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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Does Obama have a foreign policy or talking points?

The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler surveys 'experts' who are wondering whether the Obama administration has a strategy in the Middle East or just talking points (Hat Tip: Memeorandum). But first, I want to give myself a pat on the back.

On Friday morning, I wrote:
One would think that someone in the Obama administration would have thought of this already and tried to build up a relationship with Yitzchak Molcho or Mike Herzog, who are Netanyahu's equivalent of Dov Weisglass. Harel goes on to suggest that the problem is with George Mitchell who views himself as an errand boy to carry bridging proposals and suggests that Mitchell ought to be replaced. Rozen thinks Harel is angling to get Dennis Ross the position.

While Israelis would regard Ross as a neutral party, and would probably be more open to engaging with him than they are with Mitchell, I don't believe that Ross would make any difference substantively. This is the wrong 'peace process' at the wrong time.
And sure enough, Glenn Kessler reports:
Diplomats noted that the Obama White House still appears to lack a discreet back channel that would allow President Obama and Netanyahu to directly handle sensitive issues, but the glimmerings of one may have emerged in this crisis. Yitzhak Molcho, a low-key private lawyer in Israel who negotiated the settlement freeze with Mitchell, worked closely behind the scenes on the Israeli response with Dennis Ross, a senior official on the National Security Council.
But most of Kessler's article is about the Obama administration's lack of strategy for dealing with the Middle East. He quotes Dan Kurtzer, Aaron David Miller, Elliott Abrams and Martin Indyk, all old peace processors, and all of whom are critical of Obama's lack of strategy. (By the way, he now lists Indyk as an adviser to George Mitchell). Miller comes up with the line that Obama just has talking points.

I disagree with all of them. There is a strategy. It's the execution that's missing, and thank God it's missing. The strategy is to do anything that has to be done to bring about the creation of a 'Palestinian state.' One reason the strategy isn't working is that the 'Palestinians' don't want a state - they won't even come to the table. They're still waiting to be handed a 'state' on a silver platter.

The other reason the strategy isn't working is that Israel still has a lot of support in Congress and Obama needs Congress for other things, like his domestic agenda. When the letters that are going to be circulated around Congress by AIPAC members next week have as their lead signatories Barbara Boxer and Steny Hoyer and Jesse Jackson Jr. (yes, really - I'll have more on that later), Obama is going to have a hard time shoving things down Israel's throat.

And that's a good thing.


At 2:45 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Agreed. Israel is not going to cede ground on the core issues during Netanyahu's visit to Washington and even Jeff Jacoby noted that one thing no Israeli government is going to do is cede sovereignty over Jerusalem - much less than accede to the Quartet's demand Israel ethnically cleanse Yesha of Jews over the next two years. Those two things are never going to happen. Israel is not going to allow Obama to twist its arms so the Palestinians get everything they want without having to compromise and make a real peace that ends with a termination of the conflict and an acknowledgment of Israel's right to exist.

In all the ink spilled over the Ramat Shlomo crisis, what has not been mentioned is the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is not over land; its existential. And that is exactly why its defied a solution over the past 60 years and why one will not come into sight in our own lifetime.


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