‘Obama administration gives up on settlement freeze’
Associated Press (AP); December 7, 2010
WASHINGTON — From the start of his term, President Barack Obama was determined to defy the cynics and doubters and push for peace in the Middle East.
[False. The latest developments only serve to confirm what we already knew: that the Zionist-managed Obama regime, from the very beginning, was never sincere about its stated desire to see the emergence of an independent Palestinian state — 800]
But by Tuesday, the White House’s efforts to broker a deal in the decades-old dispute between Israelis and Palestinians had faltered — demonstrating once again why it is one of the world’s most intractable conflicts.
After months of grueling diplomacy, using a mixture of pressure and promises, the White House abandoned attempts to persuade Israel to slow West Bank settlement activity.
The Palestinians had demanded the freeze in exchange for engaging in direct talks that were supposed to lead to a Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace with Israel. That deal, it was hoped, would lead to a broader Middle East peace accord.
Two American officials said the administration has concluded that the strategy of seeking a freeze wasn’t working, while insisting the administration was not back at square one.
But the talks stalled in September, barely a month after they started. The Palestinians refused to return to direct negotiations until a new freeze was in place following the expiration of an earlier, 10-month Israeli slowdown in settlement expansion.
Now, said the US officials, American pressure for a three-month moratorium and the US incentives package, which included political, diplomatic and security assurances for Israel, are off the table. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
Obama’s ambitious bid to succeed in the Middle East where other presidents had failed was always a gamble.
But the effort’s apparent breakdown comes at a time when the administration is struggling on a number of other fronts abroad. There is slow progress in the Afghanistan war, increasing friction with China and the embarrassing deluge of confidential diplomatic cables released by the website [read ‘psy-op’] WikiLeaks.
The US officials said the administration was not giving up efforts to broker a peace deal and noted that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators will visit Washington next week for consultations.
The US will be talking with both sides in the coming days, one of the officials said, while Arab states and other interested countries also will be consulted.
However, the administration’s decision to drop support for the Palestinians’ key demand could mean the end of the moribund peace process.
Obama had made Israeli-Palestinian peace a major goal of his administration, appointing seasoned peace negotiator George Mitchell as his special Mideast envoy on his second day in office.
Mitchell made dozens of trips to the region to get the parties to agree to direct talks. In early September, with the expiration of the initial slowdown looming, Obama brought Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian [Authority] President [and Zionist front-man] Mahmoud Abbas along with the leaders of Jordan and Egypt to launch the face-to-face discussions, which failed.
Neither Israeli nor Palestinian officials would comment on the developments in Washington before their official announcement.
Earlier Tuesday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the US had halted talks with Israel on settlement activity because Washington was distracted by the WikiLeaks release of secret documents.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley responded that Israel may have been preoccupied with putting out a huge forest fire that burned until Sunday.
The US had been pressing Israel to renew a moratorium on new settlement construction in exchange for security guarantees and diplomatic assurances of support. Israel wanted those in writing, as well as a pledge that east Jerusalem would be exempt from the moratorium.
The Palestinians refused to return to the peace talks unless Israel halted all building in the West Bank and east Jerusalem — lands they want for part of their future state.
Peace talks began in September but ground to a halt three weeks later after Israel’s original moratorium on new West Bank construction expired.
Netanyahu returned from a November trip to the US with a list of guarantees, including 20 next-generation stealth fighter planes and US pledges to veto anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations, according to Israeli officials.
In exchange, Israel was asked to renew the expired limits on settlement construction.
Days later, the deal snagged after members of Netanyahu’s Cabinet demanded a written pledge from the US that the moratorium would exclude east Jerusalem. Such a pledge never materialized.
The US had wanted a moratorium in the hopes that it would allow Israel and the Palestinians to make enough progress in drawing their future borders to make the settlement question irrelevant.
With borders determined, Israel could resume building on any territories it would expect to keep under a final peace deal.
