Wednesday, December 8, 2010

With the peace process dead, the Israelis are not even trying to make sense

The Washington Post's article on the Obama administration's decision to give up on an extension of the partial settlement freeze is actually quite good, and it features a number of rather telling (and even humorous) quotes.

"What me? I stopped making sense years ago."
First you have Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat cautioning both the U.S. and Israel about what the total failure of yet another peace process might do to their already waning credibility: "If you cannot have [Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu] stop settlements for a few months, what do you expect to get out of him on Jerusalem or the 1967 borders. I think Mr. Netanyahu knows the consequences for the American administration's credibility in the region.''


Of course by that Erekat knows that lack of progress on Israel/Palestine peace only strengthens Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas, all three of who gain notoriety and support by continuously pointing to the conflict to bolster their claims that only militancy can solve the region's problems and that the U.S. is unable to stand up to Israel, regardless of the issue.


Next, you have an extremely bizarre line from an unnamed Israeli official that makes absolutely no sense given the topic we're discussing. It's almost as if he was asked about something entirely different and the Post simply threw his lines into this article: "As we go into this next stage of the peace process, we think the chances of it succeeding are even greater because of the close coordination with the United States.''


What!? That quote doesn't even attempt to make sense. What "next stage of the peace process" is this joker even talking about? And furthermore, how could anyone in their right mind think that the chances of a negotiated two-state solution succeeding are now higher rather than lower after another total peace process failure? I'm not quite sure what this official is even talking about concerning the "close coordination with the United States." From what I've read it sounds like the U.S. pretty much signaled it's intent to extricate itself from this recent round of negotiations, pulled the humiliating offers to the Israelis off the table, and just decided to continue releasing lukewarm statements noting their "concern" over settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.


Of course, because no article on the peace process would be complete without a heavyweight of status quo thinking weighing in, Aaron David Miller was interviewed and one vague, contradictory line to pad out the piece. I've read his exact, "focusing on freezing settlements was always the wrong decision" line close to a half-dozen times now and I still think it's disingenuous given what he's said about the failure of Camp David and how he thinks this mess needs to be worked out. If you'll remember, Miller was the former U.S. negotiator involved with the 2000 Camp David talks that lamented that the U.S. was not a good partial mediator for Middle East peace because it had a tendency to act as Israel's lawyer. He also remarked, perhaps more importantly, that one of the biggest failures of the U.S. and Israeli negotiators during Camp David was their inability to come to terms with just how important an issue continued settlement growth (both in the West Bank and East Jerusalem) was for the Palestinians. They wanted it stopped in no uncertain terms, especially while they were negotiating. But despite Miller's assertions that the settlements are a huge thorn in the Palestinians' side and that the U.S. in the past had failed to realize this, he's back to claiming the Obama administration was boneheaded for trying to get a settlement freeze as a part of the current negotiations.


I might be a bit harsh on Aaron David Miller. When I last saw him (during a panel discussion at the Wilson Center), he seemed pretty much devoid of any hope for a negotiated two-state solution for Israel/Palestine, and instead of being contradictory with his recent statements, perhaps he truly believes that the Obama administration should not have even tried to bring the parties together, regardless of whether or not his focus was on a settlement freeze. I have not actually heard him say that, but maybe it's what he's thinking or muttering privately, but just not yet ready to say publicly.


The WaPo article is relatively good, though I'm not sure the writer fully grasps some of the very big issues that  she's got her hands on. In one of the last paragraphs, almost as an afterthought Ms. Zacharia drops the bomb that the Palestinians are seriously considering asking the U.S. to formally recognize the State of Palestine, an act Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay did less than a week ago.

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