Putting Lipstick on a Middle East Pig

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pig.jpgWord has leaked out that going into his “trilateral” with Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Obama was flustered and upset with their lack of progress with each other.
Obama is — angry — in a somewhat cool-headed Obamaesque way.
He just chastised both in his statement — saying that neither side had done enough to move final status negotiations forward.
What is clear is well is that Barack Obama did not get the settlement freeze he called for from Netanyahu.
Via excellent reporting from Laura Rozen, here is a clip of President Obama’s statement:

I have just concluded frank and productive bilateral meetings with both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas. And I want to thank them both for appearing here today. I am now looking forward to this opportunity to hold the first meeting among the three of us since we took office.
As I said throughout my campaign and at the beginning of my administration, the United States is committed to a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East. That includes a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that results in two states, Israel and Palestine, in which both the Israeli people and the Palestinian people can live in peace and security and realize their aspirations for a better life for their children.
That is why my Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and my Special Envoy George Mitchell have worked tirelessly to create the context for permanent status negotiations. And we have made progress since I took office in January and since Israelis — Israel’s government took office in April. But we still have much further to go.
Palestinians have strengthened their efforts on security, but they need to do more to stop incitement and to move forward with negotiations. Israelis have facilitated greater freedom of movement for the Palestinians and have discussed important steps to restrain settlement activity. But they need to translate these discussions into real action on this and other issues. And it remains important for the Arab states to take concrete steps to promote peace.
Simply put it is past time to talk about starting negotiations — it is time to move forward. It is time to show the flexibility and common sense and sense of compromise that’s necessary to achieve our goals. Permanent status negotiations must begin and begin soon. And more importantly, we must give those negotiations the opportunity to succeed.
And so my message to these two leaders is clear. Despite all the obstacles, despite all the history, despite all the mistrust, we have to find a way forward. We have to summon the will to break the deadlock that has trapped generations of Israelis and Palestinians in an endless cycle of conflict and suffering. We cannot continue the same pattern of taking tentative steps forward and then stepping back. Success depends on all sides acting with a sense of urgency. And that is why I have asked Secretary Clinton and Senator Mitchell to carry forward the work that we do here today.
Senator Mitchell will meet with the Israeli and Palestinian negotiators next week. I’ve asked the Prime Minister and the President to continue these intensive discussions by sending their teams back to Washington next week. And I’ve asked the Secretary of State to report to me on the status of these negotiations in mid-October.
All of us know this will not be easy. But we are here today because it is the right thing to do. I look forward to speaking with my colleagues. I’m committed to pressing ahead in the weeks and months and years to come, because it is absolutely critical that we get this issue resolved. It’s not just critical for the Israelis and the Palestinians, it’s critical for the world, it is in the interests of the United State. And we are going to work as hard as necessary to accomplish our goals. Thanks.

Barack Obama must have hated making this statement.
It shows that despite all their efforts, his team has not moved the game forward, and he really doesn’t like putting lipstick on a pig.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

29 comments on “Putting Lipstick on a Middle East Pig

  1. nadine says:

    The Arab league deal is that Israel withdraws to the 1967 lines first, of course uprooting 500,000 Jews (no Jews in Palestine, ever! not that they’re racist, mind you). And then what does the Arab League do? Do they promise recognition of Israel inside the Green Line, normalization of diplomatic relations, exchange of ambassadors? No. They promise to think about perhaps normalizing relations.
    That is merely another recipe for Israeli national suicide. Which is why it was fed to Tom Friedman, who they knew would sing its praises in his self-importance. No Saudi prince has ever sullied himself by talking to an Israeli diplomat about it. Strictly for show.
    What was Ahmedinejad’s reasonable offer, the one where he denies the Holocaust and promises Israel will soon disappear. He denies the last Holocaust because he wants to make a new Holocaust.

