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Obama's Policy: Time for the complete opposite?

In 2010, Obama’s policy – a combination of pressuring the Israeli government, then hugging it – was an utter failure. Can 2011 be the year he tries the complete opposite?

Summing up 2010, I think everyone can agree that Obama’s policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was an utter failure. It was a combination of pressuring the Israeli government, then hugging it, which would have actually worked under different circumstances. If the current leadership in Israel was genuinely interested in constructive solutions, the pressure would have prodded them along, and the embrace would have reassured their concerns and given them cover.

Netanyahu and his cohorts reacted differently. When they were pressured, they did the absolute minimum to assuage Washington. Netanyahu froze settlement construction for ten months, but refused to negotiate in good faith. When the Americans were offended by the announcement of construction in East Jerusalem during high-profile US-Israel meetings, the government learned its lesson. It would announce construction before or after those meetings (implementation, in Israel, is another thing).

When it was warmly received, Israel’s government interpreted it as weakness, crediting their American allies. It only reinforced its intransigence. Obama is loathed by the majority of Israelis who are in love with the status quo, and has disappointed those who work towards change. With total failure, perhaps it is time for the complete opposite?

On the one hand, Obama should stop pressuring Israel. If the government does not want a real compromise, they will wiggle out of any attempt to railroad them there. On the other hand, Obama should stop hugging Israel’s leaders, and start showing his true affectionate concern for the country’s people. He should hop on the next plane to Jerusalem, hold perfunctory meetings with Netanyahu and Peres, then speak before the Knesset, directly to the Israeli people:

We were wrong to pressure your government, and we will stop doing that. No one can solve your problems but you. As true friends, we will keep saying what we think: that you are making a horrible mistake. You are undermining your society’s moral foundations, and impairing its security. We are horrified to see Israel, our good friend, going down this dark road. If you ever want to get out, we will support you with all our might. In the meantime, we will keep warning you, simply because we care about Israel and want it to succeed.

I’m dreaming, I know …      

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    1. Ben Israel

      Nice piece. You are one of the more realistic of the progressives I have encountered. However, all of you here at 972 end up dancing around the real problem. You all keep harping on what Israel has to do for peace, as if that is the only thing that matters. However, you know as well as I do that there are TWO parties involved in the ‘peace process’. You stated that Netanyahu refused to negotiate in good faith during his partial settlement freeze. But, did the Palestinians? They refused to talk until only one month before the end. They certainly didn’t act in good faith.
      From what I see of the situation, the Palestinians have NEVER put forward a realistic peace plan. All they do is sit in a room, and wait for the Americans to come to them with Israeli concessions. The Palestinians reject them as inadequate and then the Americans go back and ask the Israelis for more, which they sometimes get.
      Olmert and his KADIMA-LABOR government conducted negotations with Abbas. They failed to reach an agreement, but they did give us two bloody wars. So it is clear the situation is not just Netanyahu’s fault. It is also good to keep in mind that this current government has the support of a clear majority of the population. Thus, nothing is going to happen until the Palestinians are prepared to state what kind of realistic terms (and by realistic, I mean giving up the demand for the implementation of the “Palestinian Right of Return”) they are willing to agree to. I hope the 972 group will address issues like this more in the future.

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