Sunday, November 1, 2009

Hilary in Jerusalem Sees that Israel is Helping Obama; Palestinians are Sabotaging Him

[Please subscribe. Arab-Israel, Israeli-Palestinian Issues change daily. I follow them minute by minute.]

By Barry Rubin

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went out of her way October 31 to praise Israel as making "unprecedented" and very specific concessions regarding construction on West Bank settlements. At a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu she said that Israel was ready to put significant limits on any new building.

Obviously, the Obama Administration has an interest in portraying itself as making great progress on the peace process even though it isn't. What's especially interesting though is that this strategy requires good relations with Israel and building up its willingness to be flexible. And of course this is quite different from some of the behavior seen during the administration's early days.

At the same time, though, Clinton and her colleagues must be aware that this stance will enrage the Palestinians. After all, Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders keep insisting that they won't even talk to Israel unless all construction stops completely without a single exception.

There are two reasons for this Palestinian position.

First, the PA wants an excuse not to negotiate with Israel because it isn't interested in reaching a comprehensive solution. Much or most of the PA still has its heart set on total victory and Israel's disappearance. And with growing support in the UN and--at least they think--Western intellectual circles for this goal, they are in no mood to compromise on a real and lasting two-state solution.

Second and more immediately, the PA leadership is facing pressure for not being even more militant. The recent controversy over the Goldstone report--the PA held back briefly on pushing the report in the UN at Obama's request but then changed its mind--shows that the PA leadership will pick its own militants and even making a deal with Hamas over cooperation with the United States.

This signal has to be coming across clearly to the Obama Administration even if it says nothing publicly. Israel is being helpful to the White House; the PA is sabotaging the White House. The Administration is being friendly toward Israel and pretends that there's nothing wrong with its relations to the PA.

Yet this contradiction cannot be ignored forever and is likely to change U.S. policy over time into something more closely resembling that of Obama's predecessors.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.