In Obama's Push for Mideast Peace, Whose Side Is He On?

(Washington Post) Jackson Diehl - So far what some are calling the Arab Spring has brought Israel the first terrorist bombing in Jerusalem in seven years and the first significant missile attacks from Gaza in two years. But the Obama administration's renewed calls for "bold action" to revive negotiations on Palestinian statehood may be for Netanyahu the biggest short-term challenge emerging from the Middle East's upheaval. A reasonable person might conclude from the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria et al., that the Middle East's deepest problems have nothing to do with Israel and that the Obama administration's almost obsessive focus on trying to broker an Israeli-Palestinian settlement in its first two years was misplaced. But Obama seems to have concluded that the ideal segue from the latest Arab crisis is a new attempt to pressure Israel into accepting a quick march to Palestinian statehood. Netanyahu's problem is twofold. First, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has no interest in negotiating with him, and never has. Abbas, 76, has repeatedly shrunk from committing himself to the painful concessions he knows would be needed for Palestinian statehood. Rather than bargain with Israel, Abbas seeks a UN declaration of Palestinian statehood at the next General Assembly in September. At the same time, Obama continues to believe that Israel's government, and not the Palestinians, is the primary obstacle to peace. In a meeting with American Jewish leaders at the White House this month, Obama insisted that Abbas was ready to establish a Palestinian state. The problem was that Israel had not made a serious territorial offer.

2011-03-28 00:00:00

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