Sunday, November 14, 2010

The U.S. - Israel peace process ...

I recall reading several times from various critics of Israel that the U.S. should not serve as Israel's "lawyer" in the peace process. That is to say that the U.S. should serve as a unbiased moderator of the negotiations and shouldn't take a position in favor of one side or the other.

I find it quite ironic then that the U.S. has now taken on the role of acting as the Palestinians' lawyer, pushing Israel for a continued settlement freeze and offering Israel a sizable incentive package to do so:
The forum of top seven government ministers convened Saturday night at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem to discuss the latest American proposal for renewing direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Just a month after he vowed that construction in the West Bank would continue until the Palestinian Authority recognizes Israel as a Jewish state, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked his ministers to approve a 90-day settlement construction freeze.

Netanyahu apparently succumbed to the ongoing US pressure following a lengthy meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ...

In exchange for a freeze extension, the US would object to international attempts to force a diplomatic agreement on Israel in the UN and in other global forums, while utilizing the American veto power in the UN Security Council ...

Moreover, the US Administration would ask Congress to approve the sale of another 20 advanced fighter jets to Israel worth some $3 billion. This would supplement a comprehensive future Israeli-American security agreement, to be signed alongside a peace deal, in the aims of addressing Israel's security needs in any future treaty. 
I'm not sure what to think of this. Is it further evidence of Obama's desperation? He seems willing to do anything to get Israel to agree to another freeze. Of course Israel has no desire whatsoever to do this and would only agree in response to extreme pressure and or incentive from the U.S.

The really sad thing is that a continued settlement freeze will have no discernible positive impact on the peace process. It may bring the two-sides back to the negotiating table for a few months, but there is no indication that progress will be made. The Palestinians continue to show no sign at all of being ready to discuss peace in a realistic way.

I think it's valuable to take a look at the Palestinian reaction to the American proposal:
Palestinians are expressing strong reservations about a US proposal  meant to entice Israel  to reinstate limits on West Bank settlement construction and revive peace talks.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat did not reject the proposal outright on Sunday, but said a decision on whether to endorse it would be made after consultations with Palestinian and Arab leaders.

The proposal calls for a 90-day ban on housing starts in the West Bank, but not in war-won east Jerusalem, the Palestinians would-be capital.

Let us recall that Israel never agreed to a Jerusalem construction freeze and that this didn't stop the Palestinians from entering into negotiations a few months ago. The Palestinians also repeatedly stated that the negotiations couldn't continue without a reinstatement of the freeze.

Now, as a renewal of the freeze becomes a reality, the Palestinians are saying it's not enough. This demonstrates the futility of Obama's strategy. The Palestinians make a demand, Obama agrees with the demand and then puts pressure on Israel. Then, once that demand has been fulfilled, the Palestinians make another demand or create another precondition.

So far this strategy has worked wonders for them. They are able to ask for whatever they want and are asked for nothing in return. Obama's sole strategy here has been to pressure Israel. This is pointless. Israel is not the side that needs to be pressured. Israel is much closer to being able to make peace than the Palestinians.

Until someone pressures the Palestinians to take a realistic approach to negotiations, the peace process will continue to go nowhere. It doesn't seem that Obama is going to exert that pressure any time soon.

No comments: