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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The obstacle to Middle East peace

The Washington Post's Jackson Diehl has identified the biggest obstacle to making progress on Middle East peace.
The Palestinian president's stand has frustrated a lot of people -- including his own prime minister, Salaam Fayyad, and the president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, both of whom have said that the settlement issue should not be an obstacle to the negotiations. At a recent dinner in Washington, Fayyad pointed out that any building in the settlements during the next year would have no effect on the outcome of the talks or the future Palestinian state.

So why does Abbas stubbornly persist in his self-defeating position? In an interview with Israeli television Sunday night, he offered a remarkably candid explanation: "When Obama came to power, he is the one who announced that settlement activity must be stopped," he said. "If America says it and Europe says it and the whole world says it, you want me not to say it?"

The statement confirmed something that many Mideast watchers have suspected for a long time: that the settlement impasse originated not with Netanyahu or Abbas, but with Obama -- who by insisting on an Israeli freeze has created a near-insuperable obstacle to the peace process he is trying to promote.

A standoff between Obama and Netanyahu over settlements paralyzed Middle East diplomacy for more than a year, while Abbas happily watched from the sidelines. Netanyahu finally announced a 10-month, partial moratorium on new settlement construction. In July, following a meeting at the White House, it looked like the U.S. and Israeli leaders had overcome their differences. Obama said nothing about settlements afterward, and instead urged Abbas to begin direct talks with Netanyahu.

Yet to the surprise of both Netanyahu and some in his own administration, Obama reintroduced the settlement issue. First in a press conference and then in his September address to the UN General Assembly, he called on the Israeli government to extend the settlement moratorium, which expired on Sept. 26. In doing so, he made it impossible for Abbas not to make the same demand.
The most amazing thing about this is not so much Obama's totally moronic behavior as the fact that - apparently - no one in the US foreign policy establishment - from Hillary Clinton on down - can get him to shut his mouth and let the parties make progress. One wonders if things would be better if a real foreign policy wonk like Henry Kissinger were Secretary of State rather than Clinton who is more of a politician. I doubt it. Obama's goal seems to be destroying the United States' relations with Israel and not bringing about peace. Even the most professional Secretary of State cannot stop a President who is determined to destroy a relationship.


At 10:56 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

The Palestinians see no reason they should not be more intransigent than the Americans and the Europeans. That's why the talks are dead.

And if Israel did agree to a renewed revanant freeze, the Palestinians would simply add new conditions just to talk to Israel. In other words, if Israel gives in, its just the beginning of the costs it will have to pay to have any negotiations at all.

What could go wrong indeed

At 12:39 PM, Blogger Y.K. said...

This post is OT, but IMHO important. Aluf Benn wrote a very revealing article a few days ago:

"The man behind Avigdor Lieberman"


He forthrightly states that:

"Whether the left returns to power depends on garnering Arab votes for Jewish or mixed parties. What to do - it's a question of demographics: Population growth in Israel is coming mainly from the ultra-Orthodox and the Arabs, which provides major reserves of right-wing voters in the future and erodes the reservoir of left-wing Jewish voters."

He then accuses Nethanyahu of intentionally alienating Arabs. But I think the opposite is much more likely: Could it be the Left's opposition to the oath and their anti-Zionist journey (opposing their own "Jewish and Democratic" credo!) due to their desire to get Arab votes and therefor political power? Could their incitement of the Arab public (via NIF) be related to the desire to gain votes?

At 6:55 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

In the past, the Labor Party used to get almost all the Arab vote during the Oslo hey day.

To have a chance, they have to win back Kadima voters and ditch their Zionist orientation to get almost all the Arabs to vote for them.

As things stand now, that's all a tall order.


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