More U.S. PR Is Not the Answer

[Jerusalem Post] Jonathan Tobin - After running into a dead end in its efforts to jump-start Middle East peace talks, the White House will begin a public relations program in Israel and Arab countries to better explain the president's intention to broker a comprehensive peace agreement. Officials say they hope to convince the majority of Israelis to support President Obama's stand on freezing building in Jewish settlements in the West Bank as well as in Jerusalem, rather than the policies of their own prime minister. However, the administration misunderstands the nature of its problem. Contrary to its belief, the Israeli people already understand Obama very well. His problem is that they don't buy what he's selling. The administration needs to win the trust of Israelis through more realistic policies, not a bigger megaphone. The ginned-up settlements squabble was a calculated decision on the part of Washington to pick a fight with its smaller ally. U.S. policy seems to be based on the notion that Israel's refusal to make new concessions on security and land is the primary obstacle to a peace breakthrough. But most Israelis know that neither the Fatah-ruled Palestinian Authority in the West Bank nor the Hamas mini-state in Gaza are interested in a peace that would recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state, no matter where the borders were drawn. The failure of the Oslo Accords, the July 2000 Camp David summit, the withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 and last year's effort by former prime minister Ehud Olmert to hand the PA a state on a silver platter all illustrate the Palestinians' lack of interest in signing such a deal. In the clear absence of a credible peace partner, what point is there in bullying Israel to make concessions? The idea that Israelis need to be convinced to "reflect" on their policies and change their tune is not only astoundingly arrogant, it's frankly wrong. Israelis already want peace, and have shown time and again they are ready to make sacrifices to achieve it. What is lacking is a similar commitment from the Palestinians. The writer is executive editor of Commentary magazine.

2009-08-11 06:00:00

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