Photo: Amir Gilboa
Eytan Gilboa
Photo: Amir Gilboa

Obama gets it wrong

Palestinians wholly disregard Obama, expect him to do all work for them

Paradoxically, ever since US President Barak Obama entered the White House, the Palestinians are the ones refusing to renew negotiations with Israel while presenting pre-conditions. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Netanyahu is the one seeking to resume the talks.


However, the image created in the world, among other things because of Obama’s flawed and failed policy, is that Israel alone is responsible for the impasse, and that construction in Jerusalem is the only and main obstacle to securing an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.


Yet isn’t there a split among the Palestinians? Isn’t Hamas maintaining a rule of terror in Gaza? There are no Iran and no Syria and no weak Palestinian government whose interest in negotiations and an agreement is doubtful?


Somehow, no American policymaker or commentator is asking how Fatah, which cannot engage in talks with its Hamas “brethren” and secure a deal with them, can finalize an agreement with Israel.


Moreover, Obama started off by presenting requests and demands to Israel, the Palestinians, and pro-American Arab state for mutual gestures in order to renew the talks and improve the chances of concluding successfully. Netanyahu was the only leader who did something. In his Bar-Ilan speech he endorsed the two-state principle, and he even declared a construction freeze in the territories.


All the others rejected, some of them contemptuously, the American requests.


No attention to criticism

The crisis in US-Israel ties will not be over until talks between Israel and the Palestinians resume. The Obama Administration is pressing Israel, and only Israel, and will continue to do so until negotiations get underway. Obama is not exerting the necessary parallel pressure on the Palestinians because he has no tools for doing so.


The Palestinians wholly disregard Obama and expect him to do all the work for them and elicit unilateral concessions out of Israel.


Obama is unaffected by short-term political considerations such as the elections for Congress, to be held in a few months. He apparently also ignores the support letters for Israel recently sent by 76 Senators and 337 Congress members. There is no other issue in Washington today that can elicit such considerable and bipartisan support in Congress.


It is also doubtful whether Obama pays any attention to the criticism leveled at him via newspaper articles by well-known and influential figures such as Elie Wiesel and Ron Lauder. Under such circumstances, the Netanyahu government will need much initiative, sophistication, imagination, and boldness in order to overcome the crisis with Obama.


Prof. Eytan Gilboa is a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies and an expert on US-Israeli relations at Bar-Ilan University


פרסום ראשון: 04.28.10, 18:05
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