Commentary Magazine


Topic: American Middle East

Abbas Gets a White House Visit

Fox News reports:

President Barack Obama’s Middle East envoy wrapped up his latest diplomatic mission Sunday without getting the Palestinians to agree to indirect peace talks with Israel, but there were signs the impasse could be broken soon.George Mitchell said he would return to the region next week, signaling he is making progress.

Palestinian officials said President Mahmoud Abbas plans to consult with Arab countries at the end of the week and could soon be heading to the White House for talks with Obama. Abbas needs to decide whether to engage with Israel, with Mitchell as a go-between, even though Israel has rejected his demands to freeze new construction for Jews in east Jerusalem, the Palestinians’ hoped-for capital.

A senior Palestinian official said Abbas was inclined to agree to the talks, in large part because of personal appeals in recent days from Obama, Mitchell and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing internal Palestinian deliberations.

Wait. Abbas is meeting with Obama at the White House after the multiple snubs to Netanyahu? Yup. And it’s not hard to figure out why. The Obami are rewarding intransigence and bribing Abbas not to embarrass George Mitchell and crew by wrecking the proximity talks. Fox notes that the Obami hve been “trying to coax Abbas back to the table”:

Last week, Obama wrote to Abbas, promising to work hard to achieve a comprehensive Mideast peace deal and asking the Palestinian leader to agree to indirect talks, according to an Abbas aide who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the content of the letter with the media.

Obama also wrote that he looks forward to seeing Abbas soon, the aide said. He said an Obama-Abbas meeting could take place in the second half of May, but that no formal invitation was issued and no date set.

Another Abbas adviser, Saeb Erekat, said the Palestinians had requested a White House meeting in the past, and that Mitchell told them that Obama agreed to such a meeting. Erekat also said no date has been set.

The reversal of American Middle East policy is nearly complete. We insult the Israeli prime minister and coo over the Palestinian leader who celebrates terrorists, refuses to meet face to face with the Israelis, and lacks the ability (or the will) to recognize the Jewish state. Well, this is certainly a test for the American Jewish community — what say they about this latest sign of the Obami’s new found pro-Palestinian orientation? Or will they be snowed by the latest White House PR offensive and mutely accept this latest indication that the “rock-solid” relationship is that between Obama and the PA and not that between Obama and Israel?

And as for the “peace process,” one wonders what the Obami will do when all of this ends in yet another failure. For, of course, Abbas can’t possibly conclude a peace deal. With the help of the Obami, he will — no doubt —  find some way to shift the blame when it comes to the Israelis. That’s the sort of thing for which they can rely upon their new best friend in the White House.

Fox News reports:

President Barack Obama’s Middle East envoy wrapped up his latest diplomatic mission Sunday without getting the Palestinians to agree to indirect peace talks with Israel, but there were signs the impasse could be broken soon.George Mitchell said he would return to the region next week, signaling he is making progress.

Palestinian officials said President Mahmoud Abbas plans to consult with Arab countries at the end of the week and could soon be heading to the White House for talks with Obama. Abbas needs to decide whether to engage with Israel, with Mitchell as a go-between, even though Israel has rejected his demands to freeze new construction for Jews in east Jerusalem, the Palestinians’ hoped-for capital.

A senior Palestinian official said Abbas was inclined to agree to the talks, in large part because of personal appeals in recent days from Obama, Mitchell and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing internal Palestinian deliberations.

Wait. Abbas is meeting with Obama at the White House after the multiple snubs to Netanyahu? Yup. And it’s not hard to figure out why. The Obami are rewarding intransigence and bribing Abbas not to embarrass George Mitchell and crew by wrecking the proximity talks. Fox notes that the Obami hve been “trying to coax Abbas back to the table”:

Last week, Obama wrote to Abbas, promising to work hard to achieve a comprehensive Mideast peace deal and asking the Palestinian leader to agree to indirect talks, according to an Abbas aide who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the content of the letter with the media.

Obama also wrote that he looks forward to seeing Abbas soon, the aide said. He said an Obama-Abbas meeting could take place in the second half of May, but that no formal invitation was issued and no date set.

Another Abbas adviser, Saeb Erekat, said the Palestinians had requested a White House meeting in the past, and that Mitchell told them that Obama agreed to such a meeting. Erekat also said no date has been set.

