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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Obama continues to bungle

Robert Satloff has a particularly cogent analysis of the current state of the 'peace process' and comes out roundly criticizing the Obama administration for its shoddy treatment of Israel.
But the sad fact is that the United States has not pursued diplomacy smartly. For almost two years, Obama administration efforts were characterized by an obsessive desire to condition the resumption of negotiations on a total freeze on Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank (and, at times, in Jerusalem too). Although, since autumn, the administration has corrected itself and stopped insisting on a settlement freeze, it hasn't replaced that policy with one based on actually trying to convince the parties back to the table. In this case, that would be the Palestinians, who refuse to negotiate the future disposition of the territory they seek for their own. Indeed, at the current moment, it is not at all clear that the Obama administration is pursuing any diplomacy at all. No visible effort is underway to restart peace talks; indeed, neither the president nor the secretary of states has called for immediate resumption of negotiations, and peace envoy George Mitchell has not visited the area in three months (and only once since September).

Ironically, despite the PA's current refusal to negotiate, the administration appears to believe that Israel is primarily responsible for the absence of diplomacy. Hence, the administration's agonizing internal debate on the decision to veto a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel last month -- a much closer call than is generally known -- and the president's widely reported (if off-the-record) statement to Jewish leaders earlier this month vouching for the bona fides of Palestinian leaders but questioning whether Israeli leaders truly want peace.

None of this would matter much if the administration had taken to heart one of the most important lessons of the Arab revolutions of 2011: that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may be very important to Israelis and Palestinians (and, perhaps, Jordanians) but it does not motivate much political action elsewhere in the region, negatively or positively. However, that does not appear to be the case. Even with Libya burning, Bahrain in turmoil, and uncertainty reigning in Cairo, Tunis, and Sanaa, the Obama administration is sending strong signals that it expects Israel to jumpstart the peace process with a new initiative in coming weeks.

This is topsy-turvy diplomacy. Israel may have its own reasons for a diplomatic initiative, which Washington should view sympathetically. But from an American perspective, now is the moment for the United States to project the strength of its partnership with Israel, as part of a strategy to reaffirm allies in the region at this time of momentous change. Bolstering the security relationship, as the administration has laudably done, is necessary but not sufficient; at a time of volcanic political change across the Middle East, bolstering the political relationship is essential too.

One place to begin would be clarity from the highest levels of the administration about the need to resume Israeli-Palestinian direct negotiations now, before ideas of internationalizing the conflict or declaring U.S. or Quartet-defined terms for negotiation fully take hold. Taking a firm and early stand that denies the PA the internationalization option only makes sense. After all, the administration reportedly promised that there would be "repercussions" for Palestinian insistence on the Security Council vote, but so far none have been forthcoming.

On the bilateral front, Washington would be wise to quietly revisit the understandings on settlements and final status issues worked out between Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon and President Bush, understandings that were shelved by the Obama team soon he they took office. After all, look at what the Israeli government did in the wake of the Itamar massacre. After considering -- and rejecting -- a long list of responses many in the international community would consider provocative and disproportionate, Jerusalem decided to authorize 500 additional units of construction within settlement blocs, areas near Israel's pre-1967 border that virtually all observers believe will eventually become part of sovereign Israel. In other words, Israel did not respond to the attack in Itamar by building in Itamar, an out-of-the-way settlement not far from Nablus; rather, it endorsed building in the same consensus areas covered in the Bush-Sharon understandings.

At a time of intense national outrage in Israel, this is a remarkably sober approach. Washington should respond by injecting some sobriety back into its own peace process diplomacy.
As many of you know, in an earlier post, I wrote that Israel should build outside the 'security fence' area, including in Itamar. I believe that. I believe that because I believe that the 'peace process' is over, and like a dying horse, it ought to be put out of its misery.

But for anyone who still holds out hope for the 'peace process' to continue, Satloff's analysis is spot-on. Too bad that Obama cannot even see this much.

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At 3:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sadly, Obama is a klafte, a pizde, a royal pussy. An autocratic passive-aggressive schemer with an admitted talent for political maneuvering in controlled spacess, he fooled enough people for long enough to get to play President, but will never ever risk a new body count in any situation where the teacher's pass from the usual "international community" is available, if then.

Unfortunately, the lowest common denominator of the nations is contempt for Israel and distrust of the Jews so, while the passing rubble of history rains down on his pretty head, he can't resist the Obama-hearts-Islam luv call to go back to the well, notwithstanding that the Sunni Gulf players have told him repeatedly that, sure they don't like the Jews either, but they have other problems.

Here stateside, we have Professor Harold Hill pushing the PR but those 76 trombones aren't ever showing up.

For Israel, the issue is not a theoretical peace with a theoretical Palestinian community but the present inability of the PA to sign onto a final agreement with any Jewish state or under any terms Hamas will reject, and the inability of the United States to be trusted as interlocutor given Obama's proven record of dissimulation--not excluding the President's trashing of previous understandings--and ahistorical and cartoonish ideological fixation on the Palestinians as oppressed and colonized victims.

This is a guy whose idea of good Jews is the greying pony-tail and cashiered Meretz cohort led by an ever oleaginous failed nobody with a name and a rolodex of bloggers, lefties, Eurotrash anti-Zionists, and Iranian cut-outs.

A buddy of the First Golfer.

If Bibi cannot stop trying to play this priggish poseur long enough to smell the coffee, other princes of the Likud will need to fill the gap.


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