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  2. Outraged American says:

    Nadine, the Arab League offered Israel a very reasonable deal in
    2002.
    Iran offered an even more reasonable deal to the US and the
    European colonialists, sometimes correctly referred to as
    Ashkenazi Jews, in the spring of 2003.
    Israel, the tail that wags the US dog, has backed herself into a
    corner.
    We’ve gone over this ad infinitum: if Israel causes WW III as she
    seems Yahweh bent to do, then all Jews will be hated.
    Why would you want that Nadine? The best thing for this world
    would be to lose borders and countries and religions and
    embrace the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I’m only partially
    kidding on the latters, but they are much more sane than the
    Bible or the Talmud or the Torah or the whatever the Hindus
    read or the Quran.
    My Satanist neighbors, well, the man, turned out to be not so
    bad, after his girlfriend threatened the kids and our dogs when
    we first moved in. He just built a new fence for us so that the
    dogs couldn’t get out, which I thought was very kind of him.
    There’s a great side to almost everyone, and we have to reach
    for it and not let the bullshit divide us, because that only helps
    the criminally insane rulers, and they should be smacked by
    rulers on their flabby butts all of them, who are in power all over
    the world.

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  3. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Would that the world would butt out and leave it to the interested parties. That would be in the interest of both the Israelis and the Palestinians”
    Translation: Stand back and let us exterminate those sand monkeys.

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  4. nadine says:

    “Israel’s star burned brightly, a beacon of freedom and hope
    in the desert, but Israelis have not been able to either conquer
    or make peace with the people who lived in the lands they
    overran. It is up to the interested parties now, and always has
    been, to make that peace or to fight.”
    Would that the world would butt out and leave it to the interested parties. That would be in the interest of both the Israelis and the Palestinians.
    But it would not provide a cure. Israel’s Arab neighbors don’t want the end of the conflict. They have always found the conflict exceptionally useful politically, and are prepared to fight it to the very last Palestinian. The rise of Islamism has precluded serious negotiations, because any Arab who signs a deal now will go the way of Anwar Sadat. The takfiris will declare him an apostate and kill him.

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  5. ... says:

    larry martin – great post….israel needs the usa, much much more then the usa needs israel…

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  6. Larry Martin says:

    Sometimes I read threads like this about Israel, and sometimes I
    listen to televangelists twirling themselves into knots about John
    the Revelator, both with the same mounting feeling of awe and
    disbelief. And then Nadine comes along with a gem:
    “Three, and most importantly, is that nobody in the Mideast
    cares about Israel/Palestine just now…”
    Guess what, nobody over here cares much about Israel/Palestine
    just now either. Leon Uris is dead and there haven’t been any
    good books lately unless you count Damascus Gate (highly
    recommended).
    But wait, someone exclaims. Millions of Americans care about
    Israel! It’s true that the erstwhile cottage industry of using
    support for Israel to build a power base here in the USA has
    grown into a lobbying conglomerate that rivals Goldman-Sachs.
    It’s also true that Jerry Falwell (R.I.P.) and his ilk brandish Israel
    like the jawbone of an ass. And there are knee-jerk echoes of
    general public support for Israel reminiscent of the dying gasps
    of a stranded fish.
    But our concern for the middle east peace process has become a
    compulsive habit fed by AIPAC, Christianists and others who
    profit by keeping us hooked.
    We don’t truly care all that much. Not anymore. Those days are
    over. Israel’s star burned brightly, a beacon of freedom and hope
    in the desert, but Israelis have not been able to either conquer
    or make peace with the people who lived in the lands they
    overran. It is up to the interested parties now, and always has
    been, to make that peace or to fight.
    After the cold war; after the blood and treasure spent in
    countless conflicts in the middle east; after (I wish) our ignorant
    foolhardiness in Iraq and Afghanistan; after the decades of
    recalcitrance and atrocities on both sides; in this emerging post-
    petroleum economy; when we can’t get our act together at home
    to take on health care and financial reform and find well-paying
    jobs for our own people; why should we care so much about
    Israel that we would want to twirl our foreign policy into knots
    on her behalf, and continue to waste the money and lives of
    Americans in her defense?
    What is it about this relationship that makes it so vitally
    important that the United States of America should, one more
    time, put its credibility, its power and its resources on the line by
    re-“engaging” in the peace process?

