Monday, March 22, 2010

A Trial Balloon? Washington Post Columnist Calls for Imposed Settlement on Israel

By Barry Rubin

Has anyone else noticed that David Ignatius, a Washington Post columnist who always tries to echo what he's hearing from his administration contacts, has just called for an imposed settlement on Israel and the Palestinians? This is the first time I've seen this from a mainstream journalist.

He writes:

"What's needed now is for Obama to announce that when negotiations begin, the United States will state its views about Jerusalem and other key issues — sketching the outlines of the deal that most Israelis and Palestinians want. If Netanyahu refuses to play, then we have a real crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations."

Note three points:

First, this reverses and breaks every promise the United States has made to Israel in the last 20 years, which formed the basis of numerous Israeli concessions and risks. The position has always been that it would be up to the parties involved to make these decisions.

Second, the United States would substitute itself for the actual people of Israel and the Palestinians, since it would purport to know what "most Israelis and Palestinians want." Of course, this ignores what they say they want through voting.

Third, and this alone should make people understand how ludicrous this kind of thing is, it puts the onus ONLY on Israel. It doesn't say: If Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas refuses to play, just Netanyahu.

The implication is that any proposal would be so favorable to the Palestinians that they would of course accept it. But really of course they would reject even a favorable offer, as we have seen repeatedly.

I'm not saying that this is going to be the Obama administration policy. Actually, I believe it won't ever happen that way because they understand it would be a disaster for them. Still, I'm pointing out this column as a possible sign of something to watch.

 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). His new edited books include Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict and Crisis; Guide to Islamist Movements; Conflict and Insurgency in the Middle East; and The Muslim Brotherhood. 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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