While I don’t think Obama’s intent is to damage Israel so much as it is to arrive at an agreement. To do this he must strong-arm Israel. I also don’t think that he considers the Israel/Palestine matter is a collateral matter that he wants out of the way as Rubin suggests. If it was he wouldn’t have started up as he did or been so agressive. His advisors are fixated on this. They can’t stand the idea that Israel is getting away with “murder”. Nor do I think that fruitless negotiations in any way help his efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan or Iran.
I also don’t believe that Obama’s success depends on the cooperation of the AL or the PA. What I believe he wants to acheive is an internation determination of the issues in line with the Saudi Plan save for the refugee issue. I do not think that Res 194 will be followed entirely. It recommends that refugees who want to return home to Israel be permitted to do so. At worse for Israel will be that he allows for only a token return. Is he saying the Arab League won’t accept this? If so, Israel is saved once again.
By Barry Rubin
[..] There are many rumors of some dramatic action–an imposed solution? an international conference? U.S. backing for a PA declaration of independence?–if the talks break down as the next step. Much of the analysis of this issue, especially on the right, is based on a series of false premises. Obama is seen as a semi-demonic force who can do anything he wants and will sacrifice everything in order to damage Israel. This perspective is not borne out by the administration’s behavior so far.
The main goal of the Obama Administration is to look good, implying that it is succeeding in the “peace process,” and to avoid trouble on the Israel-Palestinian front so it can get on with Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Iran nuclear issue. Clearly, this is the least friendly administration to Israel in history, yet it is also a government which has taken no material step to pressure or punish Israel despite a fair amount of growling.
It is also a White House aware that this is the last popular policy in its entire foreign policy repertoire. Congressional Democrats have criticized the president’s strategy–albeit politely–to a considerable extent. Public opinion polls show that the American people don’t like it. The White House is certainly not blind to the consequences of these problems.
If, however, the Obama Administration invests too much prestige and political capital on Israel-PA issues, it is going to be the big loser. An international summit would end in humiliating disputes, for example. The same applies to other extreme measures. The PA is simply not going to cooperate even with a pro-Palestinian White House; the Arab states are not going to give U.S. policy any real help on this or other issues.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remains quite strong. He has won a strong victory in his own party for his policy and the harder-line right has remained pretty quiescent. The country does not blame Netanyahu for the problems in U.S.-Israel relations because they have been so obviously due to Obama, his behavior, and to his lack of sympathy for Israeli needs.
In addition, Israelis are quite skeptical about any likelihood for peace, progress in negotiations, and the reliability of the PA as a negotiating partner. They are also quite aware that the U.S. government has let them down so far over Iran.
And so, as in 1991-1992 and after 16 more recent years of direct talks, there will probably once again only be indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinians. One can’t take even this for granted until they actually happen. But one can take for granted that these negotiations and any U.S. efforts to broker instant peace will fail completely.