“Fierce Debate on Israel Underway Inside Obama Administration”

Laura Rozen:

Sources say within the inter-agency process, White House Middle East strategist Dennis Ross is staking out a position that Washington needs to be sensitive to Netanyahu’s domestic political constraints including over the issue of building in East Jerusalem in order to not raise new Arab demands, while other officials including some aligned with Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell are arguing Washington needs to hold firm in pressing Netanyahu for written commitments to avoid provocations that imperil Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and to preserve the Obama administration’s credibility. …

This tells us several things:

1.) The administration has essentially been winging it, at least on the details. If senior officials are just now debating how to handle the crisis, it means that there wasn’t a particularly coherent or well-considered strategy in the first place — just a generalized desire to knock the Israelis around. Smart power.

2.) Obama’s understanding of credibility is pretty pathetic. Credibility is what you earn when you decide on an intelligent and realistic plan and carry it through to completion. It is not the same as petulance followed by stubbornness, or doubling-down on bad ideas just so you don’t have to admit that you were mistaken.

3.) It’s disturbing to see the vitriol being dumped on Dennis Ross, who may be one of the only voices in the administration with a sophisticated understanding of the issues. And let’s be clear: Ross is a career peace-processor, someone whose instincts and ideas are very much in line with the traditional two-state ethos of contemporary liberal politics. And even he, apparently, is insufficiently hope-‘n’-change-y. His counterparts are giving background comments that essentially accuse him of being a Netanyahu cutout inside the administration. This is poisonous; it’s very bad when the policymaking process acquires the atmospherics of Andrew Sullivan’s blog.