Thursday, February 21, 2013

What Obama will discover in Jerusalem and Ramallah

In March, after Bibi Netanyahu forms Israel’s new government, U.S. President Barack Obama intends to arrive for a first historic visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Obama wants to talk with the Israeli people, but has nothing of note to tell them. First on the American president’s crowded agenda will be Iran, and then Syria. Last will be the Palestinian issue, concerning which he has no new initiative.

That Obama is distancing himself from the Palestinian question is unsurprising. He has already crashed and burned on that one, when he named George Mitchell his special envoy, in vain. In response to Obama’s demand, Netanyahu did freeze settlement construction for ten months, but then he renewed it with greater vigor. Meantime another term in office has passed, both in Israel and in the United States, without even the semblance of an Israeli-Palestinian political process, and four more arid years lie ahead. Netanyahu committed himself to the principle of two states, but his actions belied it – the settlements expanded and the would-be Palestinian state continued to shrink.
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