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The less Obama does on this visit, the better

Given the likely options, I’m glad Obama is coming here tomorrow to do nothing rather than to try to revive the peace process. Today, reviving the peace process, Obama-style, would mean coercing Mahmoud Abbas to enter negotiations with Netanyahu in return for nothing, or next to nothing, such as a token prisoner release, some musical chairs with a few checkpoints and a vague statement of good intentions. And for that, Netanyahu would get what he very much wants: “peace negotiations” with no end, which would provide diplomatic cover for his terribly right-wing, settlement-crazy new government. At the same time, Abbas would be constrained from taking any more “unilateral actions” like going to the U.N., or to The Hague, or seeking any advantage outside the framework of negotiations opposite Bibi Netanyahu and under the auspices of the United States, otherwise known as Israel’s lawyer.

That would be much, much worse than the nothing Obama reportedly plans to achieve in his visit this week (beyond getting the Israeli public to warm up to him, which I’m sure he’s capable of doing, and which will last until some future moment when he says one mildly critical word about Israeli policy or Israeli anything, at which point the Israeli public will forget this charm offensive in Jerusalem as if it never was).

Obama tried to revive the peace process once before, at the start of his presidency, when he demanded that Israel impose a total settlement freeze and agree to a Palestinian state on the pre-Six Day War borders with land swaps. Now that would have been something, had he stuck to his guns. But he “learned his lesson,” which is that the domestic political price for taking on the occupation is much, much higher than what he’s willing to pay, so the only real pressure Obama’s been willing to apply since then is on the Palestinian side, notably at the U.N.

Who needs more of that? I only hope he keeps to his plans this time, and that by the end of the visit, those of us who’d like to see freedom and democracy around here will be able to say, as sincerely as hell: Mr. President, thanks for nothing.

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    1. Richard Witty

      Nothing is the wrong descriptor.

      Per Haaretz today, King Abdullah of Jordan has reported a very productive developing relationship with Netanyahu, mostly around the very large real threat of Syrian contingencies (current regime, future regime/chaos, current and future prospective refugees).

      There is no possible substantive Israel/Palestinian negotiations for the divisions within BOTH communities.

      Although Hamas accepts the PA communicating with Israel, it is about as substantive an advocacy as likud/beitanhu accepting Livni negotiating with the PA.

      The left STILL has to make the argument that the democratic in Jewish #and# democratic is the more important ingredient.

      It hasn’t. You haven’t Larry, though you could.

      Irritation is NOT making that argument. Its much more basic, substantive, acceptable.

      Reply to Comment
    2. susy

      doing nothing means supporting the status-quo, i.e. what PM Netanyahu wants.
      …”total settlement freeze…that would have been something..” if it was a real settlement freeze and not a stunt.

      Reply to Comment
    3. XYZ

      This is the umpteenth repitition of the myth that the Palestinians really want an agreement with Israel and Israel keeps refusing. Abbas does NOT want peace, but he wants a peace process in order to keep the American and EU money flowing towards him. If he really wanted an agreement, he would have taken the supposed partial agreement made with Olmert and Livni and publicized them during the 2009 election campaign in Israel and said “vote for KADIMAH because we are close to an agreement with them.” No such statement was made.
      Derfner, like many “peace camp” groupies ignores what is going on in Syrian and the other Arab countries involving the rise of radical political Islam. These people, including their local representatvies with HAMAS oppose any peace agreement with Israel. Does Derfner really think Abbas could go against this new Arab wave by making majro concessions to Israel (primarily giving up the right of return of the Palestinian refugess) and live to talk about it afterwards? Remember Sadat? Remember how Arafat told Clinton he would be assassinated if he made concessions like that?

      Reply to Comment
    4. Richard Witty

      Abbas wants peace more than you do XYZ.

      He has already risked his life.

      Its Netanyahu that is scared.

      Reply to Comment
      • XYZ

        How has Abbas “risked his life”? He hasn’t given anything away, except a few words which were then retracted. He is actually playing the game very well, better than Arafat, who ended up being isolated in his Mukata in Ramallah. True, he and HAMAS don’t particularly get along, but that has nothing to do with policies regarding the phony “peace process”. They have full agreement on each’s role in the “peace process”….HAMAS is the bad cop, Abbas is the good cop. He smiles at the Americans, keeps the money flowing in and HAMAS keeps the ideological flame alive.
        BTW-Did you see the polls that show something like 70% of Americans support Israel, 12% support the Palestinians and a majority of Americans do not want the US to take a major role in pushing the “peace process”?

        Reply to Comment
        • Richard Witty

          How has Abbas risked his life?

          Two dozen murder attempts on his life.

          Where have you been? Have you read anything over the last two decades?

          My point was that he desires peace FAR FAR more than you, or Netanyahu.

          Reply to Comment
          • Leen

            I have to agree with you. By far Abbas has been the most cooperative and best partner for peace Israel over hopes to have. Instead, who do they negotiate with? Hamas (prisoner swap deal, three ceasefires, etc). It’s actually making Abbas look like a puppet with no backbone and people are saying, well, looks like Hamas is the effective one.

            Reply to Comment
          • XYZ

            These two dozen attempts on Abbas’ life are news to me…I certainly haven’t heard of any in the years since he came to power. I would appreciate any links you have to information about this. Of course, intra-Palestinian politics is violent, look at the murder of Juliano Mer-Khamis for example, but even if there were attempts on him, this isn’t necessarily because he is too “moderate” regarding relations with Israel but rather a normal attempt by someone else to move to the top.

            BTW-I don’t think you are in any position to decide for us Israelis who confront the security challenges inherent in living here who is “for peace” or not. Those of us who opposed Oslo are a lot more desirious of peace than those who supported it (remember Peres’ disgusting “victims of peace” mantra?).

