At his last press conference as president Barack Obama reminded people the situation in the MidEast was volatile and any sudden change of policy – like moving the US embassy to Jerusalem- could have explosive results. He also reiterated that his actions were steps towards a 2-state solution, the only hope for peace.
Nahum Barnea, Ynet’s editorial writer, looks at the legacy of the indefatigable Kerry and argues that he failed to make headway because he did not have the backing of Pres. Obama and thus lacked the power he needed. Meanwhile the Israeli PM and the American president-elect are well stuck into a tweeting relationship.
The UN security resolution condemning Israeli settlements is a ‘landmark’ change, if only symbolically. It has been received positively by most – which doesn’t include the Israeli government which, rhetorically, condemns the resolution as anti-Israel, a betrayal of common values (a snide reference to the American annihilation of the indigenous population?) In one of the more bizarre events of 2016 Trump – with his large antisemitic following – and Bibi have become brothers-in-arms, the religion of Israel being defence of the nation state. What, if anything, this UNSC act will change is discussed by some of the commentators here.
President Obama put more effort into securing negotiations between Israel and Palestine than previous presidents. In his last three months in office there are hopes he will have a final move.
Obama is widely regarded as the most pro-Palestinian US president to take office, only serving to highlight the absence of initiatives under his watch to resolve the plight of the Palestinians. In this article, Nathan Thrall considers what meaningful options remain for Obama, given his formidable international, domestic and time constraints. Thrall concludes that in order to move forward, negotiation parameters must be put in place between Israel and the Palestinians. The catch is that the Palestinians may have to make dramatic concessions on paper in order to bind Israel to a path for Palestinian independence…
As the spat between the Obama and Netanyahu administrations plays itself out, Uri Avnery and Gideon Levy look at the ramifications of the “chickenshit” appellation thrown at Netanyahu. This conflict with Obama is one that Netanhayu has provoked and wants, argues Uri Avnery. And, adds Levy, “Netanyahu, at least, is acting according to his ideology and belief. Obama is acting against his – and that’s pure cowardice.” So who’s the chickenshit then?
US government frustration and anger with Netanyahu is reaching boiling point as Israel’s government ignores Washington, particularly on the issue of settlement building. As the head of the Anti-Defamation League told American journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, in quiet understatement: “The Israelis do not show sufficient appreciation for America’s role in backing Israel.” Goldberg and Israeli journalist Barak Ravid speculate on possible outcomes.
AIPAC basks in the image of being the most powerful lobby in the USA. It possibly has more Christian members than Jews who are, in the USA, a largely pro-peace body. It is lobbying against any diplomatic rapprochement with Iran. It has come up against the growing view that, in the Middle East, the US must pursue its own interests – which may not coincide with Israel’s (which may not be to bomb Iran). MJ Rosenberg in Tikkun.
President Obama’s attempt to reverse US policy and institute normal relations with moderate Muslim leaders, such as PM Erdogan of Turkey have, according to the Wall Street Journal failed abysmally. Walter Russell Mead, for some time a critic of the gap between Obama’s rhetoric and his abillity to follow through, chastises the president for neglecting its most important allies: Israel and the Egyptian military. Don’t try to change the status quo.
Israel has shown the way, says the NY Times – Syrian air defences can be easily penetrated, so now the West (the USA, with France and the UK) can intervene. Obama is reluctant – who would be helped? Robert Fisk argues that by stopping a weapons supply to President `Assad, the Israelis are directly helping the rebels – which the West has been dithering about doing. All agree on one thing: Israel’s airstrike spreads the conflict beyond any national boundaries.
It has seemed odd that the USA’s first President with a black African father and a childhood spent partly in an Asian Muslim country and partly as one of a beleaguered ethnic minority, should seem to have so little feeling for the Palestinians. Uri Avnery, pondering on his lack of empathy, attributes it to the Zionists who surround him. Or perhaps, like many, he sees the Zionist and the American story as the same – building a state in an ‘empty’ land and bossing the neighbours.
Putting hope in the Israeli people, as President Obama did in his Jerusalem speech, is a waste of hope. The Israeli public is, says columnist Zev Lenchner, “indifferent, conservative, not daring, and excels in passing the time somehow with minimum disorder”. And so they will continue until they are shocked out of their passive complacency. Like human beings everywhere?
From a trailer at Ben Gurion airport and a mobile phone, President Obama effected an unheralded reconciliation between the Turkish and Israeli governments, who had not been on speaking terms since the lethal IDF raid on the Turkish boat Mavi Marmara in 2010. Given the importance of Turkey’s status with Mediterranean Muslim governments, the renewed contact confers benefits on the Israeli and American governments; PM Erdogan clarified his hostile remarks on zionism a few days earlier so restoring his status with western governments.
Experienced journalist Haggai Matar is startled when he observes young children in Hebron, already set in a pattern; the settler children, backed up by several soldiers, scream abuse, the Palestinian children are cowed in front of them, but apart they dream “we shall overcome”.
Netanyahu has kept domestic conflict in check by telling Israelis the only alternative to Jewish ethnocracy is annihilation. President Abbas has no such stick, or trick. He appears paralysed by the irreconcileabe pressures on him. What possible ‘peace plan’ can Obama produce when he visits Israel next month asks Jonathan Cook?
The discovery that the Israeli public is not as right-wing as polls had predicted has encouraged the White House to believe Netanyahu has been so weakened that diplomatic progress is possible. Obama will visit Israel and John Kerry is said to be determined to kick-start political negotiations. Israeli papers are hopeful that at last outside help is coming, the New York Times is less upbeat.
In a harsh critique, Henry Siegman argues President Obama has blocked the 2-state solution both by failing to press Israel to stop building settlements and by blocking the UN from acting on its own charter. However, his administration has joined European governments (see above) in censoring Israel for its punitive new plans.
The Republican gambling billionaire Sheldon Adelson, is pouring money into Mitt Romney’s campaign. For his money he wants Obama defeated. He wants – and expects – his favourite to be his puppet and ‘commit to moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, and to declare the Palestinians as unwilling to make peace’. Report by Ron Kampeas, JTA.
This year, the Jewish holiday of Purim, which celebrates the delivery of the Jews from a threatened massacre by the ruler of Persia, is observed from sunset, 7 March to sunset on 8 March. Though many Jews dislike the festival for its commemoration of massacres – presumably why Netanyahu gave the Book of Esther, which recounts the tale, to Obama – others have a different way of reading the story. Three of them here.
Iranians, Israelis and their various agents and allies are using the high tension between the two states to gamble on what threats will gain most popular acclaim and diplomatic leverage. While no-one gains from nuclear war, will Obama dare to call Netanyahu’s hand if he threatens an attack on Iran before the US election? Yousef Munayyer looks at the cards.