Monday, January 25, 2010

Netanyahu's antics and Obama calls it quits...

Yet again all I find myself with time to do is post links. Soon enough though, I'll get to some substance. I'd like to to a Holy Land monthly book review and a monthly "Peacemakers/Peacebreakers" post detailing the individuals that have done the most/least for peace in the Middle East. That will start soon enough. If anyone has a good book I should read, leave me a comment and perhaps I'll pick it up for a book review. Also, if you'd like to nominate someone for Peacemaker/Peacebreaker of the month, send an e-mail or drop a line in the comments. Thanks, enjoy your Monday; here are the links:

Americans for Peace Now has a good accounting of the Israeli settlement moratorium.
They note that the "freeze-light" has done a decent amount of good, mainly in Israel and for clarifying US policy, but also note several serious liabilities of the project. I think APN paints too rosy a picture of the good things coming from the moratorium and has underestimated just how much this has been a rallying point for settler groups, both moderate and extremist, to work together to force the hand of the Israeli government. Israel hasn't exactly proved that they have a handle on the settlers and can actually enforce policies inside the territories that the settlers don't like. This has the very negative effect, both on Israel and the Palestinians of creating a pseudo-state within a state in the West Bank. Ask the Palestinians or the Lebanese how well that works for them. APN does not take a hard line with it, but HLP will: the Israeli government needs to assert its authority in the West Bank and let settlers know that if the government decides to pursue policies that they don't like, the settlers will not be allowed to counter with violence and threats to overturn those policies. Settlers are Israeli citizens and the state needs to ensure that the rule of law is being upheld in the Wild West Bank.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, master of hilarious verbal juxtapositions, is at it again. Just a few days ago Netanyahu asserted that Israel must have a military presence on the eastern (the Jordanian) border of any future Palestinian state, then lamented the fact that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would not cheerfully reenter negotiations with him. It is crystal clear that the Palestinians do not have any faith in negotiations at this point, especially considering that the state of affairs that Netanyahu has consistently described for the final status agreement is one in which the Palestinians would get almost nothing (not East Jerusalem, not control over their own borders, not an end to Israeli occupation, not an end to settlements, and certainly not the West Bank). The Palestinians, quite frankly, have almost nothing to gain by talking with Netanyahu and his right-wing government. Of course, this could all be a bit of subterfuge by the PM, and perhaps he's leading the Israeli right and settler bloc into a false sense of political security and then he'll leap to his feet as the courageous Israeli peacemaker and sign a fair deal to end the conflict and leave the Palestinians alone in their own state. I would love to believe it, but I just cannot.

And Netanyahu could not allow his week to go by with just one ironic juxtaposition either. Hours after meeting US enjoy George Mitchell, a man who wrote the book on why settlements threaten the peace process and who has been tirelessly trying to get the two sides into the same room together for the better part of a year, Netanyahu sprinted to the Gush Etzion settlement to attend a tree planting where he asserted that West Bank settlements are and will always be (I'm sure he used 'eternally') a part of the State of Israel. He then again lamented the lack of a peace process with the Palestinians, as if his actions in the West Bank do not provide the Palestinians with more than enough reasons to screen their calls. Now peace process junkies know that it is pretty much set in stone at this point that like it or not, the Israelis will probably end up keeping the large settlement blocs close to the border, though which ones exactly will stay in Israel has never been hammered out. By continuing this kind of constant pandering the settlers and those on the far right and refusing to so much as throw a bone to the Palestinian Authority or Israelis who actually want the peace process to resume, Netanyahu just continues to alienate Abbas and the Palestinians. If he truly wanted a peace process, even without freezing settlements in East Jerusalem he would stop this counterproductive piffle.

[Just a quick aside here - I want to point out that this has become far more of a post than just links, I can feel the Holy Land Peace blog returning to it's former glory!]

It looks like US President Barack Obama will not be throwing much time or effort into the stagnated Israeli-Palestinian peace process in his second year in office. A resurgent Republican party, stagnation on a health insurance reform bill, and no movement on the front to regulate the financial industry have all claimed higher priority than the "intractable" (his words not mine) situation in the Holy Land. Obama's second year will be all domestic in order to boost his favor with voters in time for the midterm elections later this year. Obama signaled this in an interview with Time magazine in which he said his administration had simply set their expectations for Middle East peace too high. He chastised both the Palestinians and Israelis for refusing to make any bold gestures and blamed the domestic situations of both sides as precluding such moves. "I think it is absolutely true that what we did this year didn't produce the kind of breakthrough that we wanted and if we had anticipated some of these political problems on both sides earlier, we might not have raised expectations as high," Obama told Time. That's code for, "I've got bigger fish to fry than attempting to force two of the most stubborn peoples in the world to work out their problems peacefully. See you in 2012." For his part though, Obama did little more to achieve peace than ask, then plead, then whine, before crying that the problem was intractable and that he would have no part in sullying his good name in the Holy Land. Unless of course you consider appointing a veteran peacemaker as special envoy a landmark action. Palestine Monitor is not impressed.

According to Osama bin Laden and his crew in al-Qaeda, however, Obama should probably keep caring about Middle East peace if he wants to break the backs of violent jihadist groups. Glenn Greenwald, Marc Lynch, Matt Yglesias, Phillip Weiss, and Imtiaz Gul provided timely commentary on bin Laden's most recent tape, in which he remarks that attacks against the US will continue as long as Palestinians do not enjoy peace. I'll have more commentary on this later in a post dedicated to the Israel-Qaeda connection. APN has a post recommending what Obama should do in 2010.

That's all for this morning - I'm holding a few other news items back until I find the time to put together decent commentary.

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