rising. But nothing more than that at least until after the midterm elections, and maybe for longer. And that's good news.


At 4:26 PM, Blogger Channel Surfer said...

I don't believe there is anything to worry about concerning "negotiations" between Israel and some "Palestinian" entities. Nothing will happen at all; Israel will not be forced to enter into any agreements; things will generally, absent another armed conflict, remain the same. Actually, even after armed conflict, things will remain the same. Israel will continue to grow, the "Palestinians" will continue to stay just where they are. The US Administration will continue to make hot air noises about "peace" etc. The only real task the Israeli government has is to continue to pretend to be interested in some sort of "settlement" in the future without sounding too phony. In a few years, perhaps less than 10, Israel's economy will be on a par with most of the EU's (on a per capita basis). It will continue to attract more investment capital than most European countries. Gazans will continue to live in their self-made hellhole.

There! That's the future.


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