Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Richard, Not Robert, Cohen on Jewish Communities and Obama

In an op-ed:

Given the highly emotional nature of the settlement issue, it made no sense for the administration - actually, President Obama himself - to promote an absolute moratorium on construction as the prerequisite for peace talks...We will see if the end of the moratorium means the end of peace talks. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has not yet ended negotiations. He's going to confer with his fellow Arab leaders. Obama ought to also confer with someone who knows the region.

Trouble is, many experts have told him that his emphasis on settlements was the wrong way to go...

From the start, the President has taken a hard line against settlements, refusing to distinguish between an apartment in Jerusalem and a hilltop encampment in the West Bank. He seems not to understand their importance to some Jews. Certain right-wing Israelis have reacted with the same lack of empathy. One settlement leader, Gershon Mesika, called Obama by his middle name, Hussein - a juvenile attempt at insult. [yes, but it is his name. maybe the President should change it?]

The Obama approach to the Israeli-Palestinian problem has been counterproductive. Either the Palestinians have to back down from their insistence that all settlements be frozen in place or Netanyahu has to back down from his pledge that any moratorium would be temporary. Either Abbas or Netanyahu has to lose credibility, and neither man can afford to.

Obama, too, has to husband his credibility. He foolishly demanded something Israel could not yet give. It was bad diplomacy, recalling neither Metternich nor Kissinger but the Ol' Perfessor and his question about the inept Mets. The answer, so far, is no.

Read more.

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