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  7. rc says:

    Reply to Diane (10:54) … Thank you for the expanded and detailed description of this complex situation of concern.
    However, I was not actually suggesting that specific blame should be apportioned to Abbas (or anyone) [if it was my post you are referring to] — simply that as a rational starting point for a new US President to help untangle this Gordian knot, President Obama should begin with the ‘facts’ … based in reality … not in some political ‘Hollywood’ fantasy. Abbas is an expired past official who only represents one power group faction within a deeply fractured and divided society.
    Fact 1: there is no clear representative for 33% of the M/E trilateral talks President Obama seeks to make progress on at this time. For example, I’m happy to hear Bill Clinton’s opinion, but I do not confuse it for the voice of America. Abbas may have opinions as well but they legally represent nobody.
    Therefore, before the US President dives into this ‘septic tank’ of M/E politics, it would be wiser for him to start by supporting the establishment of a legitimate and democratic governance body (president and parliament etc) which can claim to truly represent the Palestinian people throughout the world (including those living within Israel, nearby states and elsewhere) as, for example, Lebanon and Italian elections also do I understand.
    I only blame Abbas for sitting there like a ‘lame goose’ in front of the TV cameras while the other two participants pretend to be interested in moving forward towards a real settlement as either a sustainable one or two state outcome. It smells more like a prelude ‘warm up’ for the emerging Iran dialogue.
    If Abbas refused to attend this session then he would draw attention to the real situation and thereby help focus attention on the need for a democratic process to unite the Palestinian voice — including allowing those leaders who are hostage in Israeli prison camps to participate. Iran can legitimately point to the mess and ask what the US is going to do about it and when.
    The other 33% is no united voice either. The time it took to resolve the recent Israeli elections, and the complex fragile partnerships required to get someone clearly in front, proves that Israel is not exactly a collection of happy campers either. If the US President does not start with the fundamental issues then he’ll be little more than another ‘smiling face’ PR painted on the Israeli demolition bulldozer blades as they crush the life out of any obstacle to their Zionist visions.
    Abbas should stay at home and point out that:
    (a) he has no authority to speak on any one’s behalf; and
    (b) the situation in Gaza is especially intolerable and should be addressed by the US and the UN as an urgent issue before any other longer-term issues are dealt with.
    Surely preparing for a comprehensive 2010 democratic election of Palestinian representatives to negotiate is the next logical step.
    A cynic might suggest Abbas wanted to be at the UN ‘party’ in New York and paid his way there with a few mug-shots for the media. In between the caviar & dips, I hope he’s suggesting that the UN move it’s Headquarters from NY to Gaza as part of the reconstruction effort! They are about as viable as each other, it would seem to me, at present without significant social, economic and political ‘climate change’ in the M/E region.

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  8. nadine says:

    “But surely by now he should understand that large numbers of Israelis – possibly a majority of the whole society, and certainly a majority of the governing coalition parties – are determined to continue expanding into the West Bank indefinitely. They don’t want peace; they want victory. Or let’s say they only want the kind of peace that comes with victory.”
    Dan, you have that exactly backwards. The Israelis have twice offered 95% of the West Bank, including removal of ALL Jews and Jewish settlements from the areas they leave. Plus, they have already withdrawn from Gaza.
    In return, the Israelis wanted a settled border, a treaty, and the right of return of Palestinians to Palestine only, not Israel. The Israelis offered twice, and twice the Palestinians refused.
    Yet you speak as if these offers had never happened. Poof! they have fallen into the memory hole.
    Ehud Olmert, only a few years ago in 2006, campaigned on withdrawing from the West Bank, and won. That hardly squares with your claims about Israeli public opinion, which are simply false. What killed the West Bank withdrawal was not Israeli expansionism, but the Israeli experience after they withdrew from Gaza: they got Hamastan in Gaza and rockets and missiles on their heads in Southern Israel. This leads them to believe that if they withdraw from the West Bank they would get the same result: rockets and missiles on their heads, this time in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and Haifa, their population centers. If Gaza had been peaceful since 2005, Israel would probably have withdrawn from the West Bank by now, overriding their settler minority. This was Kadima’s central platform in the 2006 election.
    Please try not to rewrite history, and not ancient history either, but the history of three years ago.
    There are no serious Israeli/Palestinian negotiations right for three reasons, none of which involve Israel expansionism.
    One is the Palestinians can’t talk while they are divided. If one party makes even the smallest concession, the other party will declare them traitors.
    Two is that the Palestinians think they have only to sit and wait and give nothing for ever better offers to come their way. Abu Mazen and Saeb Erekat say so! That hardly squares with your dire vision of a people crushed by Israeli expansionism.
    Three, and most importantly, is that nobody in the Mideast cares about Israel/Palestine just now; all eyes are on Iran. That goes for the Arabs as well as the Israelis.
    Which is why it was utterly stupid for Obama to think he could get anywhere with negotiations, and lots of experienced people tried to tell him so. But Obama thinks he can do everything. He is certainly trying to do everything. He will have compiled an impressive record of failure quite soon.

