As I have reported over the last few weeks, President Obama’s Middle East policy suffers from incoherence on a number of points. One example was vividly on display in a background State Department briefing on the progress of talks with the Israelis and Palestinians:
QUESTION: Hello, thank you for doing this call. I’m just a little bit confused where you see Hamas in this equation, because it was told that the Israelis are not expected to negotiate with the Hamas, and we saw it in (inaudible) between (inaudible) and Hamas, but I mean, still we are talking about deadlines and they are still there and there is an agreement. So where are (inaudible) in these talks?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah. Well, Natasha, it’s a very good question. Obviously, the reconciliation issue is a significant one. It raises profound questions that the President himself has mentioned in his speech. The Palestinian leaders will need to answer:
How can one negotiate with a party that’s shown itself unwilling to recognize the other party’s right to exist? So you’re right; we’ll need to face those questions.
But right now, we’re dealing with this as a wait-and-see attitude, that the reconciliation deal has not actually been implemented yet.
The president of the Palestinian Authority remains Mahmoud Abbas, the prime minister remains Salam Fayyad, and the government has not changed. I can go through the details, but I think you’ve heard them before from the podium on what we would do under different scenarios.
But we will be judging our ability to provide assistance and have a relationship with the Palestinian government that might emerge from reconciliation based on the composition of that government in accordance with our law and our policy.
So the Obama team is just going to pretend there is no unity government, invest Abbas with authority he does not possess and keep going? Or is this a “profound issue” that has to be resolved (kick Hamas out of the unity government or get Abbas’s partner to sign on to the Quartet principles) before we demand Israel sit down at the table?
The answer to this question, unless the Obama team is contemplating a dramatic change in U.S. policy, should be simple: No negotiations until Abbas separates himself from the unity government or Hamas embraces the Quartet principles. And if the administration really wanted to score points with those who doubt it possesses minimal competence it would state the obvious: How can Israel sit down when we don’t even know the identity of the Palestinians’ representation?
That liberal Jews can find “reassurance” in the sort of double talk voiced by “an senior administration official” should come as no surprise to those following the trajectory of this administration and its ability to mesmerize its Jewish supporters. As the Obama team becomes less cogent, its spinners touting Obama’s devotion to Israel become more frantic. You’d be too if you had to convert such gibberish into a reassuring message.