Israel-Palestine Plate Heating Up


obama bibi.jpgHelene Cooper of the New York Times has published a great what’s up story on the new behind the scenes scramble by the Obama administration, Prime Minister Netanyahu and various Palestinian officials to act as if they have some plan to move the peace process forward — when in fact, most of it is insincere posturing and speechifying designed to pour concrete on what has thus far been failure.
Brookings’ Martin Indyk is quoted calling out all this public flapping in the Cooper piece:

“Instead of focusing on peace-making, everybody seems to be focused on speech-making,” said Martin S. Indyk, vice president for foreign policy at the Brookings Institution and a former United States ambassador to Israel. “And unless the speeches generate peace negotiations, making speeches will not generate peace.”

But the reality is that the President of the United States knows that he can’t “do nothing” on Israel/Palestine. As US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice warned in her powerful comments today at the United Nations, violence is heating up. She accused Hamas and others of targeting innocent civilians — and called for calm. But there is little likelihood that the component pieces of the Israel-Palestine puzzle will willingly accept the status quo, particularly one in which Israel keeps expanding its settlements in Occupied territories.
Daniel Levy, my colleague who directs the New America Foundation/Middle East Task Force, also said to Cooper, Netanyahu and Obama are both in competition to control the frame surrounding Israel/Palestine issues — they feel the need to rush forward, but neither seems willing to do what needs to be done to achieve real negotiations and a fundamental breakthrough.
Cooper reports from Daniel Levy:

“People seem to think that whoever goes first gets the upper hand,” said Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator and a director at the New America Foundation. Using Mr. Netanyahu’s nickname, he said: “If Bibi went first and didn’t lay out a bold peace plan, it would be harder for Obama to say, actually, despite what you said to Congress and their applause, this is what I think you should do.”
The political gamesmanship between the two men illustrates how the calculation in the Middle East has changed for a variety of reasons, including the political upheaval in the Arab world. But it also shows the lack of trust and what some officials say is personal animosity between Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice at a Security Council debate this morning reiterated that the US remained committed to a two-state solution, did not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity, and said that it is in the interest of both parties in the conflict and the world to negotiate. Rice outlined America’s support for the efforts of the Palestinian government, and the unmentioned Salam Fayyad, to lay the foundations for a future Palestinian state – building public institutions, enhancing their capacity and laying the groundwork for quality economic growth.
She condemned the death of innocent civilians recently and the escalation of rocket and mortar fire from Gaza.
But this speech by Rice, while important, falls short of a plan.
What is missing is President Obama’s vision for what needs to be done to achieve a stable equilibrium between Palestine and Israel — not full details, but at least an outline of expectations and goals.
Obama seems unwilling to make his own weather in the Middle East and his team and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seem to cling to the bizarre notion that after so many examples when both Israeli and Palestinian leaders have failed to mature and responsible about their long term mutual interests that they would all of a sudden begin to do so. Israel’s short term interests and long term interests are different — and thus in the short term, with a party that Israel fundamentally does not trust, it is hard for Israel to make the jump to do a deal that secures its long term survival and interests in the region.
Israel’s government, even under Netanyahu, probably doesn’t have the legs to do a real peace deal at this point — and the Palestinian Authority is in the same boat, though with more leaky holes springing water and sinking.
What will move the process forward is American and Quartet leadership that doesn’t make the conflict one just between these two parties. Their failure has become globally consequential and reinforces an impression of American foreign policy impotence.
It’s important for the President of the United States to kick forward a serious plan laying out his expectations — and then a subsequent plan embraced by regional and global stakeholders to actualize it.
Otherwise, Indyk is completely right that what we are hearing from all quarters are meaningless speeches achieving nothing.
— Steve Clemons


22 comments on “Israel-Palestine Plate Heating Up

  1. Cee says:

    What a load.
    Photo by: Reuters
    Hezbollah terror attack on Israelis abroad


  2. Kathleen says:

    And this too.
    No fly zone over the Gaza and West Bank too
    You know because Samantha Powers, Susan Rice, Hillary Clinton, Obama are all about stopping “massacres, slaughters” Oh those are only words and reasons they will use for Libyans etc not Palestinians


  3. Kathleen says:

    Oh and while I am at it come one come all
    CODEPINK: Women for Peace, Global Exchange, Interfaith Peace-builders, and the Fellowship of Reconciliation, together with over 100 peace and justice groups, are organizing a gathering in Washington DC from May 21-24, 2011, called