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  9. Dan Kervick says:

    Diane, however you apportion the blame for the current situation, isn’t it the logical conclusion of the facts you cite that the Palestinians simply have no president right now?

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  10. diane says:

    “I think someone should point out that Mr Mahmoud Abbas is technically not the Palestine President…”
    Well, yes his term expired in Jan 2009, but yr implication that he’s nefariously hanging on to power by refusing to hold elections is a bit misleading. There’s a lot of background that you’re missing out.
    Abbas was elected to the Presidency for a 4-year term beginning Jan 2005. Hamas won the Palestinian parliamentary elections – also for a 4-year term – in Jan 2006. This left the Palestinians with a two headed govt, one part legitimately in the hands of each of the two main competing parties, which is a recipe for chaos esp in those areas where Presidential and Parliamentary responsibilities overlap, eg security. As a result, the Palestinians amended their constitution – the Basic Law – adding an amendment that from now on Presidential and legislative elections must be held simultaneously. This change was made with the consent of legislators from both Hamas and Fatah.
    So, when Abbas’ term expired in Jan 2009, there were two possible scenarios that would satisfy the Basic Law: either the PLC elections could be brought forward, and held simultaneously with a Presidential election held on time. Or the PLC elections could be held on time in Jan 2010 and Presidential elections held at the same time, leaving an interregnum year with Abbas as a technically-expired President remaining in office for the purpose of synchronizing the Parliamentary and Presidential election cycles. Hamas rejected the first option of bringing the PLC elections forward, which was quite reasonable seeing as they had won the 2006 elections fair and square and saw no reason why their term should be shortened by a year. But what is not reasonable is that Hamas, which supported the synchronization of the election cycles, should then claim that Abbas was illegitimately holding on to the Presidency for an extra year, seeing as it was Hamas that ruled out the other option for synchronizing the elections, which was to bring forward the PLC elections by one year.
    (Technically, the Basic Law offers a third option when the office of the President is left vacant, which is that the PLC Speaker should assume the Presidency. But this wouldn’t have resolved the impasse, as the Basic Law limits the time the Speaker can hold the Presidency to a maximum of 90 days, at which time a new Presidential election must be held… which would also require the PLC elections being brought forward, which Hamas had already ruled out.
    Theoretically, perhaps the PLC could pass a new amendment to the Basic Law to specify how the synchronization must be achieved, but that’s a moot point now seeing as so many of Hamas’ delegates are being held by Israel as hostages against the release of Gilad Shalit that the PLC can no longer summon a quorum).
    Anyway, it’s not quite as cut and dried as you suggest.
    If you really think it is Abbas who is holding up the electoral process by refusing to call elections, wait a few weeks and sees how the debate over the scheduling of the PLC elections turns out. Because they are due in Jan 2010, and Abbas – who has to give 90 days notice of the exact date – has already announced that he will formally call for elections when he returns from New York. It is, however, very unlikely that the PLC elections will take place on time, specifically in Gaza, because Hamas does not support the calling of Parliamentary elections for Jan 2010. It is true that the situation on the ground in Gaza is horrible, but Hamas would not find the problems of holding an election there to be insurmountable, if it thought it would win those elections. And that’s the rub. Abbas is enthusiastic for timely elections, and Hamas opposes them, because it looks right ow as if Hamas would not win. So the elections that should have synchronized the electoral cycles probably won’t be held, and the Palestinians will be left with both an expired Presidency and an expired Parliament.

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  11. Zathras says:

    Well, I don’t do profanity, flame wars, sexual references or allusions to the processes or product of the lower digestive tract. I can do bird impressions, but the software on this site doesn’t support them. So I have to throw in pop culture references, usually about sports, every now and then to discourage the idea that I’m not an everyday American and Washington outsider but am instead some kind of alien sitting at the controls of a great machine on Epsilon 3.

