Monday, October 25, 2010

Even The Washington Post Knows

From Jackson Diehl's piece:

So why does Abbas stubbornly persist in his self-defeating position [of demanding a continued construction freeze as a condition for negotiations - YM] ? In an interview with Israeli television Sunday night, he offered a remarkably candid explanation: ``When Obama came to power, he is the one who announced that settlement activity must be stopped,'' he said. ``If America says it and Europe says it and the whole world says it, you want me not to say it?''

...the settlement impasse originated not with Netanyahu or Abbas but with President the surprise of Netanyahu and some in his own administration, Obama reintroduced the settlement issue. First in a news conference and then in his September address to the U.N. General Assembly, he called on the Israeli government to extend the settlement moratorium, which expired on Sept. 26. In doing so, he made it impossible for Abbas not to make the same demand...both leaders are trapped. Netanyahu is a hostage to his cabinet; Abbas is the prisoner of Obama's misguided rhetoric.

And from an earlier one this last month:

...the Obama administration has once again chosen to ask Netanyahu for an unnecessary concession -- and one he may be unable to deliver...the prime minister is unlikely to accept the deal with the U.S. unless he can persuade his coalition partners to go along.

At the same time, Netanyahu knows that if he rejects the deal, he will anger Obama -- who hasn't shied from open confrontations with Israel over settlements. Obama isn't likely to turn on Netanyahu before the U.S. midterm elections; but a breakdown in the peace process could seriously complicate relations between the two countries next year, when Israel hopes the United States will act decisively to stop Iran's nuclear program.
Another U.S.-Israel crisis is probably what Abbas is hoping for -- and why he has taken a hard-line position on the settlement issue. The Palestinian president has engaged in negotiations with Israeli governments for years without demanding any such freeze...All along, Abbas has shown scant interest in these peace talks -- he made a point of saying he was dragged to the bargaining table. He turned down a far-reaching peace offer from Netanyahu's predecessor, Ehud Olmert. If he were genuinely interested in reaching a peace settlement with Israel, he could set aside the settlement issue without risking his own hold on power.

So why has the Obama administration chosen to focus its diplomacy on extracting a purely symbolic but next-to-impossible concession from Netanyahu? That will be the question worth asking if the peace process breaks down this weekend.

Jackson Diehl is Deputy Editorial Page Editor of the WashPost.


No comments: