An Ice-Cold Mideast Peace Process

December 8, 2010

An Ice-Cold Mideast Peace Process

The stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks aren't going anywhere anytime soon. The Obama administration is sick and tired of haggling over Israel's settlement construction, the Wall Street Journal and New York Times report. After achieving what some saw as a breakthrough a few weeks ago, in which Washington agreed to give Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government military aid in exchange for a construction moratorium in the West Bank, the United States has apparently rescinded the offer. The reason? At least officially, it's because the Obama administration up and decided that even had a deal on the settlement freeze been hammered out, according to the Times, it "would not have produced the progress on core issues" that the United States was looking for.

The real reason, though, appears to be that while Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had an agreement, the Israeli couldn't sell it to his cabinet without further "security assurances" that Washington didn't want to give. In addition, the Palestinians had upped the ante, insisting that any moratorium—already one of their preconditions to talks—include East Jerusalem, which had never been subject to the freeze in the first place. On top of all that, the Israelis say, the WikiLeaks documents have got U.S. officials "preoccupied." And if that accusation didn't irritate Washington, Latin American countries Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay have been doing the job by officially recognizing a Palestinian state against U.S. wishes.

According to Richard Fernandez's analysis, "Ironically, Washington may be more interested in the 'peace process' than either party." IsraelMatzav thinks "the most incredible" part of the saga "is that it took them this long to figure that out when everyone and his kid brother understood it immediately. "

Ben Smith reports that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators "are expected in town this week . . . but it's not entirely clear what they'll be talking about." Andrew Sullivan predicts Clinton may reveal "the next step" in a speech at the Brookings Institution on Friday, and says he is all for "an end to aid for Israel" and for America to "assert its own interests" and "frame" a deal accordingly. Laura Rozen notes that Clinton is expected to make a statement Wednesday, and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak will be joining her on Friday at Brookings. Paul Woodward speculates: "I guess Hillary Clinton already has her hands full overseeing the State Department’s UN credit card number theft operations along with coordinating cyber attacks on WikiLeaks."

Jonathan Tobin claims the collapsed deal is a "blow" to Obama, but "not to peace." Finally, Juan Cole highlights Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's remarks hinting that "he may declare a Palestinian state unilaterally." Cole also warns that "likely, bad things will now happen,"  including apartheid-like policies on Israel's side followed by Palestinian uprisings.