What in the world is President Obama doing and thinking?
Is President Obama single-handedly writing the book on how to ensure that the Palestinians and Israelis do not make peace, or has he put together the worse group of advisors in U.S. history? Frankly, I'm baffled.
Despite a right-wing coalition and heartburn from his own Likud Party, Prime Minister Netanyahu has halted settlement construction for nine months, endorsed a two-state solution, released murderers of civilians, and most recently, indicated that he is willing to continue negotiations on the basis of Secretary of State Kerry's proposed framework, albeit with reservations.
On the other hand, President Abbas has reiterated that he will not accept Israel as a Jewish state, that he will not give up the "right-of-return" for millions of people who never lived in what is now Israel, and that he intends to stop negotiating once he gets the last of the murderers he wants released.
Yet, in a scenario strikingly similar to when President Obama ambushed Netanyahu on settlements several years ago and thereby destroyed any chances for progress on peace for quite some time, the President in his interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of Bloomberg once again laid all the burden and blame on Israel and Netanyahu just as the Prime Minister was on his way to meet with the President and address the annual AIPAC conference.
As David Horovitz, the Editor-in-Chief of The Times of Israel, made clear in an appropriately sardonic and pointed manner, it is one hell of a way to welcome an ally, to bolster confidence, and to provide the undergirding for making tough, life-or-death decisions.
If the President and his Administration are truly interested in a peace deal and not in just assigning blame if a deal does not happen, then it is simply unfathomable that this is the strategy they have come up with.
It does not take a genius to know the following:
1. Israelis will not take life-and-death risks if they do not feel that the U.S. understands them and backs them up.
2. Israelis are much more inclined to support their Prime Minister responding positively to requests from the President if they like the President and if they feel he likes and understands them.
3. President Abbas, weak and undemocratically in the eighth year of his four year term, has not prepared his people for concessions and thinks his best strategy is to allow the negotiations to fail and then go to the international community in order to isolate and pressure Israel.
4. President Obama's comments further encourage President Abbas' inclinations and those of other Palestinian leaders that they need not make any concessions, that they can just wait it out, and that eventually the world will deliver a defeated Israel to them.
5. Israeli Justice Minister and chief negotiator Tzipi Livni, a strong advocate of a two-state solution, and Secretary of State Kerry have both recently publicly acknowledged and expressed frustration over President Abbas' uncompromising position.
So, what in the world is President Obama doing and why is he doing it? The President has never displayed any particular warmth or special feeling for Israel. Unlike many, I have no big problem with that. Nothing says that the President of the biggest power and the greatest force for democracy in the world has to be madly in love with Israel.
But I would think that President Obama would like the greatest ambition of his Secretary of State to be a success. One would think that having had several high-profile foreign policy failures, he would like one big win.
And one would like to think that he would like to have some vindication for having been rewarded the Nobel Peace Price a tad early.
So, again, I ask: what in the world is President Obama doing and thinking? For the life of me, I cannot figure it out.
(Originally published in The Times of Israel)
For speaking engagements: email@example.com