  4. Kathleen says:

    Bill thanks for mentioning Phil Weiss. Adam Horowitz and Phil Weiss are remarkable and brave individuals Although have not heard Phil say what I have heard all of the above mentioned say. That US support for Israel no matter what they do, no matter how many illegal settlements they keep building, no matter how much land Israel steals, no matter how many Palestinians they kill, how many Palestinian homes, olive groves Israel destroys, no matter how many UN resolutions Israel is in violation of, how many war crimes they commit one administration after the next rolls over.
    Check out how Israel conducts prison (cough) exercises.
    This is what democracy looks like


  5. kathleen says:

    Jane “Why should any of us pay this fiasco any attention. ?”
    Let’s start with compassion, empathy and a deep sense of justice. Then lets move to that Former President Jimmy Carter, Illan Pappe, Edward Said, Vanessa Redgrave, Queen Noor, King of Jordan, former head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit Micheal Scheuer, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, Kathleen and Bill Christison, Brezenski, Scowcroft, Zinni, former weapons inspector Scott Ritter and many more continue to tell us that US support for Israel no matter what they do has pissed people off in this part of the world for decades. That these unfalr and lop sided policies undermine US National Security.
    As well as US support for dictators, US military bases on their lands.
    Hell the 9/11 Commission report even mentions how our support for Israel no matter what they do (endlessly expanding and building illegal settlements) undermines US National security.
    So if you do not think “compassion and empathy” are enough reasons to pay attention to this “fiasco” You might want to pay attention for selfish reasons. This is one of the reasons that so many people in that world hate our asses


  6. Kathleen says:

    “Posted by Kathleen Grasso Andersen, Apr 21 2011, 4:22PM – Link
    Clearly the “leaders” are incpable of leading. There really is no need for a new plan….the US just needs to back up the numerous UN resolutions calling for the enforcement of the 1967 borders….this has been the rub from day one….our failure to stand firm is why we are in this current stalemate…it’s so stupid, it’s tragic.”
    Bingo. And Israel continues to expand and build more illegal settlements in the West Bank and illegal housing in E Jerusalem. And Clinton, Obama wonder why Palestinians are not willing to come to the table until this persistent undermining of any real peace efforts stops.
    Israeli Police Terrorize Prisoners – Press CC for English Subtitles


  7. Jane Christ says:

    Who profits from the present stalement ? Not the Palestinians from whom land is being stolen.Israel is the big winner in terms of territory gained but not interms of world opinion, should they even care.Obama is only interested in getting re-elected it seems and for this he needs to cowtail
    to the AIPAC Israeli lobby.Why should any of us pay this fiasco any attention. ?


  8. Carroll says:

    Nothing new here.
    “Netanyahu in July 2007 sent a special memorandum of his plan for an Israeli Unity Government to the U.S. State Department (in a telegram marked confidential), he was also intervening in American politics and probably with coordination on the American side.
    He had done the same in 1996–when, as the historian Taylor Branch reports Bill Clinton saying–“his Likud agents in the United States joined Republicans eager to stir up suspicions against Clinton’s Middle East diplomacy. . . . [Clinton] called it scandalous electioneering by and with a foreign political party.”
    Israel is just an outpost, the actual Jewish State is America.


  9. Sand says:

    “…politicians are bought and paid for.. it is a plutocracy… wake up!
    In addition (IMHO):
    “media[?]” are bought and paid for.. it is a plutocracy… wake up!
    e.g: UK DAILY MAIL [Major fluff news rag]:
    –“‘F*** You Republicans!’: University gender professor e-mails student group a piece of her mind
    By [***Daily Mail Reporter***]
    Last updated at 11:37 PM on 21st April 2011”
    Read more:–You-Republicans–University-professor-gives-student-group-piece-mind.html#ixzz1KDnLpSTu
    “….We’re sorry but reader comments are currently unavailable….”


  10. ... says:

    who is the liberal in this conversation? what a stupid waste of a word on americans anyway…it gets misused regularly… i guess dk is using it on steve here although he doesn’t directly say…
    dk quote “I disagree with the pie-in-the-sky liberal line that this expansion is actually not in Israel’s long-term interests and is “self-destructive”. Bah! Tell that to the Cherokee nation, and other eradicated peoples!” no kidding.. i thought everyone knew this… it is just more of the bs coming out of israel and the usa…


