December 29, 2016

JUST TRYING TO TALK THEM DOWN FROM THE LEDGE:

THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION'S FINAL WARNING ON THE MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS (David Remnick,  December 28, 2016, The New Yorker)

The political center of gravity in Israel has been moving to the right for many years, so much so that the greatest threat to Netanyahu's personal power comes from politicians and parties who support some form of annexation of the West Bank or some form of one-state resolution in which the Palestinians do not have full civil rights. And even though Netanyahu has paid lip service to a final settlement and two states for two peoples, he always, given a choice between power and principle, acts to preserve his power. In his last electoral campaign, he made it plain that he has no intention of uprooting any settlements, and warned Jewish voters that Israeli Palestinians were coming to the polls "in droves."

For at least two years, President Obama, frustrated by Netanyahu and by failed attempts to make serious progress on the Palestinian question, has been considering the question of legacy. Pressed by Kerry, who has shown an almost quixotic desire to press the Israelis, Obama considered laying out a framework of any future peace. Two things prevented it. The first was that such a gesture would not much influence the Israeli leadership. Second, Obama expected that Hillary Clinton would win the election; he thought it would be better to co├Ârdinate what sort of diplomatic gesture to make before leaving the White House.

But then came the Trump victory. The President-elect's appointment of David Friedman, a pro-settlement bankruptcy lawyer, as the next U.S. Ambassador to Israel "had a lot of weight in the President's thinking" about what to do next, one senior Administration official told me. The official told me that the Administration had been "alarmed" by many of Trump's appointments to his national-security team--notably the appointment of Michael Flynn as national-security adviser--but the selection of Friedman was "over the top."

"The last thing you want to do as you leave office is to pick a fight with the organized Jewish community, but Friedman is so beyond the pale," the adviser said. "He put his political and charitable support directly into the settlements; he compares Jews on the left to the kapos in the concentration camps--it just put it over the top."
In 2011, Obama, in explaining why the U.S. vetoed a resolution condemning the settlements, told the U.N. General Assembly that a peace agreement cannot be imposed on the Israelis and Palestinians. But that was five years ago, when negotiations were still a possibility (though a resolution was never close). Now, as settlements expand and reach new, more distant corners of the West Bank, as the Palestinian leadership ages and fractures and grows more dispirited, as younger right-wing politicians, such as Naftali Bennett, gain more and more influence in Israeli politics, Obama, the avatar of hope, has lost hope. Or, at least he has lost hope for the near future. As time ran out, he came to believe that setting down a marker was essential.

It may be impossible to stop the Israelis from destroying their own society, but we're obligated to try if we care about them. Those doing the opposite are not motivated by a love of Jews but a hatred of Arabs.

Posted by at December 29, 2016 8:25 AM

  

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