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  12. Dan Kervick says:

    “…frankly; in the United States, the question of whether Israelis and Palestinians are negotiating seriously ranks just above the Kansas City Royals’ recent winning streak and just below Colt McCoy’s flu remedy as a subject of media attention and public concern.”
    Zathras, I am shocked, shocked by these wholly unexpected intrusions of popular culture onto your customary high plane of theoretical analysis.

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  13. Dan Kervick says:

    “Dan, just as an aside, I can hardly think of a metaphor more appropriate than “lipstick on a pig”. And if that equally offends both Jews and Muslim, even better.”
    OK, DonS, just so long as Obama remembers that it is our bacon that it is his job to save, not theirs.

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  14. Zathras says:

    President Obama’s statement sounded like that a community organizer might make to cajole two quarreling neighbors to talk with one another about settling their differences. The organizer would hope that the public statement would encourage the neighbors’ friends and relations to shame the disputants into finding a way to live together.
    At least Obama has gone some distance toward persuading those Americans who are paying attention, and who have not signed on as uncritical partisans either of the Israeli government or the Palestinians, that he is not the one to blame for the Middle East stalemate. That’s not much of a prize, frankly; in the United States, the question of whether Israelis and Palestinians are negotiating seriously ranks just above the Kansas City Royals’ recent winning streak and just below Colt McCoy’s flu remedy as a subject of media attention and public concern. It’s not in the United States that Obama needs to put distance between this country and the exasperating, interminable Middle East situation.
    Apart from the message, there is the matter of the messenger. Occasional Presidential statements about the Middle East are unavoidable. Unless they are being made pursuant to a negotiation nearing completion, they should probably steer clear of specifics, as Obama properly did today. However, Obama doesn’t do himself any favors by insisting on always being his administration’s primary spokesman on an issue like this. His rhetoric here — “we have to find a way forward,” “we have to summon the will, “it is absolutely critical that we get this issue resolved” and so forth — is obviously going to come back to haunt him if, as is likely, actors beyond his control do not behave as he would like them to. Because he is President, he also cannot make blunt public assessments when one side or the other does something bound to derail negotiations; nothing a President says can be disavowed or modified later, and everything he says gets remembered.
    In a Presidential campaign, anything that takes the spotlight off the candidate is bad. In government, the President is not the product but the trump card. The spotlight needs to be on his subordinates, not just occasionally but often, and especially when dealing with intractable problems like this one. I actually think the fact that Obama is out front himself on policy toward Israel and the Palestinians is worse for him than anything he felt he had to say in the statement quoted here.

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  15. rc says:

    I think someone should point out that Mr Mahmoud Abbas is technically not the Palestine President — any more than G.W. Bush is. His term expired some time ago and although we hear much about ‘elections’ in war torn Afghanistan we seem to hear nothing about elections (or elected governments – e.g. Hamas) for the Palestinians — including the vast diaspora who live in surrounding countries and abroad. Abbas is just adding tot he problem by his pretense at being what he is not — i.e. he is the past president. Pointing out the fact that a vacuum exists and a Palestinian representative cannot attend a trilateral meeting with any legitimacy would be the first and critical point to make to the US President imo.

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  16. arthurdecco says:

    Carroll said: “It looks like Obama just doesn’t have the balls to do what has to be done. Maybe Putin should take over this problem.”
    You just keep thinking outside the box everyone else is trapped in to my never-ending astonishment and glee.
    And oh yeah, Mr. Clemons – Abbas is the legal “President” of nothing outside the imaginations of pundits paid handsomely to say so.

