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Right Turn
Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 09/21/2011

Obama’s Middle East dead end

According to multiple news accounts, the Obama administration will try to delay a vote in the U.N. Security Council on the Palestinians’ desire for a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI). In the General Assembly the hope is to come up with a watered-down resolution that stops short of statehood. But it is far from clear that the man behind this gambit, Mahmoud Abbas, will go along. The Wall Street Journal reports: “On Wednesday, Mr. Obama will try to convince Mr. Abbas that going to the U.N. is counterproductive to his ultimate goal, and that statehood will require negotiations with Israel, said Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communication. . . . The president will make a similar point in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly Wednesday morning.”

But the problem remains: If, by some chance, Abbas agrees to divert statehood discussions back to bilateral talks, what reason do we have to believe that those will bear any fruit? President Obama will once again be back to bullying Israel to make concessions, while the PA-Hamas (oh, yes — what about Hamas?) will refuse to recognize Israel as the Jewish state or to give up on the so-called right of return. The Obama administration is trusted by neither party, and both are likely hopeful that they can wait him out for a year and deal with a new, more competent U.S. president.

Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies sees a real danger that such talks “will put power back into the hands of the Quartet and President Obama. They will be able to use this as leverage to push the Israelis on concessions for peace. In other words, if they don’t extract what they want from the Israelis, they can always threaten to take the Security Council proposal down off the shelf.” That said, he believes, “from the Israeli perspective, negotiating under pressure from the U.S. and Quartet is probably better than no peace talks coupled with a newly-minted Palestinian state that has new powers to actively undermine the Jewish state.”

Mitt Romney had it right in his statement blasting Obama when he argued, “What we are watching unfold at the United Nations is an unmitigated diplomatic disaster. It is the culmination of President Obama’s repeated efforts over three years to throw Israel under the bus and undermine its negotiating position.” Actually, it’s also the culmination of the Palestinian Authority’s utter contempt for the U.S. president. As the Journal reports, “President Barack Obama set out early in his presidency to repair a tattered U.S. relationship with the Muslim world and rekindle the Middle East peace process. Two years later, he has achieved neither. Instead, the problems he hoped to solve have now cost him points with Israelis, Palestinians and American voters alike as a painful confrontation unfolds this week at the United Nations.” Our credibility and influence are at an all-time low:

“The president’s actions have gotten him anger on all sides and gratitude on none,” [Jon Alterman, an expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies] said. “Israelis feel the president dislikes them. The Palestinians feel the president has gotten rolled by Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu and has not been able to protect their interests.”
The Arab spring movement didn’t enhance the U.S. image in the region, either, Mr. Alterman added. Governments were disappointed that the U.S. didn’t stand by its allies, and the dissidents were angry that the U.S. didn’t do more to support political change.

We’ve come along way since liberals were touting the “Cairo effect,” the supposed tsunami of progress and peace-making set off by Obama’s speech in the Egyptian capital. Rather than the “Cairo effect,” we should talk about the Obama effect: alienation from Israel, heightened Palestinian rejectionism, loss of Jewish-American support and the substitution of the E.U. for the U.S. as the more effective broker in the region. Along with Russian reset and the Iranians’ steady progress toward acquisition of nuclear weapons, this ranks as one of the most disastrous foreign policy initiatives. I have no doubt that either of the front-running GOP presidential contenders would be an improvement when it comes to national security. They surely couldn’t be worse.

By  |  10:30 AM ET, 09/21/2011

Categories:  Israel, President Obama

 
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