Sunday, November 01, 2009


Teddy Roosevelt’s diplomatic style was summed up by the dictum, "Speak softly but carry a big stick.” Not so President Obama.

While no one individual can claim all the credit for f**king up the Israel/Palestine situation, this year's champion - so far at least - is President Obama.

Israel Palestinian negotiations about a settlement are going no where. In fact they haven't even started. There have been zero official negotiations in 2009 at all.

The Palestinians blame the Americans, and I agree (though perhaps with a different nuance then them). According to an article in today's Haaretz:

the Palestinians on Sunday said Washington's backing for Israeli refusal to halt Jewish settlement expansion had killed any hope of reviving peace negotiations soon.

In the spring President Obama called for a halt to new Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank. This was hailed at the time as a break through. He labeled the settlements an obstacle to peace. Someone was finally going to bring the Israelis to heel - or so it seemed.

But America has failed to impose its will on the Israelis in this regard. It has thus proven itself to be a paper tiger. And therefore it has lost standing with both Israelis and Palestinians. It has less influence today than it had before Obama’s "historic" speech in Cairo.

What's more, by stating that settlement growth should be halted independently of any negotiations, Obama drew a line in the sand that no Palestinean leader dare cross. How can they be MORE flexible than the Americans. Of course Obama was right in principle. Settlements are the core of the problem. Legally, as well as morally, Israel should stop building new settlements (and remove the old ones too for that matter) independent of any Palestinean concessions in negotiations. But politics and diplomacy are not about principles or logic or law or morals. They are about half measures, white lies, creative ambiguity, saving face, and incremental change. They are about creating conditions to create conditions to get something done.

What Obama did was raise the stakes, and then fold. He has thus made it impossible for Abbas to agree to anything less than a settlement freeze as a condition for negotiations, while at the same failing to sufficiently press the Israelis in this regard. Abbas has good reason to feel betrayed by Obama.

The Israelis will not likely back down and freeze settlements. If they don't here is how I see it playing out.

With no negotiations and therefore no hope of a negotiated settlement, Fatah's strategy of preferring negotiations to "armed struggle" loses all credibility. In fact they look like fools, or worse, patsies of the Israelis. Therefore, Fatah will resume the armed struggle, if only to gain credibility with their own people, but also in the hope of pressing Israel into serious negotiations. If Fatah does not do so in the near future (a year or so), it will lose all credibility with the Palestinian people. Its strategy and vision will have proved to be a pipe dream. And it will be replaced by Hamas. And Hamas will also certainly resume the armed struggle, but this time with the (completely unrealistic) goal of wiping Israel out entirely. Thus we have no solution, and violent conflict for a long time into the future.

A bleak picture, I know, but this is what Obama has wroth with his shoot from the lip diplomacy. His motto could have been, “Speak loudly and carry no stick at all.” Big words with no follow up are worse then silence.


Anonymous Eric said...

Don't worry Syd- Obama has the big stick behind is back-- and all Netenyahu or Abbas has to do is fail to act when the REAL threat is made.

3:57 pm  

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