Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Et tu, Kuwait? Hillary Clinton Takes Up Real Estate Law; And Obama Administration's Middle East Peace Campaign is Dead

By Barry Rubin

Ok, first it was Saudi Arabia, then Jordan, now Kuwait’s emir visiting Washington has said that the Arab states don’t need to do anything to promote peace with Israel. In other words, they said “no” to President Obama’s request for gestures to help him build a peace process.

[You might remember Kuwait as that little country the United States went to war to free from Iraqi aggression. And so when the United States asks for Kuwait's help....  Ah, now you are starting to understand Middle East politics.]

According to them, Israel’s job is simply to withdraw from all the West Bank and east Jerusalem, accept an independent Palestinian state without conditions, let pretty much any Palestinian who wants to do so come live in Israel, and then there will be peace

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has taken the same stance. Indeed, despite just having received $200 million in U.|S. aid, training by American officers, and lavish diplomatic support from the Obama administration, the PA has told Arab states not to cooperate with the United States. It has said that they should reject any step toward normalization with Israel until a Palestinian state is established.

Let's review this amazing situation: Obama has asked Arab states to make some gesture toward Israel in exchange for an Israel freeze to construction on settlements. The goal here is to help the PA get a state. Obama and other administration officials have repeatedly said that there strategy is to restart the peace process through small steps. Yet the PA is subverting this policy

Still, not one word of criticism will escape Obama’s toward any of these leaders or countries. He will neither threaten nor take any action against them either. Of course, they knew this already which was one more incentive to act this way.

So let’s put it plainly and undeniably: Obama’s plan for dealing with the Arab-Israeli conflict is dead. This may not be recognized by the media--though even pro-Obama outlets are starting to get the idea that something is deeply wrong with the policy--it won’t be admitted by officials, but it is clearly true. In a few months, this is what everyone will be saying and writing, so you might as well read it here right now.

Meanwhile, however, U.S., including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and British officials did find someone to criticize, and on ridiculous grounds: Israel. Clinton, for example, inveighed against an “Israeli” decision to evict Palestinians from two houses in east Jerusalem. The issue was presented as if it was some arbitrary political move. [For a detailed discussion of the case, see here.]

In fact, the matter in hand was an Israeli Supreme Court—an institution that has often ruled on the side of Palestinian plaintiffs—decision in a 30-year-old case. Individual Israeli citizens have been going through courts for years to regain their property seized by Jordan’s government after the 1948 war.

The court ruled that their ownership documents were legitimate, while those provided by the Palestinians were counterfeited. It was not hard to prove the latter point since it is on record that they were moved into the property by Jordan’s government without any ownership on their part. While there have been politically motivated battles or questionable claims over property, this is not one of them. There is certainly room for debate on this complex issue but not simplistic condemnation.

Think about the absurdity of a U.S. secretary of state publicly focusing on a routine property case involving two houses as if it were some massive human rights’ violation. The issue seemed to generate more passion on Clinton’s part (of course, political acting but nonetheless done with the force of America’s grandeur and power) than the deaths of thousands of civilians in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Darfur, or the Iranian regime’s repression, or the imprisonment and torture of peaceful dissidents in Syria. You can add to the list other such examples.

This is not the kind of behavior that Israelis can take seriously as that of a government whose advice—or demands—should be heeded. But then the same reaction is obviously true for Arab rulers, too.

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