Commentary Magazine


Bringing People Together

It seems that the Obama hostility campaign against Israel has created consensus. Unfortunately for the president the consensus from the Left and Right is “This is a bad idea.”

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports on a forum at a Maryland synagogue with Aaron David Miller (of James Baker fame) and Elliott Abrams (of the George W. Bush administration). Neither thought much of the Obama gambit:

Miller’s criticism of the White House was particularly notable, because he is not opposed to getting tough with Israel – he pointed out that every time the United States has succeeded in achieving a breakthrough in the Arab-Israeli conflict, there has been “some measure of unhappiness” and tension. He also believes that settlements are a big problem (although he said even his old boss Baker knew he couldn’t get Israel to freeze “natural growth” of settlements).

But “as legitimate a problem as settlements are with respect to undermining the environment toward a negotiation,” said Miller, they are a “distraction” given all the problems that need to be addressed.

And Abrams, who was instrumental in maintaining one of the warmest periods in U.S.-Israel relations, was equally critical:

“You catch more honey with flies than vinegar,” he said.

But Abrams added that he didn’t understand “how we got to where we are today,” considering that media reports have revealed that former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had offered Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas 96 percent of the West Bank along with land swaps that added up to virtually 100 percent and “the answer he got back is nothing.”

“I would have thought this puts the onus on the Palestinians to do something, I would have thought that offer by Olmert shows the settlement expansion issue is phony” because Olmert’s offer was better than the one made by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barack at Camp David 10 years ago, said Abrams.

Both seemed to agree that there is no there, there — no viable Palestinian entity with which Israel can engage. As Miller said, “America cannot afford to have a policy based in illusion.” But that is what, for now, we have.

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