  11. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Gads. Another Kervick epiphany. Hallelujah!
    As far as Steve’s essay goes, yaaaaaawn. Whats he really saying? Its obvious Obama has no balls on this issue, and Hillary mediating this issue is laughable. Does anyone REALLY think she takes any sort of hardline with Netanyahu behind closed doors??? Hell, I seriously believe she and Netanyahu probably enjoy more than a few chuckles at Obama’s expense.
    As Dan points out, its bullshit. Steve will never admit it, (because he hasn’t yet, despite the glaring evidence), that Obama can’t do jack sh-t about this issue, because Congress, and his own party, simply undermine him, openly. I can just imagine how forceful this “mutiny” is behind closed doors. Geez, just cruise over to the AIPAC website, and marvel at the daily parade of DC —-s (ryhmes with mutts) prostituting themselves to Israel.
    “I’m surprised Clemons hasn’t recognized this obvious pattern yet”
    HUH???? He’s PART of the pattern, John. Haven’t you noticed his disengagement from the issue, and, when engaged, his obvious adherence to the script???
    Read his essay again, John. You see Israel’s murderous policies and violence mentioned??? But he made sure to mention Palestinian violence, didn’t he?


  12. non-hater says:

    “Israel’s government, even under Netanyahu, probably doesn’t have the legs to do a real peace deal at this point” –Clemons
    Yes, that’s probably true, but it’s also probably true that Netanyahu could freeze settlement-building if he wanted to. He doesn’t.
    Nothing has changed since I started posting here a year or two ago. The US remains the only country that has leverage over Israel, and domestic politics prevents its use and will continue to prevent its use for the foreseeable future.


  13. Dan Kervick says:

    This is all BS. Obama is now in full spectrum fund-raising mode, and knows he is moving into primary season, and so his political advisers have told him he needs to start throwing some bones to the left, and to the peace camp in the American Jewish community, to try to get them all re-energized by this time next year. Nothing is happening; nothing will happen.
    The fact is that under the current international circumstances, it is in Israel’s self-interest to keep taking more Palestinian land and keep expanding into Palestine. I disagree with the pie-in-the-sky liberal line that this expansion is actually not in Israel’s long-term interests and is “self-destructive”. Bah! Tell that to the Cherokee nation, and other eradicated peoples! Yes, there are local and short-term prices to be paid by Israel. But there are big territorial benefits as well. And as long as there is no serious international price being exacted for subjugating Palestinians and pushing them off the land Israel wants, there will always be more benefits than costs in Israeli estimations. It’s futile to try to talk Israel into believing that it is not actually in their interest to walk down the international red carpet for territorial expansion.
    If liberals want to get serious about this, then they have to get serious about seeing to it that Israel pays a steep and real price for the acquisition of territory by force. If they are not willing to take steps to exact this price, then they should just shut up. I’m betting they opt to yammer and complain mindlessly and ineffectually, which is the functional equivalent of shutting up.
    Obama himself has nothing important to say about almost anything that I can tell. He’s a cipher. He’s just filling the gap between one era and the next.


  14. Cee says:

    This man didn’t deserve a mention in the US, yet the journalists who died in Afghanistan did.
    I have no doubt as to who hired the murderers.
    April 21, 2011 at 09:15 (Palestine, Israel, DesertPeace Editorial, Gaza, International Solidarity, Activism, Assassinations)


  15. Kathleen Grasso Andersen says:

    Colindale…thank you for the facts on the UN Resolution establishig the State of Israel in the midst of Palestine…I have never felt that this was fair at all…but having done this, the least the UN can do is enforce the 1967 borders.
    I disagree that the establishmet of Israel did not effect the countries who supported it…this allowed them to indulge their own anti-semitism by sending all the holocaust survivors away…sorry to be so cynical but it was grossly unjust to punish Palestininas for what the Nazis and their lackeys did.


  16. JohnH says:

    The whole frame here is nonsense. Indyk is right. This is speechifying. And if Obama lays out his vision, as Clemons requests, it’s just another meaningless speech, because that’s what Obama’s speeches are.
    By now we all should know Obama’s modus operandi–he makes a beautiful speech and then makes no effort at follow-up, letting the chips fall where they may. I’m surprised Clemons hasn’t recognized this obvious pattern yet.
    Obama’s speeches have as much importance as those of Martin Sheen, play acting as President on West Wing. Obama would have been better off going to Hollywood and sparing us of his mindless speechifying. He would have been a natural.


  17. COLINDALE London says:

    FACTS to help in understanding why the Occupied
    Territories are unacceptable, and why there will
    be no peace. T
    The United Nations General Assemby Resolution No.
    181 of the 29 November 1947 called for the
    partition of Palestine thereby authorising the
    creation of a new state of Israel within a wholly
    Muslim region.
    Thirteen (13) countries representing virtually the
    whole of the Middle East voted against whilst not
    one indigenous country in the whole of the African
    continent voted for the resolution.
    Thirty (30) states, primarily from South America,
    the US, the USSR and Australia


  18. Kathleen Grasso Andersen says:

    Clearly the “leaders” are incpable of leading. There really is no need for a new plan….the US just needs to back up the numerous UN resolutions calling for the enforcement of the 1967 borders….this has been the rub from day one….our failure to stand firm is why we are in this current stalemate…it’s so stupid, it’s tragic.