The reversal of American Middle East policy is nearly complete. We insult the Israeli prime minister and coo over the Palestinian leader who celebrates terrorists, refuses to meet face to face with the Israelis, and lacks the ability (or the will) to recognize the Jewish state. Well, this is certainly a test for the American Jewish community — what say they about this latest sign of the Obami’s new found pro-Palestinian orientation? Or will they be snowed by the latest White House PR offensive and mutely accept this latest indication that the “rock-solid” relationship is that between Obama and the PA and not that between Obama and Israel?

And as for the “peace process,” one wonders what the Obami will do when all of this ends in yet another failure. For, of course, Abbas can’t possibly conclude a peace deal. With the help of the Obami, he will — no doubt —  find some way to shift the blame when it comes to the Israelis. That’s the sort of thing for which they can rely upon their new best friend in the White House.

Read Less

Congress Objects to Obami’s Israel and Iran Policies

Seventy-six senators have joined in a letter, backed by AIPAC, to Hillary Clinton asking that the Obama administration knock off its Jerusalem onslaught and focus attention on Palestinian rejectionism. They write:

We write to urge you to do everything possible to ensure that the recent tensions between the U.S. and Israeli administrations over the untimely announcement of future housing construction in East Jerusalem do not derail Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations or harm U.S.-Israel relations. In fact, we strongly believe that it is more important than ever for Israel and the Palestinians to enter into direct, face-to-face negotiations without preconditions on either side.

Despite your best efforts, Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have been frozen for over a year. Indeed, in a reversal of 16 years of policy, Palestinian leaders are refusing to enter into direct negotiations with Israel. Instead, they have put forward a growing list of unprecedented preconditions. By contrast, Israel’s prime minister stated categorically that he is eager to begin unconditional peace negotiations with the Palestinians. Direct negotiations are in the interest of all parties involved — including the United States.

They want Hillary to reaffirm the “unbreakable bonds” between the two countries and remind the administration that “differences are best resolved amicably and in a manner that befits longstanding strategic allies.” It is noteworthy who signed and who did not. Chuck Schumer, who gave a rousing speech at AIPAC but recently ducked an incisive inquiry on the Obami policy, signed on, as did some Democrats up for re-election, including Barbara Boxer, Arlen Specter, and Kirsten Gillibrand. Who’s missing? The Democratic leadership: Harry Reid, Richard Durbin, veteran senators Diane Feinstein and Chris Dodd, and unofficial secretary of state John Kerry. The five apparently are still in the business of running interference for the administration.

Now, the letter could have been more pointed, calling attention to the administration’s “condemnation” of Israel and objecting to the prospect of an “imposed” settlement agreement. Yes, the White House and some key, dutiful congressional allies remain seemingly impervious to the harm inflicted on the U.S.-Israeli relationship, and in turn on the credibility and standing of the U.S.. Nevertheless, this is a hopeful sign that there is broad opposition to the Obami’s anti-Israel gambit. Perhaps before it is too late we’ll hear a definitive and clear renunciation — a condemnation! — of the idea of an imposed settlement deal.

Meanwhile, steam is also gathering on both the House and Senate sides to move forward with an Iran sanctions bill. Later today, Reps. Mike Pence and Jesse Jackson, Jr. are scheduled to hold a presser to introduce a letter advocating that “punishing sanctions” be imposed on the Iranian regime. Again, the Obami policy — thin-gruel sanctions that Obama proclaims are “no magic wand” to halting the Iranians’ nuclear program – seems to lack the confidence of a broad bipartisan group of lawmakers. We’ll see if the administration is amenable to pressure from them. So far, it’s been immune to public or congressional objections in its effort to reorient American Middle East policy. It remains to be seen whether the gang whose solution to opposition is usually “double-down!” will relent in its assault against Israel and rev up its efforts to prevent Iran from realizing its nuclear ambitions.

Seventy-six senators have joined in a letter, backed by AIPAC, to Hillary Clinton asking that the Obama administration knock off its Jerusalem onslaught and focus attention on Palestinian rejectionism. They write:

We write to urge you to do everything possible to ensure that the recent tensions between the U.S. and Israeli administrations over the untimely announcement of future housing construction in East Jerusalem do not derail Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations or harm U.S.-Israel relations. In fact, we strongly believe that it is more important than ever for Israel and the Palestinians to enter into direct, face-to-face negotiations without preconditions on either side.

Despite your best efforts, Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have been frozen for over a year. Indeed, in a reversal of 16 years of policy, Palestinian leaders are refusing to enter into direct negotiations with Israel. Instead, they have put forward a growing list of unprecedented preconditions. By contrast, Israel’s prime minister stated categorically that he is eager to begin unconditional peace negotiations with the Palestinians. Direct negotiations are in the interest of all parties involved — including the United States.

