(Banner will apear here)

Beautiful Kabbalah Jewelry Judaicawebstore.com
Font Size:

Middle East 'March Of Folly'

U.S. President Barack Obama 'Seriously Considering' Presentation Of Plan For Israeli-Palestinian Peace By Autumn

Israel's Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu:'Plan Imposed From Outside Will Not Work - Only Israelis & Palestinians Can Forge Lasting Peace'

IsraCast Assessment: Jewish State Debates 'March Of Folly' Dilemma- Right Wing Contends That Capitulating To Obama Diktaks Will Jeopardize Israel's National Security Whereas Left Wing Warns That Bucking Obama Will Risk State's Survival

 In a leak to the Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, two White House officials have disclosed that President Barack Obama is 'seriously considering' an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan by the fall. The authoritative leak exerts additional American pressure on Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu to accept Obama's demands to halt all Israeli building in Jerusalem, beyond the old 1967 line. This is an American and Palestinian condition for holding 'proximity talks' with West Bank Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. IsraCast analyst David Essing assesses the White House leak in the context of the current confrontation between Washington and Jerusalem.

 President Barack Obama is not only a tough politician but also an enthusiastic basketball player. By leaking the possibility of a peace plan for the Middle East by the fall, the U.S. leader has, in basketball terms, launched a 'full court press' on Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. Obama's message requires no deciphering - either accept my demand to halt Israeli building in East Jerusalem and go to proximity talks with the Palestinians or else I'll present my peace plan this fall. The implication is that this proposal would be formulated with the Quartet and would be tantamount to an imposed agreement, something this has always been an anathema to the Jewish state. The White House sources indicated it would be based on 90% of the maps discussed in former Israeli - Palestinian negotiations and address ' the absolute requirements of Israel's security and the absolute requirements of Palestinian sovereignty'. And they also indicated this was in Israel's best interest because progress on the Israeli-Palestinian track was crucial to stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. The sources were quoted as saying:'It's not either Iran or the Middle East peace process. You have to do both'.

Barack Obama | Benyamin Netanyahu

Last June, President Obama's Cairo speech, heralding 'a new beginning' with the Muslim world, did not go unnoticed in Jerusalem. Nor did the President's pledge:' America will not to turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspirations for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own'. Moreover in Cairo, Obama also declared:'It is time for these settlements to stop'.

Just days later, the new Israeli Prime Minister reacted. Breaking with his past position, Netanyahu for the first time declared his support for a two-state solution. And later in seeking to placate Obama and jump-start peace negotiations with the West Bank Palestinians, Netanyahu persuaded his hard-line Likud colleagues to support his ten- month building 'suspension' in Judea & Samaria (West Bank) that did not include eastern Jerusalem. It appeared to have done the trick and the 'proximity talks', to be chaired by American envoy George Mitchell, were to get underway after the Arab League advised Mahmoud Abbas to participate. This did not happen in a vacuum and apparently there was more to it than meets the eye. On his trips to the region, George Mitchell had been using his experience in Northern Ireland, to persuade the Arab League that he would play an assertive role in the proximity talks by making 'bridging proposals' on the core issues. The talks would be far beyond Netanyahu's view that they simply set the future stage for direct Israeli - Palestinian talks. The Israeli Prime Minister had also made clear that although he had spoken of the two-state solution, the best way to proceed would be from the 'bottom up' . This entailed the building from the grass roots a democratic Palestinian society based on the rule of law, the suppression of terrorism and an improved standard of living. This development would receive full Israeli cooperation. According to the approach, the hurdles of borders, the refugees and Jerusalem would be left for later on. In a way, the Prime Minister had fallen back on the Road Map approach of 2002 that called for progress to a Palestinian state being based on performance on the ground.

However the untimely Israeli announcement, during Joe Biden's visit, that 1,600 new housing units were to be built in eastern Jerusalem played into Obama's hand. Bent on stopping all Israeli settlement building, American sources explain the President had to take a stand and that is where things now stand. So, the Israeli government now faces a lose-lose situation... either agree to halt east Jerusalem building for proximity talks with the Palestinians or face the internationalization of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

NETANYAHU'S OPTIONS: The Israeli Prime Minister has played down the notion of an imposed settlement this fall. Netanyahu is quoted as saying:'An imposed settlement in the Middle East will not work. Only Israeli and Palestinians can make peace'. Netanyahu totally agrees with the Likud ideology of a unified Jerusalem being the eternal capital of the Jewish people and will never be up for negotiation. But even if Netanyahu wanted to is he strong enough politically to also 'suspend' building in east Jerusalem the way he has in the rest of Judea & Samaria? It wouldn't appear so. Even before the snafu during Biden's visit, Likud hardliners had called for a party conference with the goal of ensuring that the Prime minister would keep his promise to renew construction in the West Bank when the freeze ends in September. (Apparently, not unrelated, Obama's rumored peace plan was also mooted for the fall.)

Avigdor Lieberman (Photo: Amit Shabi)

Netanyahu's two coalition partners, Avigdor Lieberman's party and Shas would not agree to remain in the cabinet. On the contrary, Lieberman and other Right- wing critics blame Netanyahu's ten month freeze on the West Bank precipitating the new pressure over Jerusalem. The Right-wing appears ready to hunker down and try to ride out the storm hoping that Obama's Democrats will suffer a stinging defeat in the upcoming Congressional elections this fall. And that Obama's political leverage on Israel will be weakened by Jewish and Christian Evangelical voters. They hope the Republicans will take Israe's side. While out of office, Netanyahu once spoke in private about how strong grass-roots support is in America for Israel. But at that time, U.S troops were not fighting in Afghanistan nor was America in economic doldrums.

At present, the Right-wing prevailing position is that to start capitulating to Obama and the Palestinians over Jerusalem will start the Jewish state on a 'March of Folly'. They point to Obama's address as proof positive that whatever Netanyahu does, only more pressure will be brought to bear. In other words , Obama is out to improve ties with the Arab world at Israels expense. For example, rather than giving the Israeli Prime Minister credit for the settlement freeze, he exploited the first opportunity to carry out a 'political mugging' of Netanyahu.

Labor party leader Ehud Barak, who warned against Israel's being blamed for a peace process failure, has remained quiet. It's as if Israel's leadership has been shocked by the new situation and has yet to come to grips with how to react. Opposition leader Tzipi Livni of Kadima, who predicted that Netanyahu would get Israel into hot water with the U.S. by failing to conduct a credible peace policy, is now biding her time. Former Kadima Cabinet Minister Haim Ramon has called on Ehud Barak to push for a Palestinian solution which is now clear and at hand: to discuss borders and security arrangements, Jerusalem, refugees, the annexation of the large settlement blocs to Israel in return for land swaps with the Palestinians and a demilitarized Palestinian state. In his view, this is the sole prescription for preventing Israel's 'crash' in the international arena or turning her into the South Africa of the twenty-first century. This then is what the Left-wing would perceive as Israel's 'March of Folly'.

David Essing

Back To The Top