But Israeli officials said Tuesday that short of an understanding on borders, a crisis could erupt if Israel agreed to the freeze sought by the US.
Now, said Israeli officials, insisting on anonymity because of the sensitivity of the contacts, the US and Israel have agreed on a statement that “in the coming days and weeks, efforts will continue toward finding ways to renew the direct negotiations in order to reach a framework that would lead in the end to an agreement between the two sides.”
Yasser Abed Rabbo, secretary general of the PLO, blamed Israel for the impasse.
“It is clear that the failure of the American efforts is entirely a result of the obstacles and conditions placed by Mr. Netanyahu,” Rabbo said. He said the Palestinians would have to consult with their Arab allies on their next move.
The above article can be found here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/08/AR2010120800454.html
‘Disappointment all round’
Al-Ahram Weekly (Egypt); December 16, 2010
On 7 December, the Obama administration admitted defeat in its attempts to cajole, beg and bribe the Israeli government into accepting a partial West Bank settlement “freeze” so that direct negotiations with the Palestinians could continue — and that the anchor of its Middle East policy for 20 months had sunk.
Not that failure, shipwreck, collapse appeared in any of the official Washington dispatches.
“We have been pursuing a moratorium as a means to create conditions for a return to meaningful and sustained negotiations,” said State Department spokesman PJ Crowley. But “after a considerable effort, we have concluded that this does not create a firm basis to work towards our shared goal of a framework agreement.”
The moratorium — a 90-day limited freeze on settlement starts in the occupied West Bank — had been sugarcoated with incentives (such as 20 free F-35 stealth bombers and a guaranteed US veto on “hostile” resolutions at the UN Security Council) for Israel’s ultranationalist coalition government to swallow.
Binyamin Netanyahu spat them out. He knew such gifts will come gratis given Washington’s promises to protect Israel at the UN or preserve its “qualitative” military edge in the region. Even as he was negotiating the moratorium Congress was approving an increase in military aid to Israel from $2.75 billion in 2010 to $3 billion in 2011.
What the Israeli prime minister was really looking for was a written US pledge that occupied East Jerusalem would be excluded from any freeze, in effect conferring an Israeli “right” to build there. Even for an administration as supine as Obama’s this was an “incentive” too far.
Instead, the moratorium idea was ditched amid un-attributable briefings that Israel and the Palestinians were unlikely to resolve in 90 days final status issues they had been unable to resolve in 17 years.
True, but no amount of spin can camouflage the scale of the American retreat. Barack Obama began his presidency accepting the Palestinian and Arab view that a complete settlement freeze throughout the occupied territories was necessary for any credible peace process to resume.
Faced with pretty minor Israeli resistance, he accepted a partial moratorium in the West Bank while arm-twisting the Palestinians to go back to negotiations they knew were meaningless.
Now — while still not accepting the “legitimacy of continued settlement activity” on Palestinian land — he has simply tossed back settlements as one more bilateral final status issue to be sorted out by the parties themselves. In less than two years, his administration has swung from absolute opposition to absolute acceptance of settlements.
Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official Yasser Abed Rabbo was aghast: “If they [the US] can’t convince Israel or force it to stop settlement construction for a specified period of time, how will they make Israel accept a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders?”
The short answer is they can’t or won’t. At a Washington conference on 9 December, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said her administration would be replacing its single-minded focus on a freeze (full or partial) with an even more hopeless policy: proximity talks so the two sides can talk to the Americans about the issues that divide them, something they have been doing for even longer than 17 years.
She said nothing about her government’s goal of reaching a framework agreement within a year. And she warned the Palestinian leadership not to take their case to international forums like the UN Security Council: an “alternative” to bilateral talks buoyed by the recent decisions of Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina to “recognize Palestine as a free and independent state” based on the 1967 armistice lines.
“The US and international community cannot impose a solution,” she said. “And even if we could, we would not, because it is only a negotiated agreement between the parties that will be sustainable… Unilateral efforts at the UN are not helpful and undermine trust.”