They want Hillary to reaffirm the “unbreakable bonds” between the two countries and remind the administration that “differences are best resolved amicably and in a manner that befits longstanding strategic allies.” It is noteworthy who signed and who did not. Chuck Schumer, who gave a rousing speech at AIPAC but recently ducked an incisive inquiry on the Obami policy, signed on, as did some Democrats up for re-election, including Barbara Boxer, Arlen Specter, and Kirsten Gillibrand. Who’s missing? The Democratic leadership: Harry Reid, Richard Durbin, veteran senators Diane Feinstein and Chris Dodd, and unofficial secretary of state John Kerry. The five apparently are still in the business of running interference for the administration.

Now, the letter could have been more pointed, calling attention to the administration’s “condemnation” of Israel and objecting to the prospect of an “imposed” settlement agreement. Yes, the White House and some key, dutiful congressional allies remain seemingly impervious to the harm inflicted on the U.S.-Israeli relationship, and in turn on the credibility and standing of the U.S.. Nevertheless, this is a hopeful sign that there is broad opposition to the Obami’s anti-Israel gambit. Perhaps before it is too late we’ll hear a definitive and clear renunciation — a condemnation! — of the idea of an imposed settlement deal.

Meanwhile, steam is also gathering on both the House and Senate sides to move forward with an Iran sanctions bill. Later today, Reps. Mike Pence and Jesse Jackson, Jr. are scheduled to hold a presser to introduce a letter advocating that “punishing sanctions” be imposed on the Iranian regime. Again, the Obami policy — thin-gruel sanctions that Obama proclaims are “no magic wand” to halting the Iranians’ nuclear program – seems to lack the confidence of a broad bipartisan group of lawmakers. We’ll see if the administration is amenable to pressure from them. So far, it’s been immune to public or congressional objections in its effort to reorient American Middle East policy. It remains to be seen whether the gang whose solution to opposition is usually “double-down!” will relent in its assault against Israel and rev up its efforts to prevent Iran from realizing its nuclear ambitions.

Read Less

What Makes This President Different from All Other Presidents?

As the dispute between the Israel and the United States enters its third week, President Obama’s anger at Israel and his determination to force Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to give in on the question of building in the eastern sector of Israel’s capital is apparently unabated.

Yet this is hardly the first dispute between the two countries. Every administration since 1967 has proposed peace plans and negotiating strategies that Israel disliked or actively resisted. Genuine friends such as Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, as well as less friendly presidents such as Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush, all pushed hard at times for Israeli acceptance of unpalatable concessions. But in spite of these precedents, Barack Obama has managed to go where no American president has gone before. For all the problems created by all his predecessors about settlements in the West Bank, no previous American leader has ever chosen to draw a line in the sand about the Jewish presence in Jerusalem.

It is true that the United States never recognized Israel’s annexation of the eastern sector of the city after Jerusalem’s unification in 1967. In fact, it has never even recognized western Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. But the new Jewish neighborhoods that sprang up along the northern, eastern, and southern outskirts of the city, as well as the Jewish Quarter in the Old City, were never a source of contention even during the presidencies of Carter and the elder Bush. Indeed, the notion that places such as Ramat Eshkol, Pisgat Zeev, Gilo, and even Ramat Shlomo (the site of the “insult” to Vice President Biden) are considered “settlements” by the United States and thus no different from the most remote hilltop outpost deep in the West Bank is something that has come as a complete surprise to most Israelis, let alone American supporters of Israel.

During the course of his first go at Netanyahu, Obama made it clear that, contrary to a promise given by George W. Bush in 2004, he considered the bulk of settlements situated close to the 1967 borders, which Israelis believe they will keep even in the event of a peace deal, to be just as illegitimate as more controversial communities. In the hope of defusing the argument, Netanyahu reluctantly agreed to a freeze in these towns and villages while still maintaining that Jerusalem could not be treated in the same way. But Washington’s demand that the freeze be extended to eastern Jerusalem signals that Obama clearly believes that, like the big settlements of Ariel and Ma’ale Adumim, the homes of the approximately 200,000 Jews who live in eastern Jerusalem are also on the table.

But despite the fact that Palestinian intransigence (strengthened by the belief that it is futile to talk, since the refusal to negotiate with Israel will only motivate Obama to press Israel harder) means his diplomatic offensive has virtually no chance of success, Obama has still done something that will permanently alter Middle Eastern diplomacy. By treating the Jewish presence in eastern Jerusalem as a vast, illegal settlement, the continued growth of which is an alleged impediment to peace, Obama has made it impossible for any Arab leader to ever accept Israel’s possession of this part of the city. This not only makes the already near-impossible task of forging peace that much harder, it is also a crushing blow to decades of Israeli and American Jewish efforts to foster international recognition of a unified Jerusalem.

