The American president’s tough approach towards Israel and the turning of Jerusalem into a public bone of contention constitute an unexpected gift to the Middle East’s radical regimes. It doesn’t pay to be moderate these days. If the US president is so radical towards Israel, how could the Arabs afford to be more moderate than him?
There was always construction in east Jerusalem, yet the Arab world did not turn it into a major slogan, yet it’s happening at this time because of Obama, among other reasons. The US president also prompted Palestinian positions to get tougher in a hurry. After all, they cannot demand less than he does.
If during the Bush Administration, the Palestinians engaged in negotiations with Israel without addressing the settlements at all, while their construction continued, during Obama’s era they have demanded a freeze, then a full freeze, including Jerusalem, and now they want a complete stop.
This is turning from Palestinian-Israeli negotiations into American coercion vis-à-vis Israel, and the Palestinian demands in respect to borders and refugees will only grow now.
Without noticing it, Obama also internationalized the conflict again and brought in all the Mideast’s troublemakers as partners: The Arab League headed by the radical Amr Moussa, the Arab states’ monitoring committee, and in fact all Arab regimes, with all their animosities and disagreements.
Arab League Secretary General Moussa, a blatant Israel-hater, is now in charge of approving or rejecting Mahmoud Abbas’ moves. The Arab League is now a super-negotiator, against Israel, thereby being granted a veto power. Did Moussa speak of the Iranian nuclear threat in the recent summit meeting in Libya? The opposite was true: He recommended dialogue with Tehran, while warning of Israel’s nuclear threat.
Outdated, false doctrine
This is clearly an Obama mistake, as Arab states will now compete over which one will demand more, be more radical, and exert more pressure. The Palestinians will gain nothing good out of it. With his tactic of pressing and coercing Israel, Obama confirms Hamas’ argument that Israel only understands force. It could be military force, sanctions, or the best option in terms of the Arabs: Heavy US pressure on Israel.
This message is terrible for anyone who thinks about real negotiations, based on mutual respect and recognition. It means that in our region there is no chance for talks premised on interests and mutual respect. There is only room for coercion, diplomatic compulsion, and diplomatic or military violence.
This is an American message that is destructive to any negotiations and to any genuine diplomatic effort, now or in the future. One can certainly make demands of Israel, yet the US must do so discretely, as not to shift the regional balance of power and thereby ruin its ally.
The Obama Administration is also completely wrong in reading the regional map. For a long time now, the Arab-Israeli conflict is not at the heart of the Mideastern conflict, as we’ve seen much greater shocks in the past decade: The rise of the Shiites and decline of the Sunnis, as well as the rise of political Islam and decline of Arab and Palestinian nationalism.
It is precisely Israel that in recent years had been perceived by most Arab regimes as less threatening than in the past, and as closer to them in the struggle against Iran.
For us this is a miracle, as we are no longer at the center of the conflict, yet Obama insists on reverting to the old and false doctrine, whereby a Palestinian state would prompt universal peace in the Middle East, among the Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq and Iran, and also sweep Egypt’s Islamic Brotherhood.
And why do Arab states play along with this outdated American doctrine? They are scared to discuss the true crises within them, and find it beneficial to deal only with Israel. In fact, this is the only Arab consensus at this time.