December 7, 2009
Obama Aims to Impose a Solution on IsraelBy Ted Belman
President Obama has surrounded himself with a host of vehemently anti-Israel advisers including Lee Hamilton, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Samantha Power, Susan Rice, and Gen. Jones, many of whom advocate imposing a solution on Israel.
So it was no surprise that Obama started his term of office by attacking Israel, America's best and most steadfast ally, and demanding a complete settlement-freeze east of the green line, including Jerusalem. He went so far as to repudiate the U.S. commitment set out in the Bush 2004 letter to then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Elliot Abrams and others involved in the negotiations that led to Bush's letter testified otherwise.
In January 2009, before Obama had gotten his act together, Haaretz reported:
Within a few months, that commitment was history.
Prime Minister Netanyahu, who had campaigned on the rejection of the two-state solution and on continued settlement growth, attempted to deflect or resist the pressure. One can only imagine the Tools of Persuasion that Netanyahu was subjected to. Finally, on June 12, 2009, Netanyahu made a major speech at the Begin Centre in which he shocked Israelis by agreeing to a two-state solution.
Never mind that Netanyahu had only limited sovereignty in mind.
He went on to demand as a precondition that "Palestinians must clearly and unambiguously recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people" and that a Palestinian state be demilitarized, "with ironclad security provisions for Israel."
With respect to the contentious issue of settlement construction, Netanyahu affirmed that there would be no "building new settlements or of expropriating additional land for existing settlements." But he reserved the right to "natural growth" within existing settlements.
As for Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees, he declared: "Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel with continued religious freedom for all faiths." And he totally rejected the return of refugees to Israel.
At the time, these concessions were either warmly received or hotly debated. Many complained that Netanyahu had caved to pressure without procuring anything in return. After all, this was not the platform that he had campaigned on.
A month later, Obama met with Jewish leaders to reassure them, and by all accounts the meeting went well. But shortly thereafter, some Jewish leaders demanded that Obama make demands also on Arab countries. Obama publicly took up the challenge during the summer, thereby admitting that Israel should get something in return. He was soundly rebuffed.
Undaunted, Obama then focused on getting PNA President Mahmoud Abbas to accept what Netanyahu had offered in his BESA speech when they met in September at the United Nations. Abbas refused to go along. Obama crapped out.
So it then came as a surprise that on November 26, 2009, Netanyahu announced a unilateral ten-month freeze of settlement construction, except for the 3,500 units already announced and natural growth. But he emphasized that the freeze did not apply to Jerusalem. In fact, a few days earlier, a new project of eight hundred units was announced for the Jerusalem suburb of Gilo. Although Obama complained about it, he probably agreed to it to help Netanyahu win over his right wing.
The right in Israel was incensed -- first by the acknowledgment of the two-state solution, and now by the freeze, all with nothing offered in return.
On the heels of Netanyahu's speech, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the following statement:
This is little different from Bush's wording:
Clinton referred to these realities as "subsequent developments."
Thus the borders probably will be moved east of these blocks, thereby limiting the number of Jews who have to be uprooted to about 50,000, give or take 20,000 depending on negotiations.
So why did Obama repudiate the Bush letter which his man Sen. Mitchell had two months earlier endorsed in his name?
The Obama administration has orchestrated two, and possibly three, major departures from the Bush letter. Bush had written that "Israel must have secure and recognized borders ... in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338," leaving open the possibility that Resolution 242 did not require retreat from all territories. Clinton made no mention of 242 and said the borders must be "based on the 1967 lines." This suggests that all the land is to be ceded, a process that would be facilitated by swaps mutually agreed upon.
Whereas Bush had written "and the settling of Palestinian refugees there [Palestine], rather than in Israel," Clinton was silent. Is this also a departure? I think so. Obama is clearly trying to stay as close to the Saudi plan as he can. It requires the settlement of the refugee issue pursuant to UNGA Resolution 194.
In the grand scheme of things, these differences are of little importance. Why take the heat for so little profit, especially when Bush had said doing otherwise was "unrealistic"?
Perhaps there is another reason.
Bush had committed in said letter that "the United States will do its utmost to prevent any attempt by anyone to impose any other plan." By challenging the whole letter in the first instance and endorsing most of it subsequently (save for this commitment), Obama has succeeded in ridding himself of the commitment. Is Obama thereby reserving the right to impose a plan, as many in his administration recommend?
In case you haven't noticed, neither Obama nor his administration refer to the Roadmap. This is because the Roadmap precludes an imposed solution.
It would appear that the Obama administration has no confidence in the achievement of a negotiated solution. Most pundits and politicians believe likewise, including Netanyahu.
The issues are too intractable, in part because the Arabs -- and more specifically the "Palestinians" -- are dedicated to the destruction of Israel. They haven't compromised in ninety years. Why start now?
Abbas continues to reject negotiations. He prefers an imposed solution, too.
This standoff may lead to the disintegration of the PA, which would invite unilateral moves by Israel, the U.S., or Hamas.
Will Obama push for a bi-national state or allow Israel to annex Judea and Samaria? Will he attempt to impose a solution? The New York Times, in a lead editorial, favored Obama: "Advancing his own final-status plan for a two-state solution is one high-risk way forward that we think is worth the gamble. "
Meanwhile, Obama has less than six months to decide to what extent he will cooperate with Israel in bombing Iran.
Ted Belman edits Israpundit.