This year, along with the conventional four questions of the Passover Seder, some Americans are starting ask themselves: “Why is this president different from all other presidents?” The answer is that Barack Obama has now established opposition to Israel’s hold on its capital as a cornerstone of American Middle East policy in a way that is completely new as well as dangerous. Those wondering whether this development ought to cause them to re-evaluate their political loyalties might want to remember the closing refrain of Passover Seders down through the centuries: “Next Year in Jerusalem!”

As the dispute between the Israel and the United States enters its third week, President Obama’s anger at Israel and his determination to force Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to give in on the question of building in the eastern sector of Israel’s capital is apparently unabated.

Yet this is hardly the first dispute between the two countries. Every administration since 1967 has proposed peace plans and negotiating strategies that Israel disliked or actively resisted. Genuine friends such as Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, as well as less friendly presidents such as Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush, all pushed hard at times for Israeli acceptance of unpalatable concessions. But in spite of these precedents, Barack Obama has managed to go where no American president has gone before. For all the problems created by all his predecessors about settlements in the West Bank, no previous American leader has ever chosen to draw a line in the sand about the Jewish presence in Jerusalem.

It is true that the United States never recognized Israel’s annexation of the eastern sector of the city after Jerusalem’s unification in 1967. In fact, it has never even recognized western Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. But the new Jewish neighborhoods that sprang up along the northern, eastern, and southern outskirts of the city, as well as the Jewish Quarter in the Old City, were never a source of contention even during the presidencies of Carter and the elder Bush. Indeed, the notion that places such as Ramat Eshkol, Pisgat Zeev, Gilo, and even Ramat Shlomo (the site of the “insult” to Vice President Biden) are considered “settlements” by the United States and thus no different from the most remote hilltop outpost deep in the West Bank is something that has come as a complete surprise to most Israelis, let alone American supporters of Israel.

During the course of his first go at Netanyahu, Obama made it clear that, contrary to a promise given by George W. Bush in 2004, he considered the bulk of settlements situated close to the 1967 borders, which Israelis believe they will keep even in the event of a peace deal, to be just as illegitimate as more controversial communities. In the hope of defusing the argument, Netanyahu reluctantly agreed to a freeze in these towns and villages while still maintaining that Jerusalem could not be treated in the same way. But Washington’s demand that the freeze be extended to eastern Jerusalem signals that Obama clearly believes that, like the big settlements of Ariel and Ma’ale Adumim, the homes of the approximately 200,000 Jews who live in eastern Jerusalem are also on the table.

But despite the fact that Palestinian intransigence (strengthened by the belief that it is futile to talk, since the refusal to negotiate with Israel will only motivate Obama to press Israel harder) means his diplomatic offensive has virtually no chance of success, Obama has still done something that will permanently alter Middle Eastern diplomacy. By treating the Jewish presence in eastern Jerusalem as a vast, illegal settlement, the continued growth of which is an alleged impediment to peace, Obama has made it impossible for any Arab leader to ever accept Israel’s possession of this part of the city. This not only makes the already near-impossible task of forging peace that much harder, it is also a crushing blow to decades of Israeli and American Jewish efforts to foster international recognition of a unified Jerusalem.

This year, along with the conventional four questions of the Passover Seder, some Americans are starting ask themselves: “Why is this president different from all other presidents?” The answer is that Barack Obama has now established opposition to Israel’s hold on its capital as a cornerstone of American Middle East policy in a way that is completely new as well as dangerous. Those wondering whether this development ought to cause them to re-evaluate their political loyalties might want to remember the closing refrain of Passover Seders down through the centuries: “Next Year in Jerusalem!”

Read Less

Evenhandedness Would Be Swell

Isi Leibler, writing in the Jerusalem Post, observes Obama’s not at all evenhanded approach to the Middle East, started long before the most recent conflict over an apartment complex in Jerusalem:

These hostile outbursts must be viewed in the context of the fact that despite strong ongoing support for Israel by the American people, the US-Israel relationship has been on a downward spiral since the election of the new administration. Former Mossad head Ephraim Halevy attributes this to Obama’s determination to rehabilitate Islam’s global tarnished image.

