On November 1,
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said … at a press conference in Jerusalem that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement on limiting construction in the settlements was “unprecedented.”
A senior government source in Jerusalem said Clinton told the prime minister, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak that she had demanded that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas remove his preconditions and renew talks immediately. — Ha’aretz
But 9 days later,
The United States does not accept continued Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank, a senior U.S. state department official has said, adding that Jerusalem’s commitment to restrain settlement activity is not enough.
In an address to the Middle East Institute, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William J. Burns on Tuesday said that the Obama administration does not “accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.”
“We consider the Israeli offer to restrain settlement activity to be a potentially important step, but it obviously falls short of the continuing Roadmap obligation for a full settlement freeze,” he said. — Ha’aretz
What a difference a bit more than a week makes! During those 9 days, two main things happened. Mahmoud Abbas threw a tantrum and threatened to quit or even to dissolve the Palestinian Authority (PA), and the State Department fell in love with the Fayaad plan to declare a Palestinian state in two years.
Let’s face it, the State Department doesn’t give a rat’s tuchas about security for Israel. Their goal is always stated in terms of “two peaceful states, side by side”, but what they care about is the Palestinian state. Burns gave the usual meaningless nod toward America’s connection with Israel, but you can see that it’s the Arab state that he’s salivating for:
A Jewish state of Israel, with which America retains unbreakable bonds, and with true security for all Israelis; and a viable, independent Palestinian state with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967, that ends the daily humiliations of Palestinians under occupation, and that realizes the full and remarkable potential of the Palestinian people…
The good news is that he said “A Jewish state” and that he mentioned 1967 — after all, if he had just said “the occupation”, Palestinians would assume that he meant the ‘occupation’ that dates from 1948.
The rest is bad: ‘contiguous’ means that Israel, which has itself been contiguous since 1948, would be cut in half. Ending the “daily humiliations” means stopping the security measures that keep Israelis alive. And what would be the realization of the “full and remarkable potential of the Palestinian people?” I’ve written about that on several occasions, for example here and here and here.
It’s interesting and typical that Israel gets abstract promises about ‘unbreakable bonds’ — what does this mean when the US consistently breaks commitments and modifies its demands in response to Arab tantrums? — and Palestinians get the most concrete thing of all, land.
His mention of the Roadmap is also worth notice, since he conveniently ignores the fact that the PA, too, has obligations under the Roadmap, like ending anti-Israel incitement. This is a good way to test the PA’s intentions, because it’s easy for them to do — the PA media are tightly controlled by the leadership. But even this they haven’t done.
The way the meeting between President Obama and PM Netanyahu was carried out this Monday night was more evidence that Israel’s “unprecedented” concession was not enough. Caroline Glick described it thus:
It isn’t every day that you can see an American president leaving the prime minister of an allied government twisting in the wind for weeks before deciding to grant him an audience at the White House.
It isn’t every day that a visiting leader from a strategically vital US ally is brought into the White House in an unmarked van in the middle of the night rather than greeted like a friend at the front door; is forbidden to have his picture taken with the president; is forced to leave the White House alone, through a side exit; and is ordered to keep the contents of his meeting with the president secret.
In response to raised eyebrows, statements were issued by both parties that the discussions were “positive”, and the State Department released one photo. But this is not how the Prime Minister of, say, France would be treated.
Although Burns also said the US would put pressure on both sides, it seems that all the Arabs have to do is say ‘no’, and Israel gets the punishment again.
Maybe relations between the US and Israel are not quite at a historic low point as some have suggested, but the “unbreakable bonds” certainly seem to be fraying.
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