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Obama Impotent in the Mideast

Hugely unpopular, he has little to offer, and everyone knows it

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President Obama on Saturday.(Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Ben Smith’s story on the situation in Israel is a must-read—it’s the product of a week in the region, and it is quite insightful. Bottom line: Basically everyone on all sides agree that President Obama’s vigorous efforts to move the peace process forward have failed—at best, farcically; at worst, tragically.

The American president has been diminished, even in an era without active hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians. His demands on the parties appear to shrink each month, with the path to a grand peace settlement narrowing to the vanishing point. The lack of Israeli faith in him and his process has them using the talks to extract more tangible security assurances—the jets. And though America remains beloved, Obama is about as popular here as he is in Oklahoma. A Jerusalem Post poll in May found nine percent of Israelis consider Obama “pro-Israel,” while 48 percent say he’s “pro-Palestinian.” …

Many senior Israeli leaders have concluded that Hillary Clinton and John McCain were right about Obama’s naiveté and inexperience.

Ouch. And Smith succinctly summarizes the fundamental problem with direct negotiations at this moment in time: “Virtually nobody in Israel who isn’t required by the logic of politics to express public faith in the political process of peace talks has much faith that the talks will lead anywhere.” The main problems are the ones you already know: The intransigent elements of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s own governing coalition; the unwillingness of the West Bank leadership to make the concessions that even non-intransigent Israeli politicians and citizens would demand; and—oh yeah—the fact that the Gaza Strip is ruled by a terrorist proxy of Iran.

Smith notes that the one piece of “news” he broke in the piece is that the U.S. enticement of 20 new F-35 fighter jets as part of the freeze-extension deal actually has nothing to do with the freeze: Israel requested the planes in August in reaction to an unprecedented U.S. fighter-plane sale to Saudi Arabia. In other words, as both I and Gershom Gorenberg guessed, many of the carrots offered in the freeze deal—selling them planes, vetoing Palestinian statehood at the United Nations—were things that the U.S. is going to do anyway. Which further demonstrates the lack of leverage Obama is operating with.

View from Mideast: Obama’s a Problem [Politico]
Not About the Freeze [Ben Smith]
Earlier: The Threat Behind the Freeze Deal

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Frayed Knot says:

As *you* and Goremberg guessed? You merely parroted his piece, calling it “fresh” and “revealing.” If you thought it to be the case, it wouldn’t have been very fresh nor revealing to you.

As for Obama’s impotence, who could have guess? What with his Middle East policy being directed by ideological leftist twits (forgive the redundancy)?

tillkan says:

Deep analysis there. All Hamas is is a proxy for Iran. Yeah, and Israel is ruled by a terrorist proxy of the US.

Shalom Freedman says:

The naievete and wrongheadedness of this Administration has been apparent from the outset. Their focusing on the settlement issue and providing the Palestinians(Who clearly do not want a real peace with Israel) an excuse for even greater intransigence was a major mistake.
Their coddling of the Palestinians ,ignoring of their human rights abuses, the whole culture of Hatred in which they politically operate reveals how fixed they were on a mistaken conception. Their arrogance led them to believe they could immediately and easily do what other Administrations had not done. They misread the whole situation. The problem is now and has always been the failure of the Arabs to recognize and live in peace with Israel. It is not the reluctance of Israel to make concessions. Israel even now is willing to make great concessions for Peace. The Arabs would pocket them if they could as long as they could keep open the option for destroying Israel. That after all was the ‘Oslo Peace Process’.
Sometimes it is better to admit a hard and difficult truth than to led oneself be led by wishful thinking into greater failure and frustration.

M. Brukhes says:

This is a significant analytical statement, if by significance one means “sensationalistic” and by analysis one means “copied from somewhere else.” What possible purpose can be served by re-hashing an article from another source and slapping on an inflammatory headline to it? It’s not like Tablet is a brick-and-mortar newsprint magazine desperate for content to fill its blank pages. So instead of blank pages, it presents us with empty-headed simplifications. This is an insult to your readers’ intelligence, an insult to the President–not like he’s not big enough to handle it, though–and an insult to the seriousness of the situation itself…..

Andrea says:

Basically everyone on all sides agree that President Obama’s vigorous efforts to move the peace process forward have may have failed SO FAR, just like those of everyone else who came before him, including those who made NO vigorous efforts. Detractors like you, who can only cheer for one side, will keep us stuck in the past.

Gena Shapiro says:

The only people that will ever be able to bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians are Israelis and Palestinians – and expecting President Obama to be able to fix Israel’s problems is naive. He’s having a hard enough time trying to fix the clusterf*** that is the United States – and expecting him to fix another country is shortsighted.

brynababy says:

Andrea, you are so right. Who is Marc Tracy anyway? Why would anyone care what he has to say. Obama is the giant in this picture! It ain’t over till it’s over!