Yet his strategy of “engaging” Islamic rogue states has been disastrous. The effort to prevent the nuclearization of Iran by appeasing the Iranian tyrants backfired with the ayatollahs literally mocking the US. The response of Syrian President Bashar Assad to US groveling and the appointment of an ambassador to Damascus, was to host a summit with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hizbullah terrorist leader Hassan Nasrallah and ridicule the US demand that he curtail his relationship with Iran. President Obama did not consider this “insulting,” prompting the editor of the Lebanese The Daily Star to say that “the Obama administration these days provokes little confidence in its allies and even less fear in its adversaries.”

Condemnation is reserved for the Israelis who have been berated in private and in public for over a year. Not for the other side:

In stark contrast, the US has not publicly reprimanded the PA on a single issue over the past twelve months. It is unconscionable that neither the White House nor the State Department conveyed a word of protest concerning the ongoing incitement and spate of ceremonies sanctifying the memory of the most degenerate suicide killers and mass murderers. Not even when our peace partners President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad personally partook in these ghoulish ceremonies.

And where is this heading? Leibler suspects the worst: “Obama is surely aware that recent statements by his administration will only embolden the Palestinians and Jihadists to be more extreme in their demands, making it inevitable that the talks will almost certainly fail. Some may infer that this is precisely his intention. We will then be blamed for the breakdown and the US, with the backing of the Quartet and others, will then seek to impose a solution upon us.”

And meanwhile the Iranian nuclear threat looms. By the way, it’s mid-March. Where are the sanctions? Why haven’t we resolved the differences between the House and the Senate bill and sent it to the president’s desk? Maybe the White House would prefer to go slow on that one. After all, the “real” crisis is a potential breakdown in proximity talks that have no chance of success. It is a cockeyed set of priorities, which seem oddly in tune with those of Israels’ foes.

In the end we will have no “peace,” our relationship with Israel will be strained but not broken, and the mullahs will move steadily ahead with their nuclear program. And the Palestinians bent on violence will seize the chance to make mischief. This is the result of the most misguided American Middle East policy in decades. It’s change, alright. Let’s hope the damage is reversable.

Isi Leibler, writing in the Jerusalem Post, observes Obama’s not at all evenhanded approach to the Middle East, started long before the most recent conflict over an apartment complex in Jerusalem:

These hostile outbursts must be viewed in the context of the fact that despite strong ongoing support for Israel by the American people, the US-Israel relationship has been on a downward spiral since the election of the new administration. Former Mossad head Ephraim Halevy attributes this to Obama’s determination to rehabilitate Islam’s global tarnished image.

Yet his strategy of “engaging” Islamic rogue states has been disastrous. The effort to prevent the nuclearization of Iran by appeasing the Iranian tyrants backfired with the ayatollahs literally mocking the US. The response of Syrian President Bashar Assad to US groveling and the appointment of an ambassador to Damascus, was to host a summit with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hizbullah terrorist leader Hassan Nasrallah and ridicule the US demand that he curtail his relationship with Iran. President Obama did not consider this “insulting,” prompting the editor of the Lebanese The Daily Star to say that “the Obama administration these days provokes little confidence in its allies and even less fear in its adversaries.”

Condemnation is reserved for the Israelis who have been berated in private and in public for over a year. Not for the other side:

In stark contrast, the US has not publicly reprimanded the PA on a single issue over the past twelve months. It is unconscionable that neither the White House nor the State Department conveyed a word of protest concerning the ongoing incitement and spate of ceremonies sanctifying the memory of the most degenerate suicide killers and mass murderers. Not even when our peace partners President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad personally partook in these ghoulish ceremonies.

And where is this heading? Leibler suspects the worst: “Obama is surely aware that recent statements by his administration will only embolden the Palestinians and Jihadists to be more extreme in their demands, making it inevitable that the talks will almost certainly fail. Some may infer that this is precisely his intention. We will then be blamed for the breakdown and the US, with the backing of the Quartet and others, will then seek to impose a solution upon us.”

And meanwhile the Iranian nuclear threat looms. By the way, it’s mid-March. Where are the sanctions? Why haven’t we resolved the differences between the House and the Senate bill and sent it to the president’s desk? Maybe the White House would prefer to go slow on that one. After all, the “real” crisis is a potential breakdown in proximity talks that have no chance of success. It is a cockeyed set of priorities, which seem oddly in tune with those of Israels’ foes.

In the end we will have no “peace,” our relationship with Israel will be strained but not broken, and the mullahs will move steadily ahead with their nuclear program. And the Palestinians bent on violence will seize the chance to make mischief. This is the result of the most misguided American Middle East policy in decades. It’s change, alright. Let’s hope the damage is reversable.

Read Less




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