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  17. DonS says:

    Wigwag, I think that your generation will have to pass before the possibility exists for greater culture to culture communication in the ME. Your prejudices seem fixed. That’s sad, because I’m not far behind you.
    As to Obama being able to provide an assertive environment for coercing the parties to agree to a substantive settlement, I’m willing to suspend my disbelief for a moment and assume that he is not entirely a dupe of AIPAC, or even totally brainwashed, outside of whatever ‘truths’ he egotistically thinks he has access to. And as to being able to garner enough Congressional and other support, or at least rein in active opposition; that obviously is critical. I will venture that meaningfully achieving this involves implicitly taking on the Israel lobby to some degree, a confrontation that has been brewing for years if not decades as the power and arrogance of that lobby has coerced it’s way into the US body politic. This will involve Obama laying out the facts, and the interest of the US in not being dragged into WWIII, to the American people – as they can be laid out by any rhetorician with half a brain and understanding of policy and psychology¸ ¬¬and the currents of American political winds.
    But back to my plan. I do not and cannot subscribe that a President with the conviction to put his political future and capital on the line does not have serious power in the area of ME policy. The power of the Presidency is in a period of ascendency generally. We have plenty of examples from the past — LBJ ‘jawboning’ labor leaders during the auto workers strike comes to mind – of this informal use of power by a president. Why, if this is not such an important moment, should we not expect important action; precedent-setting action? This is the standard Obama should be measured against, and more.
    Dan, just as an aside, I can hardly think of a metaphor more appropriate than “lipstick on a pig”. And if that equally offends both Jews and Muslim, even better. (you’d have to go pretty far to find a Jew that’s offended by it these days). If the US is to play a useful role in this drama of the ME, it will be by incorporating the best in Yankee horsetrading, not attempting to resemble some ME bazaar merchant practiced in the art of sweet tea. I mentioned in an earlier post that part of reconciling dysfunctional family systems is ‘making the covert overt’. In some sense, this is anathema to diplomatize which, I think, involves making the over covert, or at least keeping the covert covert. Some pragmatic amalgam is needed.

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  18. Carroll says:

    No settlements has been a condition of US aid to Israel for 40 years.
    We’ve never enforced it and Israel has never complied with it.
    No transfers of US weapons tech that the US gives to Israel to countries such as China has always been a condition.
    We’ve never enforced it and Israel has violated it repeatedly.
    Force of some kind has to be applied to solve this.
    Anyone and everyone who is so dense that they haven’t yet gotten that ‘more talking’ is not going to produce anything on I-P except more talk needs to ..I don’t know, have their heads examined or whatever.
    It looks like Obama just doesn’t have the balls to do what has to be done. Maybe Putin should take over this problem.

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  19. ... says:

    i disagree wigwag.. aside from the baggage that obama has inherited from previous administrations, he has a hardliner-netanyahu to consider as political leader of israel where peace or negotiation is the last thing he’s ever expressed interest in… even worse, obama has a congress perpetually in servitude to israel…the goldstone commission and the usa administrations response is more of the same…
    making a settlement freeze a precondition to negotiation highlights netanyahu’s bad faith and disinterest in any type of negotiation process.. to say this is all obama’s fault is an attempt to tear obama down further, which only makes sense if israel (and wigwag) really aren’t interested in the peace process…

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  20. Dan Kervick says:

