Monday 11 October 2010


Remember when President Obama embarrassed Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, by leaving him to stew in the White House while he dined with his family, and then made him leave without the normal formal photo-op?

At this period, Obama forced on Israel a temporary freeze on construction in the disputed territories (that legally belong to Israel under international law).

This was done to persuade a reluctant Palestinian Authority, under Mahmoud Abbas, to return to direct talks with Israel.

Israel construed it as yet another unilateral action that would bear bad consequences, as all previous gestures have done for the Jewish state.

The Palestinian leadership, led by Mahmoud Abbas, sulked for almost the whole ten months of the building moratorium before being dragged kicking to the negotiating table.

Almost as soon as talks began the sulky Abbas insisted that talks would be halted if Israel refused to extend this building freeze.

Obama had planted the tree into which Abbas eagerly climbed.
Why negotiate with Israel when the American President was laying out the terms and conditions for him?

Obama then put pressure of Netanyahu to, once again, retract on his word and prolong the building moratorium for a further period.
The American President expected Netanyahu to cover his rear end and oblige the Palestinian leader  with yet a further gesture that would enable him to climb out of the tree with dignity.

Netanyahu reminded Obama of the diplomatic damage that occurs in the Middle East when a leader gives his word and then retracts his obligation.
It is interpreted as weakness and lack of resolve.

When, again under immense pressure, Israel hinted that they may agree to a further pause of two months, this was immediately rejected by the Palestinian Authority.

Saeb Erekat officially stated that the building freeze must continue for the full period of talks.

Talks with Palestinians have been conducted, haltingly, for decades.

What he was saying is that if the Palestinians do not agree a peace deal, but agree to consider some of the elements, Israeli building and development must cease for years.

This is yet another ploy for the Arabs to drag concessions out of Israel and claim them as permanent facts on the ground.

The whole issue is false. Up until now the Palestinians have never made a building freeze as a prerequisite for talks with Israel. This includes a series of talks and negotiations with Yasser Arafat and a series of discussions with Abbas. In numerous negotiations talks with Ehud Olmert Abbas never insisted on a stop to construction.

Only under the Obama administration has this roadblock to peace been raised.

Obama has already reneged on US obligations given to Israel under the Bush Administration. 
Now he is promising added security bonuses to Israel if Netanyahu will accede to extending the moratorium. 
The question for Israel is how can they trust the word of an American President who has faltered on a previous Administrations obligations to them?

Will Obama's word be more sacred to the following Administration than his was with the previous one?

In short, the word of an American President is no longer dependable to a close ally.

President Obama, by his words and actions, has brought the reliability of the United States to a nadir in international diplomacy.

Obama forced the building freeze concession on Israel.  He ignored the warnings that this was a flawed tactic.

When peace talks collapse, as they inevitably will due to this red herring, the buck will stop on the Oval Office desk of Barrack Hussein Obama.

Barry Shaw
The View from Israel

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