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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Just a soul whose intentions are good

This one requires a little mood setting, so let's go to the videotape. Try to imagine Bibi Netanyahu singing this to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Former Defense Minister Moshe Arens says that Bibi and his cabinet sounded like this song when they fell all over each other to apologize to the Obama administration last week. And Arens says that they were way out of line.
Since it was well known in Washington that the Netanyahu government had not frozen building activity in Jerusalem, and that therefore not only construction there was continuing but also the routine planning activities that precede construction, the blame was now being put on the "timing." Presumably, if the planning committee had held its session a few days before Biden's arrival there would not have been a problem. Or, had it met a few days after Biden's departure and he left here under the impression that planning activities had been suspended in Jerusalem, only to find out differently on his arrival in Washington, there would have been nothing to get excited about.

"Timing" is important when investing in the stock market, but it is of little relevance here. There is no substitute for the truth when dealing with friends and allies. And the truth in this case is that while the Israeli government has frozen construction in Judea and Samaria for 10 months, there has been no such freeze in any part of Jerusalem, and certainly no holdup of planning procedures. There was no need for all this groveling by Israeli spokesmen. On the subject of Jerusalem, the government of Israel and the administration in Washington simply disagree.

Throughout the U.S.-Israeli relationship there have been disagreements on certain issues. They are inevitable, even among the best of friends. But generally, the disagreements have not been taken public, but have been discussed in confidential exchanges between representatives of the two governments. U.S. President Barack Obama, however, has taken a new approach, which he signaled at his speech last June in Cairo, where he publicly called on Israel to stop settlement activity.

The rationale of this approach was presumably to accelerate the negotiations between Israel and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. But what the Americans must be finding out to their chagrin is that this approach is actually making it more difficult, if not impossible, for Abbas to come to the negotiating table. Whereas in the past he negotiated with Israel while settlement activity continued, without setting prior conditions, Obama's Cairo speech left Abbas no choice but to demand the cessation of settlement activity in Judea and Samaria as a condition for entering negotiations. After all, he cannot be less Palestinian than Obama.
Netanyahu did what he did because he was afraid to incur the Obama administration's wrath. But what he has discovered over the course of the last week is that the only way not to incur the administration's wrath would be to let his coalition fall apart by taking actions that are against Israel's interests and not in line with his coalition agreement. Obama wanted to force Bibi to choose. He has apparently chosen. Now Obama will have to decide whether he wants to take this one to the wall or whether he will learn to live with Bibi's choice and absorb a lot less actions that conflict with America's interests than he has tolerated from the likes of Egypt, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

What could go wrong?


At 1:16 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

The point is Obama lost a friend and doesn't care the price is not worth the cost of losing him. But maybe that price is worth signaling to America's enemies that the way it treats its friends is good enough for them to court America... on their terms not on that of America's.

Weakness breeds weakness.


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