Commentary Magazine


Contentions

The Same Mistake

Even Richard Cohen has figured out that it is not Bibi’s intransigence but Obama’s incompetence that is at the root of the non-peace-talks impasse. He writes:

Obama ought to confer with someone who knows the region — and listen to him or her. Trouble is, many experts have told him that his emphasis on settlements was the wrong way to go. As late as last week and the succession of meetings held at the United Nations, it was clear that Netanyahu would not ask his Cabinet to extend the settlement freeze. Yet not only did the White House reject this warning, the president repeated his call for a freeze. “Our position on this issue is well-known,” Obama told the U.N. General Assembly. “We believe that the moratorium should be extended.” Well, it wasn’t. …

The Obama approach to the Israeli-Palestinian problem has been counterproductive. Either the Palestinians have to back down from their — even more importantly, Obama’s — insistence that all settlements be frozen in place or Netanyahu has to back down from his pledge that any moratorium would be temporary. Either Abbas or Netanyahu has to lose credibility and neither man can afford to. They are not mere negotiators; they are heads of government.

Obama, too, has to husband his credibility. He foolishly demanded something Israel could not yet give.

It is not as if this is a new mistake — it is the same one Obama and his “smart” diplomats have made from the onset of his term. The fixation on settlements remains. “From the very start, the president has taken a very hard line against settlements, refusing to distinguish between an apartment in Jerusalem and a hilltop encampment deep in the West Bank. He also seems not to understand their religious, cultural or historical importance to some Jews.”

The pattern repeats itself – Obama beats up on Israel, fails to deliver concessions to the PA,  and then commences begging with the parties not to break off talks and embarrass the U.S. president. Granted, Abbas is no Anwar Sadat, but Obama has made both himself and the PA president look weak and ineffective.

And we shouldn’t forget that we are not remotely close to a peace deal. For the Obami, it is a Herculean task just to keep everyone in the room. It doesn’t fill you with confidence, does it?