    I guess I’m losing my ability to read the nuances that Steve sees in these Washington statements. Yesterday, it was “pushback”. Today it’s anger. But the statement doesn’t sound angry to me. It just sounds straightforward and resolute.
    What I take away from the statement is that the administration is dropping its approach of beginning with confidence-building measures – particularly the halt in settlement activity – and has decided to move ahead immediately and fairly rapidly to the next stage, summoning the negotiators to Washington next week, with a very early date in mid-October for a report back to the President from the Secretary of State on the status of the negotiations.
    Now, it will be interesting to see whether Obama has learned anything about what happens to your credibility if you start setting goals and requirements for the Israelis and Palestinians without establishing penalties for failure to meet those goals or requirements. I suspect, or at least hope, that Obama will spell out for his two partners tomorrow precisely what steps he will take if the Secretary of State reports unsatisfactory progress in mid-October,and that those steps are sufficiently stimulating to get some serious progress over the next three weeks.
    I sometime wonder if Obama really “gets it” yet about the underlying nature of the conflict. He sometimes seems to project a kind of Hollywood liberal representation of the conflict: a tragic tale of two star-crossed peoples who really want peace, but are ensnared despite themselves in cycles of conflict, of violence and reprisal. It’s like a bad marriage.
    But surely by now he should understand that large numbers of Israelis – possibly a majority of the whole society, and certainly a majority of the governing coalition parties – are determined to continue expanding into the West Bank indefinitely. They don’t want peace; they want victory. Or let’s say they only want the kind of peace that comes with victory.
    Now I’m sure Nadine will fill us in about the wretchedness of the Palestinians. Let’s just acknowledge that there are substantial numbers of Palestinians with maximalist agendas as well. All these endless rounds and proposals for peace processes and negotiations among the parties put the emphasis in the wrong place. As president, what Obama really needs to realize is that the reason we have to care about this conflict is that its existence is a perpetual, destabilizing threat to *the rest of us*. It poses a chronic risk of expanded conflict in a region where an expanded conflict would be disastrous. He needs to get over the indulgent sob stories and stylized about Israelis and Palestinians, and start focusing on global security, and on the lives, security and well-being of the next generation of Americans, most of whom have no personal affective or self-interested stake in one little sliver of land on the Mediterranean – but whose futures are jeopardized by what happens there.
    The rest of the world needs either to figure out how to force a settlement on two parties who are indifferently inclined to making one, or else just to allow the struggle to continue until one side wins and achieves something close to its maximalist ends. That winner will most likely be the Israelis. But the process by which they achieve victory might involve a devastating war which embroils us all and kills many Americans.
    Netanyahu seems to have settled on some kind of economic development approach to the conflict. He has allowed his lips to utter the word “state”. But what he really seems to have in mind is that a certain number of Palestinians can be co-opted by the lure of economic prosperity and promises of development funds to help build a prosperous Palestinian ghetto inside an Israeli state, similar to the classic Jewish ghettos of Europe.
    On a separate point, since we are talking about Jews and Muslims, maybe we should use more tactful analogies than ones involving pigs.

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  21. WigWag says:

    Obama has no one but himself to blame. If he’s angry, the person he should be angry at is himself.
    Abbas and Olmert met almost continuously during the last several months of the Bush Administration. Those negotiating sessions would have continued after Netanyahu’s election had Obama not introduced his counterproductive settlement freeze idea. The Israelis naturally demurred and when they did, Abbas had no choice but to call off the negotiations for fear of looking weak.
    Why don’t you admit it Steve; more intense negotiations occurred under the stewardship of Condi Rice, Eliot Abrams and George W. Bush than have occurred under the stewardship of Hillary Clinton, George Mitchell and Barack Obama.
    According to Laura Rozen this is what George Mitchell said in his press conference this afternoon,
    “Neither the Secretary, the President or I, ever said, of any one issue, that [settlements] or any other, that it is a precondition to negotiations,”
    Funny isn’t it; just a few short months ago the Administration was making the settlement freeze including Jerusalem the sine qua non of the negotiating process.
    Now that he’s sabotaged the negotiations, Obama is getting impatient that the two parties aren’t meeting. I’m sure his frustration will get the parties into serious discussions tout de suite.
    I have an idea, maybe Obama can get some of his supporters to give their “yes we can” buttons to Abbas and Netanyahu. With that magical incantation ringing in their ears how can they fail to make a peace deal?
    Putting lipstick of a pig is a good metaphor here; the problem is that the pig in question is Obama’s naivety.

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  22. Kathleen Grasso Andersen says:

    Porky pig doesn’t work for Muslims either….I think jingling the purse at NutandYahoo would have chilling effect…Obummer has veto power over any budget, but that would take a pair..
    Why should NutandYahoo budge with the US putting its shoulder into protecting Isreal at the UN…If Obummer really wanted something to come from the trilateral tete a tete, his Ambassador to the UN would be SUPPORTING the Golstone Report…then he’d see someone budge…
    The US routinely says one thing pulbicly while working behind the scenes to make something quite else come to pass…they get the PR of supposedly trying to bring about peace…without paying the price of actually forcing Isreal to honor UN reslotions re Gaza,and the West Bank
    And since when did Abbas win the election? What’s with this President Abbas?

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  23. Don Bacon says:

    Steve,
    That sure is a flashy ad you have running on your masthead. Clicking on it reveals: “This official website, managed by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, provides factual information addressing the legal and political context of the conflict in Gaza, the issue of Gaza war crimes, the issue of human rights and the investigations into the Israeli military conduct during combat.”
    Going further reveals propaganda from the Government of Israel justifying their assaults on Arab civilians. Going even further uncovers the labeling of Justice Goldstone’s UN Report as “blood libel.”
    Now paid ads for consumer products are one thing. Acting as a paid mouthpiece for a foreign power is quite another.
    Steve, have you registered as an agent of a foreign power, i.e. Israel?

