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New deal on moratorium: Obama's worst move yet?

With the new deal, the US might have given up all leverage over Jerusalem for the next two years, agreed to construction in Jerusalem (and ultimately, the rest of the West Bank), and seems to get nothing in return

Like that women in a townhall meeting before the midterms, I am exhausted of defending President Barack Obama. As if the last year wasn’t bad enough, the new deal Netanyahu was offered in exchange for a limited-Jerusalem-excluded-90-days-only moratorium, seems like the administration’s worst move ever.

Netanyahu apparently reached an understanding with Washington that the building freeze would not apply to Jerusalem, and that no further moratorium would be sought following the 90-day period.

(…)

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.

According to the proposal, the US would also boost its resistance to the de-legitimization campaign against Israel and to attempts by Arab states to deprive Israel’s right to self-defense [what’s that? key words for Goldstone? for the Nuclear program?].

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.

The F-35 Jets deal is not the big news here. Sooner or later, the US would have sold the plans to Israel, if only to help Lockheed Martin, who seems to be having troubles selling its new toys to the rest of the world.

The diplomatic assurances are much more troubling. By promising an automatic veto against any international move or any unilateral attempt by the Palestinians do declare independence, the Administration gave up any leverage over Jerusalem in 2011. And since 2012 is elections year, one can say that Netanyahu got a Carte Blanch from Obama and Clinton for the rest of his term.

Furthermore, the administration promised not to demand any more moratoriums, and to exclude Jerusalem from the current one. In other words, the White House agreed not to oppose construction in the settlements starting from January 2011, and to accept all construction in East Jerusalem right now. This is, by itself, a terrible move.

What did the Americans get in return? And what did the Palestinians get? apparently, nothing. The negotiations might resume, but it’s hard to believe that any breakthrough will be reached in the next couple of months. The two sides are simply too far from each other on every key issue. My guess: the Palestinians would end up abandoning the talks or refusing some “generous offer” by Netanyahu. Once more they will be accused of missing their best opportunities. Camp David 2000, all over again.

Nothing is certain, of course. The administration might have gotten some backroom promises from Nettanyahu regarding the upcoming talks. The Israeli Right can try to oppose the new moratorium. In the longer run, the Palestinians could always shut down the PA and put Israel in an impossible position (many people think this could be their best move). But in all these developments, the administration will depend on others. Unless team Obama has a diplomatic plan it wants to impose on both sides, it seems that the White House has played its hand – and lost.

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    1. Y.

      It is quite funny to read this, after reading right-wing sites decrying said deal as an abject surrender. I think both the Israeli Left and the Right (in all their versions) have developed an intense pessimism and cynicism, leading them to consider reality in the worst possible light. Come to think of it, Palestinians often share the same perspective. Call it the unity of despair.

      Back to the subject, this is a bit more complicated than you suggest:

      A. All of Obama’s offers were stuff which was already promised to Israel by him or others or will be offered anyhow. One can see that US support won’t be guaranteed next year even if this is approved. Ergo, Obama has decided standard US support is conditional.

      B. Is this all what Israel offers? NRG links to an old Kaspit article, strongly implying it’s a bit more than that. Same per Yisrael Hayom, which says the deal also includes starting the negotiations on the border issue.

      This is a significant concession from the Israeli side. After all, territory is what Israel is supposed to offer per the admin, and if Israel finished discussing this, it would have very few bargaining chips in the rest of negotiations. Then again, the negotiations are hopeless anyhow (see YiH note in the same article about borders).

      C. I am not sure at all the freeze will only last three months – what happens if and when the Palestinians withdraw next time? Past performance suggest the US will ask for another freeze. I don’t recall Obama promised to keep promises.

      So I think it’s a bit between the two perspectives. Israel is making temporary concessions in order to gain some time, but this all means very little. Why? Well, the key date was always late 2011, and this deal changes nothing in this regard.

      Late 2011 is when everyone’s deadlines expire: Nethanyahu’s “framework agreement” (hah), Fayyad’s statements that he wants to set up a state in that time (hah), and lets recall Obama’s UN speech… All these statement were long before there was any discussion of a new freeze. So if you have any complaints about the date, I don’t think this deal is relevant – it was decided long in advance.

      What will happen then? It’s very difficult for me to say. You assume that Obama will have to do nothing due to election fears, but that’s highly uncertain to me – he may well have enough time and flexibility. More likely is that the Israeli coalition will collapse. Also, not sure what Iran will do. Lebanon may well blow up before. I dunno.

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