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Another Code Word

Jordan’s King Abdullah reportedly told Barack Obama that “even-handed” policies by the U.S. would bring about a more peaceful Middle East. Now let’s see if Winnie-the-Pooh guru Richard Danzig and the rest of the Legion of 300 can spot that one. This would be a “code word.” This has been the constant refrain from Arab states: the U.S. should be an “honest broker” and give up its special relationship with Israel, followed by all manner of prodding and pushing to resolve the Palestinian conflict (to which which they attribute all that ills the Middle East). So my question: what did Obama say in return?

His press conference on the topic of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict suggests he might not quibble with Abdullah. Obama’s remarks are a tour de force of moral relativism. Not a harsh word about the murdered Israeli soldiers. But plenty of “context” and not a hint that he would disagree with Abdullah’s admonition. His remarks include gems like this:

And that’s why terrorism is so counterproductive, as well as being immoral, because it makes, I believe, the Israelis want to dig in and simply think about their own security regardless of what’s going on beyond their borders. I think the same would be true of any people when these kinds of things happen and innocent people are injured. On the other hand, I think that the Palestinians have to feel some sense of progress in terms of their economic situation, you know, whether it’s on the West Bank or Gaza, if people continually feel pressed, where they can’t get to their job or they can’t make a living, they get frustrated.

And the suggested approach? Give the Palestinians more stuff and more freedom of movement:

And so, I think what the United States can do is — is to help to create more — a greater sense of security among the Israelis, a greater sense that economic progress and increased freedom of movement is something that can be accomplished in the Palestinian territories.

Is there any recognition in the wake of the recent atrocities that Israel lack the one key ingredient to peace negotiations — a responsible part with which to negotiate? No. Is there any evidence that giving the Palestinians more stuff and more “freedom of movement” (from precisely where to where, would he suggest?) improves matters? No.

So someone might ask Obama if Abdullah’s formulation is the one he’ll be following. From every indication it appears to be exactly what he has in mind. And there is a reason why Israelis are nervous.



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