October 4, 2010

The politics of peace

The Washington Post reports:

In its scramble to salvage Middle East peace talks, the Obama administration has dangled incentives before the Israeli government that touch on some of the most sensitive issues of final status talks between the two sides, administration sources said.

The perspective of the article is that because of Israeli intransigence the administration must sweeten the pot to get Israel to make nice. Of course unwritten is that Israel made a concession - a settlement freeze for ten months - during which time Abbas refused to negotiate. When he finally deigned to negotiate the ten months was almost up and he said that he could no longer negotiate if settlement construction was ongoing. So to keep peace talks going, the administration is offering incentives to Israel - to make a concession to Abbas.

The last paragraph is also interesting.

By some accounts, administration officials are surprised Netanyahu would reject what they see as a generous offer. But Netanyahu may also view such written assurances from Americans with skepticism. When Obama took office, his administration refused to acknowledge written assurances that President George W. Bush had given Israel in 2004.

I have no idea who is the source of these "accounts" is, but what's telling here is that the Washington Post is acknowledging that the Obama administration has shown Israel that it cannot be trusted.

As far as the generosity of the offer, Barry Rubin disagrees. Prof. Rubin writes why the administration's offers to Israel are unworkable (one of them is also acknowledged by the Post) or not so generous, but this is important:

First, the administration offers not to seek an extension of a two-month freeze. Why two months, why not three or four? Why not two weeks?

Hmm, readers, what is happening within two months? The U.S. election! The implication is that the Obama Administration is offering Israel the following basic deal: Make us look good until the vote and we will give you a pay-off.

Last week I noted a Washington Post editorial that was concerned that President Obama was running his Afghanistan policy out of political considerations. It appears that the President's Middle East policy is also shaped by politics.

According the Daily Alert Blog, President Obama has made a parallel offer to the Palestinians.

Alongside a letter to Israel, President Obama sent a letter to Mahmoud Abbas promising that if the Palestinians continued with the direct peace talks, the U.S., and Obama personally, would pledge to support the establishment of a Palestinian state on the basis of the 1967 lines [the 1949 armistice lines] with land swaps.

Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman sees the maneuvering as forcing Israel into an agreement (via memeorandum) Israel Matzav sees this as an attempt by President Obama to claim his place in history.

Posted by SoccerDad at October 4, 2010 6:20 AM
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The so-called peace process has nothing to do with peace or even with US strategic interests.

It has everything to do with the short-term political needs of the Obama Administration and that's why its doomed to end in failure.

The Israelis and Palestinians realize the Administration is not sincere and is only looking out for itself.

Posted by: NormanF at October 4, 2010 9:24 AM
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