    Reply

  24. Steve Clemons says:

    Linda — it’s not halal either! all best, steve

    Reply

  25. Linda says:

    Putting lipstick on a pig isn’t kosher!

    Reply

  26. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “In this case he could use the power of the purse by threatening to halt funding to Israel for a few years in order to get the Knesset and the Israeli PM to move their butts”
    You really don’t get it, do you?
    No matter what move Obama makes, he will only make himself appear more weak and impotent if he pursues a hardline with Israel. Reid fucked him. There is NO WAY that Obama can recover from the efforts of his party to defang him in regards to Israel. Do you really think Reid and Company are going to support Obama in cutting or diminishing funding to Israel??? Whats to stop this piece of shit Reid or Hoyer from going back to Israel and announcing to the world that Obama does not have the backing of Congress for a cut in funding, like Hoyer did on the settlement issue? Or whats to stop them from publically airing another letter admonishing Obama to “back off” on the funding issue???
    The cat is out of the bag, these two have announced, LOUDLY, that Obama stands alone on the settlement issue. I can only imagine how mutinous they would get if Obama threatened to mess with Israel’s gravy train.

    Reply

  27. Martin says:

    Steve, I love your sentence; “Obama is — angry — in a somewhat cool-headed Obamaesque way.” Obama needs to be a lot less Obamaesque and take a few pages from his chief of staff’s book, that is its time to become hard-nosed on a few issues. McChrystal & Afghanistan, Healthcare, as well as this. In this case he could use the power of the purse by threatening to halt funding to Israel for a few years in order to get the Knesset and the Israeli PM to move their butts. Israel has been playing around with the settlement issue, its about time that the U.S. played back.

    Reply

  28. DonS says:

    I don’t know, or have strong belief, that Obama can move things forward, domestically or with the ME players. However, the fact that he engaged the leaders (rather than letting things slide further into oblivion), and called for “action”, represents another deposit of political capital.
    Failure of the parties to produce diminishes Obama, though it’s hard to imagine it can worsen the situation on the ground. So whereas he may be setting himself up to fail, it’s better than building himself an escape hatch. It might be just another sign of naivete, or kabuki, but it still gives an appearance of pushing the process albeit in an “Obamaesque” way. Time will tell.
    I don’t know how or when, or if, Obama gets the domestic actors into the Oval office and reads them the riot act. But if that piece isn’t confronted, Obama maybe buying lumber for the escape hatch sooner than later.

    Reply

  29. PissedOffAmerican says:

    So where is President Obama’s criticism for Reid and Hoyer’s purposeful efforts to take the teeth out of his ability to negotiate or force concessions from Netanyahu?
    For whatever reason, (although I certainly can’t think of one that makes me comfortable), we can ignore Reid and Hoyers’ derailment of Obama’s negotiating power until hell freezes over, but it doesn’t negate any common-sensical conclusions about the damage Reid and Hoyer have done as representatives of the President’s party, (above and beyond the damage done by Huckabee and Cantor’s efforts).
    What, we are supposed to be suprised at Obama’s inability to sway Netanyahu? Why be suprised, when Reid and a huge contingent of Dems cut Obama’s balls off before he even got in the ring with Netanyahu?
    (Don’t worry Steve, my truck gets out of the shop this afternoon, so I’ll be going back to work during days. In truth, man, my monicker has never been more apropos.)
    Now, watch as we derail any efforts by the UN to hold Israel accountable for the crimes described by the Goldstone report.
    Along those lines, here is the official propaganda site of Israel concerning this report….
    http://www.mfa.gov.il/GazaFacts/About/Operation-Cast-Lead-against-Hamas.htm
    It seems to fall pathetically short of addressing the actual accusations that the Goldstone Report contains, choosing instead to dish up the usual horseshit about defending themselves against bottle rockets, stones, and half starved teenagers. Talk about putting lipstick on a pig, Israel’s defense of Operation Cast Lead epitomizes the expression.

    Reply

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