Friday, December 4, 2009

On Israel's Construction Freeze: U.S. Fails to Deliver: Instead of Praising, Europe Demands More

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By Barry Rubin

Israel acceded to a U.S. request to freeze construction on existing Jewish settlements; the Palestinian Authority (PA) refuses even to negotiate or to give anything in exchange for this concession. Who did Europe reward and was the United States able to mobilize praise for the former or criticism for the latter?

Need you ask?

It is now confirmed that my analysis of the State Department statement on the construction freeze was correct. It was intended as a statement supporting key Israeli demands—recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and changes in the 1967 borders—while also meeting major Palestinian demands, an independent state based on those borders.

Equally unnoticed, however, is the fact that the United States did not even get its European allies to endorse its new position. Once again, despite all the Obama Administration's apologies, flattery, and concessions, it could not even obtain the smallest things in exchange from those given such rewards.

The main U.S. effort was to get the Quartet of mediators (U.S., Europe Union, Russia, and UN) to endorse the new U.S. stance. The proposed statement would have urged resumed negotiations without preconditions to seek an agreement which:

"would fulfill the Palestinian goal of establishing an independent, viable state, based on the 1967 borders, agreed upon exchanges [of territory], and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect the developments [which occurred on the ground] and which fulfill the Israeli security requirements."

Reportedly, the Russians rejected the Jewish state and reflecting developments on the ground positions. This explains why the Quartet couldn’t issue a statement. But why didn’t the United States obtain the same statement from the European Union alone?

Instead, after making still another unilateral concession, Israel now has to fight off a hostile EU resolution calling for east Jerusalem to be capital of a Palestinian state without any mention of Israeli goals, including  mention of west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, an easy way of making the resolution more even-handed.

So once again Israel is given the message, here reinforced by inept U.S. diplomacy, that the reward for making a concession are demands to make more concessions. This is not, however, to underestimate the importance of the new U.S. position as expressed in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s statement. The question, of course, is how long and whether the Obama Administration will stick to its new set of promises.

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.

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