Peace Process at Standstill
Did Obama apply pressure at the wrong time?
I’ll have more on What’s Next before the weekend, but for now there are two must-read pieces on where things stand between the United States and Israel, and between the two countries’ leaders. If things have seemed a bit different over these past couple weeks, that’s because it’s all really new, and, as Jeffrey Goldberg puts it, it’s “big stuff.”
Writing in Politico, Laura Rozen and Ben Smith—who have been all over this whole story from the beginning—do some valuable reporting that suggests, ultimately, that both sides can be faulted for respectively lacking coherent strategies.
Netanyahu, observers said, has refused—out of distrust—to signal to Obama how far he’s willing to go in final-status negotiations. That caginess deepens the distrust.
“If last night they shared that strategic vision, that’s what will repair the relationship,” said Makovsky. “There’s no sign of that, but of course we don’t know.”
Out of distrust and, one should add, out of common sense: If you reveal how much you are willing to concede before negotiations begin, you are putting yourself at a substantial disadvantage.
The Obama Administration saw the original housing announcement—immaculately juxtaposed with Vice President Biden’s arrival—as a golden opportunity to try to advance the externally desired goal of a full settlement freeze. But while the notion of applying extreme pressure to Israel to get concessions, while certainly opposed by the right, is at least debatable, it is looking more and more like the Administration was objectively unwise to apply that pressure now rather than later. Washington Post columnist Jackson Diehl, a onetime Jerusalem bureau chief, argues as much:
U.S. pressure on Netanyahu will be needed if the peace process ever reaches the point where the genuinely contentious issues, like Palestinian refugees or the exact territorial tradeoffs, are on the table. But instead of waiting for that moment and pushing Netanyahu on a point where he might be vulnerable to domestic challenge, Obama picked a fight over something that virtually all Israelis agree on, and before serious discussions have even begun.
In doing so, the Administration may have unwittingly sabotaged the very peace process it was sponsoring. Remember: Both it and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas wanted a full settlement freeze; Israel compromised by offering a West Bank freeze, paving the way to the proximity talks. Now, with the U.S. request for a full freeze, Abbas has virtually no choice but to walk away even from the proximity talks without one: “How could he do otherwise?” Diehl notes bitterly. “The Palestinian leader cannot be less pro-Palestinian than the White House.”
Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180
WAIT, WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY TO COMMENT?
Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.
I NEED TO BE HEARD! BUT I DONT WANT TO PAY.
Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at email@example.com. Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.
We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.