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Sunday, February 10, 2013

The more things change... Obama bringing back linkage

If you thought that the Obama administration has learned anything about the Middle East in the last four years, you are dead wrong, at least if an article in Sunday's Times of London (behind a paywall) is correct. The article claims that in honor of his trip to Israel, President Hussein Obama is offering Prime Minister Netanyahu a deal: 'Progress' on the 'Palestinians' in exchange for more pressure on Iran.
According to the report, the US promised to raise the heat on the Iran issue in return for more open talks with the Palestinian leader even if core issues such as Jerusalem and the issues of Palestinian refugees is not raised.
The Times quoted Aaron David Miller, of the Woodrow Wilson Center, an adviser on the Middle East to six US secretaries of state as saying "Barack Obama does not want to be the American president on whose watch Iran acquires a nuclear weapon or be accused of presiding over the demise of what’s left of the two-state solution." 
This is so wrong. If turning up the pressure on Iran is the right thing to do (which it is), then that ought to happen regardless of what happens with the 'Palestinians.' Doing it this way just tells the 'Palestinians' to keep being their intransigent selves, to force Netanyahu to bargain with himself - or with Obama - and to just sit and wait for Netanyahu to give up everything. Just like 'moderate' 'Palestinian' President Mahmoud Abbas Abu Mazen told the Washington Post's Jackson Diehl four years ago. 
Yet on Wednesday afternoon, as he prepared for the White House meeting in a suite at the Ritz-Carlton in Pentagon City, Abbas insisted that his only role was to wait. He will wait for Hamas to capitulate to his demand that any Palestinian unity government recognize Israel and swear off violence. And he will wait for the Obama administration to force a recalcitrant Netanyahu to freeze Israeli settlement construction and publicly accept the two-state formula. 
Until Israel meets his demands, the Palestinian president says, he will refuse to begin negotiations. He won't even agree to help Obama's envoy, George J. Mitchell, persuade Arab states to take small confidence-building measures. "We can't talk to the Arabs until Israel agrees to freeze settlements and recognize the two-state solution," he insisted in an interview. "Until then we can't talk to anyone." 


What's interesting about Abbas's hardline position, however, is what it says about the message that Obama's first Middle East steps have sent to Palestinians and Arab governments. From its first days the Bush administration made it clear that the onus for change in the Middle East was on the Palestinians: Until they put an end to terrorism, established a democratic government and accepted the basic parameters for a settlement, the United States was not going to expect major concessions from Israel.
Obama, in contrast, has repeatedly and publicly stressed the need for a West Bank settlement freeze, with no exceptions. In so doing he has shifted the focus to Israel. He has revived a long-dormant Palestinian fantasy: that the United States will simply force Israel to make critical concessions, whether or not its democratic government agrees, while Arabs passively watch and applaud. "The Americans are the leaders of the world," Abbas told me and Post Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt. "They can use their weight with anyone around the world. Two years ago they used their weight on us. Now they should tell the Israelis, 'You have to comply with the conditions.' "
But what's more amazing is that this time, Netanyahu is apparently going along with it. Abu Mazen is the winner.
Two of the prime minister’s aides will arrive in Washington this week in an attempt to link the Iranian and Palestinian issues, The Times reported. If the report over Obama's attempt to appease Netanyahu is authentic, the White House is receptive to the link.
What could go wrong?

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At 1:32 PM, Blogger Eliana said...

Abu Mazen is the winner of what?

The Sunday Times?

He probably owns it.

At 5:03 PM, Blogger Empress Trudy said...

Israeli leadership understands that all actions regarding the Palestinians is silly window dressing. Israel can afford to agree to just about anything the Arabs demand because it doesn't matter and then after the appropriate time can go back to whatever they were doing before. Obama can demand all Jews in Israel wear a yellow star and so what? None of that would be 'obeyed' and none of it would make any difference. All second term Presidents attempt to secure 'peace in the mideast' for their own posterity. All of them resort to pressuring the Jews and all of them of course fail at it. Let Obama pound the desk and rant.


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