Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Obama Administration Gives Up On Pointless "Freeze" Diplomacy

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By Barry Rubin

As I predicted here ten days ago, the Obama Administration has now given up attempts to get Israel to agree to a three-month freeze of construction on existing settlements.

Here is the most fascinating sentence in the New York Times' coverage:

"Officials said the administration decided to pull the plug because it concluded that even if Mr. Netanyahu persuaded his cabinet to accept an extension — which he had not yet been able to do — the 90-day negotiating period would not have produced the progress on core issues that the administration originally had hoped for."

Translation: They decided that a three-month freeze wouldn't do any good. In other words, as I've been saying since October, the administration put forward a policy that made no sense, offering big concessions in exchange for getting something worthless. 

It is good that the U.S. government has recognized the silliness of what it has been doing the last six months.

Of course, the Times tried to blame Israel exclusively: "Mr. Netanyahu could face renewed pressure from the United States and the Palestinians as the hurdle to resumed talks." As happens so often, the newspaper's writers don't seem to be reading their own words.

After all, the reporter had just pointed out that Netanyahu tried but could not get the plan through his cabinet.  Moreover, the administration messed up its diplomacy to the point that nobody in Israel could tell what it was offering.

And, of course, the Palestinian Authority has been refusing to negotiate with Israel seriously for two solid years. Yet the Times wants to blame Israel for the lack of talks.

At some point early next year the Obama Administration will have to decide whether to put this issue on the back burner or keep knocking its head against a stone wall. And that stone wall isn't Israel, it's the Palestinian Authority which, now that it has recognition from Brazil and potentially from other countries, will be more intransigent than ever.


Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at http://www.gloria-center.org and of his blog, Rubin Reports, http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com.

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