Monday, September 7, 2009

A Sham and a Shame

Regular readers don't need me to elaborate much about the decision to build 455 new homes in six settlements just before starting a construction freeze. The whole thing is a sham. Obama started with a reasonable postition that enlarging settlements while negotiating their dismantling is not helpful. So he demanded that not happen. Netanyahu's government could have accepted his position, though one hopes they'd have demanded a reciprocal requirement from the Palestinians - a demand they not teach children Israel shouldn't exist, or some such. The Obama team, however, perhaps in their haste to distance themselves from the Bush administration, demanded the cessation of construction also in places Israel isn't going to dismantle, thereby encouraging the Palestinians to halt the negotiations they themselves had been intensively engaged in. Netanyahu won't, and indeed shouldn't, buckle on this one, so it seems there is now a fudge. There were plans for constuction of 455 homes in the pipeline; these have now been authorised. There aren't any additional plans at the moment, so tomorrow or next week Netanyahu will declare a freeze. Should the negotiations go well, everyone will agree that Modi'in Illit and Har Gilo remain in Israel, and construction will continue when new plans make their way thru the zoning process. If not, there won't be much reason to halt construction, will there. So it's a sham.

And also a shame. We've got this exciting new American administration, or anyway, we had for a moment. Peace in the Middle East is probably beyond the ability of any American administration to deliver, as is peace in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Congo, Sudan, Nigeria, the Caucasus, and diverse other places; still, it would have been nice to have a real stab at it, and not the silly gesture-politics we've been having the past few months.

In late summer 2008 I wrote here that Obama's first 18-24 months would be disastrous, but that then he and his team might understand the dynamics of the job and pull their act together. It's still early enough for them to prove me pessimistic. But it doesn't look so yet.


marek said...

"We have/had this exciting..." - who is we and what is/was so exciting?

Judging by the results, so far, and the Rasmussen poll the excitement or whatever is left of it is rather negative.

While I usually agree with your sentiments, calling the freeze on development in Jerusalem, Modi'in, Gush Etzion, etc. "a real stub at peace effort" is below your level of argument.

This Is Hell said...

However while they dawdle 2000 more children have been born in Modin Illit this year. I would seriously question the sanity of anyone who believes that creating a fetid ghetto out of it is a legitimate tool of the so called progressives for peace. Or perhaps I'm not as cynical as I need be.

AKUS said...

After Obama's disastrous and disillusioning visit with the Saudis, he moved Dennis Ross out of the State Department, where he was unable to achieve anything against the ingrained Arabist crowd, to the White House. Almost immediately there has been a softening of the administrations demands and a more realistic approach as Dennis began making his knowledge and ME connections felt.

Things may still turn around, but the truth is that by focusing on counting apartments this administration found itself up a very tall tree with no idea how to get down. I think they are taking a more realistic approach in order to finally focus on the bigger issue of Palestinian state building, and then some form of statehood. The freeze and borders will come out of that, not the opposite way around.

Shalom, Cherry Hill said...

"We've got this exciting new American administration, or anyway, we had for a moment."

Ya'acov, please--with all the Clinton retreads, the close ties with left wing extremists like, Wright, Ayres, and so on, I really don't see how anyone could have seen the Obama administration as exciting. Because he's young and/or black? Come on, I know that you're not shallow enough to have bought into all the media hype.

Victor said...

It's interesting what a turnaround this summer has been. Obama was unassailable after his Cairo speech. He wanted to force Likud not just to make concessions, but to own them. Now Bibi has given Obama enough rope to hang himself and sent him off to deliver the Arabs.

First Jerusalem is taken off the table. Then we find out educational and government buildings are not part of the freeze. Then 2500 homes already under construction will continue building. Then we get 455 homes (I never know if they're talking about apartment units or actual homes) in the pipeline authorize to strike ground. Then E1 is officially opened to some pre-building bureaucratic moves.

You have to appreciate the sheer unmanageability of the Israeli bureaucracy, and how deftly American demands have met their demise, drowned in milk and honey.

Obama has two options. He can force a real break with Israel to focus minds, or he can do what every other president has done - accept that a Palestinian state at the expense of the Israeli relationship is not an American strategic interest and move on to more pressing matters, like Iran, Russia, North Korea, health care, and his falling poll numbers.

As for Israel and the PA, yes, we're headed to one state + Gaza. I have no particular problem with that, so long as its on our extended timetable, not theirs.

Just as a sidenote, the Israeli economic minister just met with the PA economic minister about improving the economic conditions of Palestinians in the West Bank. Can you imagine an Egyptian and Saudi delegation coming to Israel in order to improve the economic conditions there? What a mind warp.

Anonymous said...

> we're headed to one state + Gaza

Forgive me if it should be obvious, but I don't understand what you mean by this phrase.

Victor said...

One State + Gaza:

Israel annexes the West Bank and it's Palistinian population, while remaining disengaged from Gaza.