Obama’s silly stunt to force a complete settlement freeze is essentially kaput. To avoid a huge humiliation, he dragged both Abbas and Netanyahu to a meeting to decide they are going to talk some more—without preconditions (i.e., no freeze)—and get back to him in a month:
There was general agreement, including on the part of the Palestinians, that the peace process has to be resumed as soon as possible with no preconditions,” the premier told reporters in New York City.
Earlier, US President Barack Obama expressed a similar sentiment, emerging from bilateral meetings with both Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas vowing to move ahead with the diplomatic process, while seeming to step back from his call for a total settlement freeze, saying that Israel now is discussing “restraining settlement activities.”
In other words, the “Cairo effect” boils down to the Obama administration picking up where George W. Bush left off after a cringe-inducing detour into Israel-bashing. Meanwhile, the Arab states have repeatedly rebuffed Obama, as Zvi Mazel reminds us:
In a recent visit to Washington and following a meeting with the secretary of state, the Saudi minister for foreign affairs stated that “incrementalism and a step-by-step approach” would not lead to peace. The problem was not what the Arabs would give to Israel, but what Israel was ready to give in return for the Arab initiative, he later stated — adding, in effect, that the Arabs had only normalization to offer Israel as an incentive, and if they gave it away while the territories were still under occupation, they would lose their only leverage.
According to American sources, Obama himself got a dusty answer when, on his first visit to Riyadh a few weeks after he assumed office, he asked the Saudi king for some small normalization steps.
Prior to a tripartite meeting with the Mideast leaders, the US president said that Special Mideast envoy George Mitchell will continue holding negotiations with both sides, and Israel and the Palestinians will send delegations to Washington next week for the talks. He gave mid-October as a deadline for reviewing the status of the situation.
Similarly frosty answers have come from Egypt, Morocco, and others:
If Obama thought his famed charisma and the kudos he received in the Arab world for his attempts at reconciliation with Islam, as exemplified in his Cairo speech in June, would stand him in good stead with Arab leaders and that they would lead them to unbend a little and help him promote his policy, he must have been sadly disappointed.
The overall response from the Arab world highlighted not only its stubbornness, but also, and more to the point, its visceral hostility toward Israel.
Well, perhaps after some “self-reflection,” Obama will rethink what the central stumbling block to peace really is. It isn’t settlements—the parties don’t need any more preconditions. It might have something to do with that “visceral hostility toward Israel.”