Since he assumed office a year ago, Benjamin Netanyahu has (1) formally offered immediate negotiations with the Palestinians without preconditions, (2) affirmed Israeli support for a two-state solution, (3) declared a moratorium on new West Bank building — and has been met with a total refusal by the peace-partner Palestinians to begin even “proximity talks,” absent a concession that they know that neither Netanyahu nor any other Israeli prime minister will make.
It was only two months ago that George Mitchell had the following colloquy with Charlie Rose about the demand for a settlement freeze in Jerusalem:
GEORGE MITCHELL: … So what we got was a moratorium, ten months, far less than what was requested, but more significant than any action taken by any previous government of Israel for the 40 years that settlement enterprise has existed. …
CHARLIE ROSE: And you and Secretary Clinton praised Prime Minister Netanyahu for agreeing to that.
ROSE: It does not include East Jerusalem. There’ve been announcement in the last 48 hours of new settlement construction in East Jerusalem where the Palestinians want to make their capital.
ROSE: And it’s in the midst of Palestinians.
MITCHELL: … But for the Israelis, what they’re building in is in part of Israel.
Now, the others don’t see it that way. So you have these widely divergent perspectives on the subject. Our view is let’s get into negotiations. Let’s deal with the issues and come up with the solution to all of them including Jerusalem which will be exceedingly difficult but, in my judgment, possible.
The Israelis are not going to stop settlements in, or construction in East Jerusalem. They don’t regard that as a settlement because they think it’s part of Israel. …
ROSE: So you’re going to let them go ahead even though no one recognizes the annexation?
MITCHELL: You say “Let them go ahead.” It’s what they regard as their country. They don’t say they’re letting us go ahead when we build in Manhattan.
In making the Palestinian pre-negotiation demand his own (or vice versa), Barack Obama has capped a year of low, dishonest diplomacy: reneging on the long-standing definition of what constituted a settlement “freeze”; disregarding the written commitments to Israel given in exchange for the Gaza withdrawal; creating daylight between the U.S. and Israel as a matter of policy; holding meetings with the Israeli prime minister, both last year and this, in the evening, without press coverage, with an exit through a back way; conspicuously failing to visit Israel while visiting nearby countries; addressing the Muslim world with a speech portraying Israel as the mere creation of the Holocaust; conducting a campaign of public castigation, in a manufactured “crisis” relating to Jewish homes in a Jewish area in the capital of the Jewish state; and now the insistence (complete with a “deadline”) on pre-negotiation concessions to be made to those who have made no concessions themselves — all conducted in the mean-spirited manner of Chicago-style diplomacy.
Jennifer is correct that Jewish organizations will be asked in the future why they stayed silent, but the issue is even broader than that, since the denigration of Israel is being conducted amid the endless appeasement of Iran, Syria, and North Korea — a policy that will ultimately threaten many more countries than Israel. It is not as if we have not been down this road before.