            Reply to Comment
    5. The Trespasser

      >Abbas wants peace…


      Reply to Comment
      • Rauna

        TT, honestly do you want peace?

        Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          Peace, as unconditional termination of each an all acts of violence and hostility among species called “Homo Sapiens Sapiens”?

          Yeah, that would be nice.

          Do you think that such condition is possible?

          Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            I’m more than pleased to notice that no-one is believing in utopical “ultimate peace for all” concept.

            Reply to Comment
    6. Obama is going to Israel to expand cooperation on Syria and Iran. Secondarily, I think he wants to see some lessening of the Gaza restrictions, especially in light of Egypt’s closing (through raw sewage) of the tunnels, as I think the Administration sees the economic stranglehold as a radicalizing force, contra Israel.

      I don’t think the President likes what the occupation is doing, including settlers; but I do not see how he can do anything to change Israel’s view (absent the impossible restriction of credit, etc.).

      Coaltion is possible on Syria and Iran, maybe even Gaza, a bit. But enter an internal Israeli fight over settlement? Nothing to gain, something to lose, namely Gaza movement.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        >Obama is going to Israel to expand cooperation on Syria and Iran.

        Nonsense. Telephone is more than enough for that.

        >Secondarily, I think he wants to see some lessening of the Gaza restrictions

        Nonsense as well.

        There are only two ways to lessen these restrictions:
        1 – Hamas should alter it’s attitude towards Israel to a less hostile one.
        2 – Gazans should vote Hamas out.

        >especially in light of Egypt’s closing (through raw sewage) of the tunnels

        And why would Egypt close the tunnels for their “brethren”?

        Besides that, Egypt is on verge of starvation and civil war, which might be real concern.

        >as I think the Administration sees the economic stranglehold as a radicalising force, contra Israel.

        As everyone concerned knows, each and every concession of Israel is perceived by Arabs as a “victory” and leads to more radicalisation.

        >I don’t think the President likes what the occupation is doing, including settlers;

        There is no occupation.

        >but I do not see how he can do anything to change Israel’s view (absent the impossible restriction of credit, etc.).

        He can’t do shit. Which is why he should have not taken that prize, which is already of a rather low values, after being handed to renowned terrorists Rabin and Arafat.

        Reply to Comment
      • Leen

        Honestly? I think Obama is doing this so Congress will lay off his back. He does not have any interest in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and is concentrating on domestic efforts than anything. That way, he plays nice to Congress by visiting Israel, saying all the right things, in return Congress will be more willing to work with Obama when he tries to pass domestic legislation especially with the budget, tax, health care. He wants a legacy like Reagan, but his legacy will be more domestic. That’s why he hasnt been playing a huge part in the palestinian-Israeli conflict.

        Reply to Comment
        • Richard Witty

          He has plenty of interest in the Israel/Palestine conflict, and strongly desires that it end, and that he can have a role in that.

          He just hits impenetrable roadblocks.

          Negotiations are based on consent. Consent is based on the prospect of ratification.

          Both Israel and Palestine are fundamentally divided internally on their desires for peace. Peace is not the question, the question is the cost and risk.

          Currently, neither community is willing to confidently do what it takes.

          My own view is that in 2009, Olmert or Livni after him would have negotiated a deal with Abbas, that may or may not have been ratified by knesset and Palestinian parliaments.

          But, when Hamas determined to shell Israeli towns in southern Israel, it elected Netanyahu to lead the next government (even though Kadima got more votes).

          It could have been different.

          Israel in power, but swimming against the raging tides.

          Reply to Comment
          • Leen

            I think personally he does have interest in solving it but not politically. Or his own version of peace does not gel with the congress’s view. THis would explain his silence on most issues. He usually sent Clinton to do all the heavy work. I still think he is more interested in pushing his domestic policies than Israel-Palestine.

            Reply to Comment
          • XYZ

            I am sorry to have to be the one to break this to you but most people in the world couldn’t care less about the Arab-Israeli conflict. I presume you saw the poll I referred to showing that less that half of the Americans polled even want a Palestinian state. POlls in Europe taken in 2011 before the attempt by the Palestinias to have the UN Security Council recognize a Palestinian state showed only 50% supporting this. I was surprised, but you have to understand although Jewish liberals and “progressives” seem to view themselves as the concience of mankind, they aren’t, and most people don’t think like they do. Most people don’t care about Palestinian self-determination, they don’t care about the settlements and view the Arab-Israeli conflicy as one of the nuerous international conflicts that can’t be solved. I believe that Obama has come around to that way of thinking.

            Reply to Comment
          • Richard Witty

            They will care for two good reasons:

            1. The treatment of the Palestinians is wrong, a blight on the Israeli assertion of democracy, on the Israeli assertion of success.

            2. Trouble will come ultimately with the one-person one-vote campaign should Israel annex the West Bank, or the holding pattern shift to an understanding of permanence.

            It’s time to think ahead. Justification and reasoned planning are two VERY DIFFERENT approaches.

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            >The treatment of the Palestinians is wrong…

            The treatment of Palestinians is the only possible way of dealing with people who’d rather wage war that live in peace.

            Reply to Comment
          • Richard Witty

            You obviously have not met many Palestinians.

            They are simply human beings, most of them.

            There are ideologues without question, as there are Israeli ideologues.

            Try considering them human beings, not some imagined unanimous monolith.

            Reply to Comment
    7. directrob

      “Today, reviving the peace process, Obama-style, would mean coercing Mahmoud Abbas to enter negotiations with Netanyahu in return for nothing”

      15 comments and none addressing the important main point of the article … Incredible.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        Abbas represents no-one and holds his position in defiance of law.

        Reply to Comment
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