Saturday, September 5, 2009

She Still Needs A Future

There's a reason Presidents don't risk getting involved in the Middle East, with its ancient hatreds and treacherous politics, until relatively late in their terms, if at all. President Obama showed courage, perhaps born of naive self-confidence, by naming a Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, even before he was inaugurated.

In the months since, Mitchell has pressed Israel hard on the West Bank settlements. The Palestinians responded by spurning such incremental measures while refusing to budge on Israel's demand that they acknowledge that it is an inherently Jewish state. Now Israel has announced new settlement construction, prompting howls from Ramallah and a stern rebuke from the White House.

Michael Crowley speculates that Mitchell secretly green-lighted the new construction to help reset the Obama-Netanyahu relationship, presumably by making the PM appear less beholden to Washington in the eyes of Israeli voters. Crowley refers to reporting along these lines by Ben Smith at "Politico," but the link doesn't work, and I couldn't find anything from Smith except a blog item about the White House statement. If there's a chess game underway, I'd prefer to think that Mitchell and Netanyahu were collaborating on a message to the Palestinians that they need to bring something to the table, too. Otherwise, Crowley writes:
Obama has now essentially been flipped off by both the Israelis and the Arabs, no?
Which is precisely why Presidents usually stay away from Jerusalem until they've got almost nothing to lose. Israelis and Palestinians who really want peace might remember that an attentive White House will be nearly indispensable and begin to act accordingly.

No comments: