The American demand is proper, even if it is very late and unusually aggressive. However, its lack of context is infuriating. Freezing settlements is not a policy. Its entire purpose is to give Mahmoud Abbas, the resigning Palestinian Authority president, a reason to get back to negotiations. But negotiations cannot be a final goal, just as freezing settlements cannot be considered the ultimate achievement. What then? Is Abbas doomed to be a constant negotiator in endless negotiations? Does Washington have a plan for continuing negotiations?
Without a solid American diplomatic plan that will make Israelis, not Netanyahu, understand how to keep negotiations from bogging down a moment after Abbas and Netanyahu start talking; without a clear American position on the Palestinian right of return and the holy places, and whether Washington is for or against Palestinian reconciliation that brings Hamas into the government; the settlement freeze will become an unnecessary test of strength between Netanyahu and Obama. Because if the American president takes the trouble to look into one illegal building in East Jerusalem, and rightly so, he cannot in the same breath say that the really important questions in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are none of his business.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Obama From the Left
I really ought to write a post about Obama's scolding us last week on Jerusalem. Maybe I'll find the time, and be online, but not right now. In the meantime, however, you might want to look at this column by Zvi Bar'el. Bar'el is the Haaretz correspondent for the entire Arab (and sometimes even Muslim) world beyond the Palestinians (Avi Issacharoff reports on the Palestinians, as does, sort of, Amira Haas). He's decidedly left, not irrationally so, but he's not center-left, either. So it's interesting to see how he wants to agree with Obama's position, but recognizes the intellectual hollowness of it (that's his word, not mine).