The West Bank Palestinian leadership met the US failure with anger, dismay and inaction. But there would be no Palestinian response to this “difficult crisis in peace process” until the PLO had consulted with Egypt, Jordan and the Arab League, said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on 7 December.
It’s easy to see why. If the crisis is humiliating for the US, it’s downright impossible for Abbas and his Arab allies. In scrapping the freeze and opposing any attempt to take the conflict to the UN, the Americans have left them with no diplomatic, peaceful options. And resistance has never been part of Abbas’s armory.
Instead, he will be left heading a West Bank PA obligated to provide unconditional security to Israeli settlers while offering only conditional economic security to a small part of its people. He will also have to bless indirect negotiations with an Israeli government, the core settler constituency of which has made colonization, especially in East Jerusalem, the touchstone of support.
Such a political reality cannot last. But the likely victim of any opposition will not be Israel or even the settlements but Abbas and those other Arab leaders who have given license to a process that has long been void of substance. For the last two years the hope had been that Obama would spare them such a fate. But Obama has no policy other than capitulation when faced by the obduracy of Netanyahu’s Israel — and neither do they.
The above article can be found here: http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2010/1027/re2.htm
‘Netanyahu hails US retreat on settlement freeze demands’
Haaretz (Israel); December 13, 2010
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed on Monday a US decision to drop efforts to achieve a construction freeze on Israeli settlements and focus on resolving core issues of the Middle East conflict.
“To reach peace, we have to discuss the issues that are truly delaying peace … I welcome the fact that we will now begin discussing these issues and try to narrow gaps,” Netanyahu said in a speech to an economic forum, hours before a US envoy George Mitchell was due to arrive in Israel.
In the speech, Netanyahu cited issues such as his demand that Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, security arrangements and the future of Palestinian refugees.
Mitchell will meet with Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Monday evening to put forth US ideas for moving the peace process forward.
Mitchell is expected to make clear to Netanyahu that the Obama administration wants the prime minister to take a position in the coming weeks on the core issues, with an emphasis on borders.
Mitchell is also scheduled to hold talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. But the brunt of the work will be in Israel because the Palestinians have already submitted their opening positions on all the core issues — borders, security, Jerusalem, refugees, water and the settlements.
The Americans have heard little new from Netanyahu, with the exception of ideas on security and aspects considered secondary such as the environment and the economy.
Mitchell’s visit to Israel will be his first in three months. On September 15 he took part with Clinton in a tripartite meeting with Netanyahu and Abbas.
Direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians stalled when Israel’s 10-month freeze on settlement construction expired on September 26.
Last week, the US and Israel announced that talks on a deal for Israel to renew the settlement freeze in exchange for a set of US guarantees had reached a dead end.
The US now wants a return to indirect Israeli-Palestinian talks.
On Monday, Netanyahu hailed the US decision to drop its efforts to get Israel to renew the settlement freeze.
“I welcome this American decision. It is good for Israel. It is good for peace,” Netanyahu said.
The above article can be found here: http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/netanyahu-hails-u-s-retreat-on-settlement-freeze-demands-1.330368
Also see ‘Obama offers Israel free stealth fighters, UNSC vetoes, Jordan Valley for 90-day settlement freeze’ here: http://800pg.co.cc/geeklog//article.php?story=20101127013253495
Also see ‘Israel-firsters sweep US mid-terms; GOP majority will ‘serve as check’ on Obama, republican leader tells Netanyahu’ here: http://800pg.co.cc/geeklog//article.php?story=20101118171349469
Also see ‘OTHER PEOPLE’S LAND: Zionist state to build another 1300 Jewish-only housing units in occupied W. Bank’ here: http://800pg.co.cc/geeklog//article.php?story=20101113221900526
Also see ‘While Washington plays peacemaker, US Treasury supports illegal Israeli settlement drive’ here: http://800pg.co.cc/geeklog//article.php?story=20100809143242274