Obama Hoisted by Own Petard on Israeli-Palestinian Front

From the start of his administration, President Obama demonstrated his animus against a Likud-led government by pouncing on Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and on new housing for Jews in East Jerusalem.  He abdicated the U.S. role as an honest broker, tilting the scales against the Jewish state.  It was bound to backfire.

And backfire it did -- big-time -- as Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas rejected personal Obama pleas not to push for a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement construction and demanding a building freeze for Jews in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.  Obama vainly begged Abbas to support instead a watered-down "statement" rejecting the legitimacy of settlements.  Abbas, however, wouldn't play.

So the die was cast, the issue went to the Security Council, with 14 of its 15 members voting in favor of an outright, one-sided anti-Israel resolution.  That left Obama with no choice but to cast a veto, having declared beforehand that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be ended only by direct bilateral negotiations between the parties -- not with anti-Israel maneuvers at the UN in New York.

For his part, Obama was left with the worst of all possible outcomes -- having antagonized both sides and left the peace process in more tatters than ever before.  The Palestinians are naturally furious about the U.S. veto.   Jewish leaders, along with some members of Congress of both parties, are aiming a barrage of criticism at the White House for its 11th-hour push of a "compromise" that still would have left an anti-Israel imprimatur sealed by the UN.

Obama, it turned out, came to office praising the peace process -- and ended up burying it.

Having made opposition to "settlements" his transcendent diplomatic agenda item, Obama gave Abbas an opening to be at least as intransigent on this issue as the American president.  And Abbas played it for all it was worth.   His basic strategy was to drive a wedge between Israel and the U.S. -- a wedge made possible by Obama's obsession about settlements.

Except that both Obama and Abbas ended up badly miscalculating Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's refusal to buckle to Obama pressure. Netanyahu instead pushed for earliest possible direct negotiations where settlements would be taken up along with all other outstanding issues -- not as a separate sweetener to get the Palestinians to the table in the first place.

That left the peace process in a deep freeze -- with Israel insisting on negotiations to address all issues and Abbas insisting there will be no  negotiations until and unless Israel succumbs to Obama's demands on settlements.

From there, it was but a small step for Abbas to turn his back on negotiations altogether and to launch a global diplomatic/political campaign against Israel -- hammering on "settlements" for starters.  The culmination of this campaign took place in New York on Feb. 18 at the UN Security Council, as Abbas emboldened by Obama demanded and got a vote on a fierce resolution condemning Israel.

Having practically gotten on his knees to Abbas with his plea to avoid such a showdown and settle for a watered-down compromise, Obama now is left with a major wreckage of his Mideast diplomacy.

What, after all, is left of George Mitchell's portfolio as U.S. Mideast envoy in charge of mediating  peace talks, which now are more elusive than ever.

Obama's hubris was bound to unravel the peace process and come back to haunt him -- and it did.
From the start of his administration, President Obama demonstrated his animus against a Likud-led government by pouncing on Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and on new housing for Jews in East Jerusalem.  He abdicated the U.S. role as an honest broker, tilting the scales against the Jewish state.  It was bound to backfire.

And backfire it did -- big-time -- as Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas rejected personal Obama pleas not to push for a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement construction and demanding a building freeze for Jews in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.  Obama vainly begged Abbas to support instead a watered-down "statement" rejecting the legitimacy of settlements.  Abbas, however, wouldn't play.

So the die was cast, the issue went to the Security Council, with 14 of its 15 members voting in favor of an outright, one-sided anti-Israel resolution.  That left Obama with no choice but to cast a veto, having declared beforehand that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be ended only by direct bilateral negotiations between the parties -- not with anti-Israel maneuvers at the UN in New York.

For his part, Obama was left with the worst of all possible outcomes -- having antagonized both sides and left the peace process in more tatters than ever before.  The Palestinians are naturally furious about the U.S. veto.   Jewish leaders, along with some members of Congress of both parties, are aiming a barrage of criticism at the White House for its 11th-hour push of a "compromise" that still would have left an anti-Israel imprimatur sealed by the UN.

Obama, it turned out, came to office praising the peace process -- and ended up burying it.

Having made opposition to "settlements" his transcendent diplomatic agenda item, Obama gave Abbas an opening to be at least as intransigent on this issue as the American president.  And Abbas played it for all it was worth.   His basic strategy was to drive a wedge between Israel and the U.S. -- a wedge made possible by Obama's obsession about settlements.

Except that both Obama and Abbas ended up badly miscalculating Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's refusal to buckle to Obama pressure. Netanyahu instead pushed for earliest possible direct negotiations where settlements would be taken up along with all other outstanding issues -- not as a separate sweetener to get the Palestinians to the table in the first place.

That left the peace process in a deep freeze -- with Israel insisting on negotiations to address all issues and Abbas insisting there will be no  negotiations until and unless Israel succumbs to Obama's demands on settlements.

From there, it was but a small step for Abbas to turn his back on negotiations altogether and to launch a global diplomatic/political campaign against Israel -- hammering on "settlements" for starters.  The culmination of this campaign took place in New York on Feb. 18 at the UN Security Council, as Abbas emboldened by Obama demanded and got a vote on a fierce resolution condemning Israel.

Having practically gotten on his knees to Abbas with his plea to avoid such a showdown and settle for a watered-down compromise, Obama now is left with a major wreckage of his Mideast diplomacy.

What, after all, is left of George Mitchell's portfolio as U.S. Mideast envoy in charge of mediating  peace talks, which now are more elusive than ever.

Obama's hubris was bound to unravel the peace process and come back to haunt him -- and it did.