Obama discards role of even-handed mediator, pressures only Israel for major, unialteral concession

President Obama, at his Sept. 10 press conference, abandoned all pretense of an even-handed U.S. role in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks by going public with demands for a major, unilateral concession by Israel -- extension of its 10-month moratorium on construction in West Bank settlements, due to end in two weeks.

In return, Obama told reporters he recommended to Mahmoud Abbas only that he reciprocate with unspecified, nice touchy-feely gestures toward Israel.

The result is bound to stiffen Israeli resistance to White House pressure to give, give and give some more to the Palestinians, while Mahmoud Abbas gets off-scot free to continue pressing for even more Israeli concessions, while giving nothing in return.  That's not the path toward fruitful negotiations.

After coming into office, Obama wasted more than a year with one-sided demands that Israel halt all building in both East Jerusalem and in the West Bank.  When Israel balked and Obama was in danger of a backlash from one of his most loyal political-support bases, the U.S. Jewish community, the president dropped his draconian demands and settled for Prime Minister Netanyahu's move to suspend construction in West Bank settlements for only for 10-months, with an expiration deadline of Sept. 26.

In return, Mahmoud Abbas gave nothing, except demands for an indefinite construction freeze.  And while the temporary moratorium was under way, Abbas predictably sat back and let Obama negotiate for him with Bibi.  Abbas got the better of Obama again by threatening to end the negotiations if the building moratorium is not extended.  And again, Abbas's bluff earned him new inducement to sit back and let Obama negotiate with Bibi

For his part, Netanyahu repeatedly has insisted that Jewish settlements in the West Bank already are on the agenda of the resumed peace talks and must be handled not in isolation but as part of solutions for all major outstanding issues, including security for Israel, the status of Jerusalem, and Palestinian refugees.  The prime minister thus signaled that he wouldn't extend the moratorium without getting anything in return and before all negotiations are concluded. 

Whether Bibi will reject Obama's demand outright or try to finesse some compromise remains to be seen.

For now, with direct talks between the two sides barely under way, Obama has repeated his earlier move to pressure only Israel.  Rather than work quietly behind the scenes with both sides, he has made his lack of imprtiality even more evident by his public disclosure of renewed pressure on Israel -- and only on Israel.

Obama said nothing at his press conference about Abbas's need to put an end to all terrorist cells in the West Bank -- his own, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, and Hamas & Co.  Nor did Obama mention Abbas's need to stop glorifying suicide bombers and other anti-Semitic and anti-Israel incitement in media and mosques under the control of the Palestinian Authority.

Only Israel got the arm-twisting treatment in full public glare.

Not a smart way to foster a productive role for U.S. diplomacy
President Obama, at his Sept. 10 press conference, abandoned all pretense of an even-handed U.S. role in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks by going public with demands for a major, unilateral concession by Israel -- extension of its 10-month moratorium on construction in West Bank settlements, due to end in two weeks.

In return, Obama told reporters he recommended to Mahmoud Abbas only that he reciprocate with unspecified, nice touchy-feely gestures toward Israel.

The result is bound to stiffen Israeli resistance to White House pressure to give, give and give some more to the Palestinians, while Mahmoud Abbas gets off-scot free to continue pressing for even more Israeli concessions, while giving nothing in return.  That's not the path toward fruitful negotiations.

After coming into office, Obama wasted more than a year with one-sided demands that Israel halt all building in both East Jerusalem and in the West Bank.  When Israel balked and Obama was in danger of a backlash from one of his most loyal political-support bases, the U.S. Jewish community, the president dropped his draconian demands and settled for Prime Minister Netanyahu's move to suspend construction in West Bank settlements for only for 10-months, with an expiration deadline of Sept. 26.

In return, Mahmoud Abbas gave nothing, except demands for an indefinite construction freeze.  And while the temporary moratorium was under way, Abbas predictably sat back and let Obama negotiate for him with Bibi.  Abbas got the better of Obama again by threatening to end the negotiations if the building moratorium is not extended.  And again, Abbas's bluff earned him new inducement to sit back and let Obama negotiate with Bibi

For his part, Netanyahu repeatedly has insisted that Jewish settlements in the West Bank already are on the agenda of the resumed peace talks and must be handled not in isolation but as part of solutions for all major outstanding issues, including security for Israel, the status of Jerusalem, and Palestinian refugees.  The prime minister thus signaled that he wouldn't extend the moratorium without getting anything in return and before all negotiations are concluded. 

Whether Bibi will reject Obama's demand outright or try to finesse some compromise remains to be seen.

For now, with direct talks between the two sides barely under way, Obama has repeated his earlier move to pressure only Israel.  Rather than work quietly behind the scenes with both sides, he has made his lack of imprtiality even more evident by his public disclosure of renewed pressure on Israel -- and only on Israel.

Obama said nothing at his press conference about Abbas's need to put an end to all terrorist cells in the West Bank -- his own, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, and Hamas & Co.  Nor did Obama mention Abbas's need to stop glorifying suicide bombers and other anti-Semitic and anti-Israel incitement in media and mosques under the control of the Palestinian Authority.

Only Israel got the arm-twisting treatment in full public glare.

Not a smart way to foster a productive role for U.S. diplomacy

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