Naive. Something I am reluctantly convinced of (I voted for the man). But no other description covers the ground so well. From Day One Obama stupidly promoted an anti-settlements agenda as a door to better relations with the Arab states. And in doing so created the pre-condition that Abbas adopted with gusto. After all, if Obama was willing to deliver Israel, negotiations could only reduce with the fullness of the gift. Except Israeli “red lines” not only apply to the Palestinians, Syrians and Hezbollah, but also to the US.

Obama created conditions under which the US was no longer a credible intermediary and, as a result, any possibility of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians was trashed; along with America’s overall standing in the ME.

While the complete fault in the failure of past negotiations should not be laid at the feet of the Palestinian leadership, certainly their dismissal of the UN resolution creating two independent states was a suggestive start. Arafat walking away from the 2000 Camp David talks which provided for statehood, mutually accepted land swaps, and a shared capital of Jerusalem would further suggest that, at heart, their leaders are resistant to any agreement that does not, at best, provide a state from the Jordan to the Mediterranean, with a Jewish minority. That Abbas dismissed the 2008 Olmert proposals, described as even better than Camp David; that Abbas refuses to take responsibility for the decision to even talk with Israel, demands instead “permission” from the Arab League to do so; none of this suggests even this “most promising” of Palestinian leaders is interested in achieving a state neighboring, instead of including Israel.

In 2007, following their election victory, a Hamas leader, noting that while they do not accept Jewish sovereignty in Palestine, still a 50-year Hudna might be achievable. I, for one, was willing to accept it.

Hamas is counting on Israel disappearing on its own. I, suspect Hamas more likely.

Naive. Something I am reluctantly convinced of (I voted for the man). But no other description covers the ground so well. From Day One Obama stupidly promoted an anti-settlements agenda as a door to better relations with the Arab states. And in doing so created the pre-condition that Abbas adopted with gusto. After all, if Obama was willing to deliver Israel, negotiations could only reduce with the fullness of the gift. Except Israeli “red lines” not only apply to the Palestinians, Syrians and Hezbollah, but also to the US.

Obama created conditions under which the US was no longer a credible intermediary and, as a result, any possibility of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians was trashed; along with America’s overall standing in the ME.

While the complete fault in the failure of past negotiations should not be laid at the feet of the Palestinian leadership, certainly their dismissal of the UN resolution creating two independent states was a suggestive start. Arafat walking away from the 2000 Camp David talks which provided for statehood, mutually accepted land swaps, and a shared capital of Jerusalem would further suggest that, at heart, their leaders are resistant to any agreement that does not, at best, provide a state from the Jordan to the Mediterranean, with a Jewish minority. That Abbas dismissed the 2008 Olmert proposals, described as even better than Camp David; that Abbas refuses to take responsibility for the decision to even talk with Israel, demands instead “permission” from the Arab League to do so; none of this suggests even this “most promising” of Palestinian leaders is interested in achieving a state neighboring, instead of including Israel.

In 2007, following their election victory, a Hamas leader, noting that while they do not accept Jewish sovereignty in Palestine, still a 50-year Hudna might be achievable. I, for one, was willing to accept it.

Hamas is counting on Israel disappearing on its own. I, suspect Hamas more likely.

Why don’t you print some even handed analyses instead of this nonsense. Obama has made a more valiant effort at peace than anyone since Clinton, and under much worse circumstances: a right wing Israeli government that needs the religious right. If he succeeds it will be a miracle, but it is not his fault at all. Nor is he naiive or inesxperienced. You need to take a more evenhanded look at the overall realities and government policies. And a more critical look at a disastrous Israeli government. For a start read the analyses in HAaretz before you start giving positions that make little sense or making accusations without substance. Talk from facts, not ideology.

Howard, the criticism I most come across, and suggest myself, is not that Obama has not engaged in the “peace process,” but that he ruined any possibility of a successful process his first meeting with Netanyahu, when he his position on the “settlements” created a new precondition to negotiations. In the past both sides were able, if reluctantly, to sit at the same table, face to face. Once Obama introduced “settlements” he obstructed those encounters. The problem is, and this seems to be consistent, that he is too much the amateur to be taken seriously by any countries, in the Middle East or Asia. Ahmadinejad sees him a lightweight, which feeds his ego and encourages intransigence.

In short, while GW was a disaster for being a loose cannon, Obama is a disaster for his unwillingness to threaten the cannon.

Dorothy Wachsstock says:

Shalom Freedman said it all. Not necessary to read any other reply. Nobody could say it better.

After all, if I, an American citizen, do not believe one word this current President, who thinks we are idiots and do not get his message, cannot believe him, how could anyone in any country believe anything this Elmer Gantry says?

Just try and find your healthcare that you are satisfied with now in a few years if you are satisfied. Not if it is not there, can you?

Reporters afraid to call Obama on any of his lies have given away their credibility and now nobody believes what they say or write anymore.

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Obama Impotent in the Mideast

Hugely unpopular, he has little to offer, and everyone knows it

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