A knowledgeable reader points to this smart take from Michael Singh on the settlement moratorium and the continuing diplomatic malpractice of the Obama Middle East squad: “Obama risks repeating his administration’s past diplomatic errors. Recall that it was Washington’s — not the Palestinians’ — early preoccupation with settlements that metastasized into a precondition delaying peace talks in 2009 and early 2010.” Yes, come to think of it, there were negotiations under George W. Bush with no moratorium at issue. Hmm. Could Obama have made things, you know, worse?
And by publicly pressuring Bibi, he doubled down on his error:
It is the U.S. public insistence on an extension of a freeze that seems overly rigid, rather than the parties’ own stances. One could argue that the president’s position is just rhetorical, and that in fact U.S. negotiators are working behind the scenes to broker a compromise (which it seems they are). Be this as it may, unequivocal and ultimately unnecessary public proclamations — especially when uttered by top U.S. officials — make those private efforts more difficult. For Netanyahu, any compromise will now seem to be the result of U.S. and international pressure, which will add fuel to the inevitable political attacks he will face from his right. For Abbas, openness to compromise makes him appear less committed on this sensitive issue than even the United States, reducing his room to maneuver.
My reader makes an additional point: if Abbas has to go running back to the Arab League for further instructions, is he in a position to make any kind of deal? The idea — we thought, but who knows — was to empower Abbas so he’d be able to negotiate and implement a deal. Now, he looks like an errand boy. There’s that smart diplomacy at work.