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Thursday, December 06, 2012

Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler

Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Thursday, December 6.
Working together?

Last week Eugene Kontorovich wrote:  

Speaking of the President – credit where credit is due. I have previously criticized the record of his first three years on Israel, and stand by that. My criticism was always non-partisan. As I often point out, the Democratic Party has always been in lock-step with the general American solicitude for Israel, but Obama in his first three years took a different, confrontational course.
In the year before the election, he switched gears. I am happy to observe that since the election, his support of Israel has been what one would expect of any generic American president. One suspects that Abbas’s obvious rejection of any serious peace process, and his open use of Obama as a cat’s paw, began to grate.
Yesterday, Lee Smith asked (and answered) Have Obama and Bibi made up?
The years 2009-2012 may have marked one of the lowest moments in U.S.-Israel relations—a period full of snubs, including Bibi being called to the White House and left alone with his staff as the president ate dinner with his family, constant reproaches, and even insults.
So, what changed? The fact is that there are just too many important issues that Washington and Jerusalem need to work together on in the immediate future. If the peace process per se is no longer at the top of the list, regional experts and former policymakers I spoke with agree that the two need to cooperate on establishing some sort of road map for the future of Palestinian-Israeli relations. Most important, the allies need to work together on the region’s most pressing concern: Iran’s nascent nuclear-arms program.
Some have argued that Israel’s recent campaign against Hamas commanders and its long-range missile arsenal in Gaza may have been a test-run for a more extensive attack against Iranian nuclear sites. If so, Operation Pillar of Defense suggests that the pattern looks something like this: Israel pulls off the military campaign while the United States does the diplomatic and political work. With Gaza, that amounted to keeping the Europeans quiet and the more delicate act of reminding Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi that Egypt’s national interests are best served by keeping the peace with Israel. Any campaign against Iran is going to involve yet more coordination, if not camaraderie.
If the recent acquiescence to Israeli moves is a sign of greater cooperation between Obama and Netanayhu, perhaps it goes back to last year when the New York Times reported: Obama and Abbas: From Speed Dial to Not Talking:
The Americans have their own frustrations. Some officials doubt that Mr. Abbas is willing to take risks to pursue an agreement. His regular threats to step down as the Palestinian Authority’s leader make some question why Mr. Obama should make an investment in him. And with no hope of progress, they ask what would be gained by putting the president in touch with him.
“You pick your moments based on where you think the diplomacy is,” a senior official said. “The president’s currency is so valuable in diplomacy that if you don’t husband it, then you don’t have it when you need it.”
One thing both the Americans and the Palestinians agree on is that this is not one of those moments. Mr. Abbas has written off the prospect of a new American initiative for the rest of Mr. Obama’s term, Mr. Shaath said.
Smith apparently confirms this:
What changed the dynamic between Washington and Jerusalem, she said, “is that they tried with the peace process and failed. The administration has made a realistic assessment of where the two parties are and adjusted expectations to match.” In other words: It’s clear to the United States and Israel that the Palestinian leadership is not ready to make a deal right now. (And even if it was, it’s unlikely the majority of the Israeli electorate would be willing to go for it.) That’s essentially what Clinton said this past weekend at the Saban Forum in Washington. “If and when the parties are ready to enter into direct negotiations to solve the conflict,” Clinton told a room full of senior American policymakers, Israeli officials, and journalists, “President Obama will be a full partner.”
(Elliott Abrams, who is quoted by Smith, recently argued that the severe European reaction to Israel's decision to build in E1 was done with American approval if not encouragement.)

Is it possible that President Obama has realized that with his regular refusals to negotiate with Israel Mahmoud Abbas has rendered himself irrelevant? Or does the American government realize that Abbas has no real power at this point?

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