  19. ... says:

    “Ask Israel, via a series of townhall events, some votes, tv shows… just what “security” means to them.” lol… i wish you were kidding!
    politics at this point is 90% or more bribery and 10% positioning… we differ in our view… politicians are bought and paid for.. it is a plutocracy… wake up!


  20. questions says:

    The speeches aren’t really “meaningless”! They are positioning, which is 90% of the labor of politics. Maybe bribery is the other 10? But bribes need the positioning!
    Seriously, everyone is trying to out-manipulate everyone else. Boehner’s invite is a direct challenge to voters in a couple of key states in 2012. He’s completely right to do this for his own position and his party’s good.
    Obama is playing a different game, but game it is. He sees the worthiness of broadening pro-US space in the non-Israel MENA world, and he has reputational concerns personally, domestically and internationally. He’s completely right to do what he’s doing for his own position, for his party’s position, and for the next developments in the broader MENA world.
    The Hamas factions who are rocketing have a game. The settlers have a game. The domestic set up in Israel is being gamed. Netanyahu is playing the Republicans against the dems against his own domestic mess against Hamas and Fatah and the broader ME. And every one of these parties is completely in the right in their behavior too.
    One could go crazy trying to figure out exactly how these insincere gestures are hoping to be greeted by the various parties. One wonders if the people involved have even bothered to think through fully just what the results might be.
    So, a step at a time…..
    Ask Israel, via a series of townhall events, some votes, tv shows… just what “security” means to them.
    Until there’s a working definition of the ever changing boundaries of “security”, ain’t nothin’ happening.
    Of course, “security” will be defined in some impossible-to-meet way, as that is the national psyche, and it has just enough basis in rationality and in escalation dominance games that in fact, “security” can’t be met.
    Without security, then, one has to ask what kind of vaguely acceptable “status” can be reached, and then we get into all the cravings for the dignity of statehood rather than “status” and the deep psychic investment in place and identity that is really strong.
    I find it interesting that the movers and shakers of capital have no concern about nation at all while the ME is full of concern about nation. Maybe if we just grant everyone a few billion, they’ll move to the Caymans?!
    The structure is really set up for there to be no trust, no clear communication, no verification of disarmament. The parties cannot really get divorced, cannot really stay married, are abusing the hell out of each other, and someone calls the emergency service every night after a bruising fight.
    They are in a system, they have to find a way out of the dynamic they are in, and they have to find it with no trust, no control over the behavior of their cohorts, no way to convince anyone on any side that giving up anything is a safe bet.
    It’s truly amazing to watch this from the outside in dumb horror at how foolish each party is with every escalation, every bit of rhetoric, every refusal to stop and think, every kind gesture. And to know all the while that every step is pre-ordained by the deeply compelling logic of escalation dominance, of prisoners dilemmas, of getting everyone to be the first to take a risk rather than to take the sane step of escalating.
    If Israel doesn’t retaliate on a massive scale, it invites more attacks. If Hamas doesn’t attack, it looks weak and loses domestic power and it gives Israel more room to encroach, but Israel will encroach in retaliation anyway. So why ever bother NOT rocketing in the first place?
    There are people on both sides who “get” it. But those people aren’t the majority, aren’t setting the zeitgeist, aren’t convincing others, and every time a rocket goes off, someone gets killed, Israel overreacts and commits a crime, every time the situation escalates — as it must do — the ones who would not negotiate are “proven” “right” once again, and the ones who “get it” about escalation dominance games are “proven” to be fantasists.
    How do you structure an argument about reality when reality frustrates the terms of your argument, even when you’re basically right?
    How do you de-escalate and escalation dominance game?
    How’d the Cold War end? Did we stop the arms race?
    How do violent marriages end?
    Nations can be thought of as individuals with divided souls and competing and incoherent preference schemes. Maybe it’s time for some psychoanalysts and family systems therapists to meet with the diplomacy corps? You never know what might emerge.


  21. DonS says:

    Interesting spectacle, is it not. Netanyahu essentially to make a speech to HIS congress.
    Obama likely far more interested in the ’12 election calculus than seriously engaging I/P.
    Short term interests trump long term interest in Israel.
    Short term domestic political interests trump long term strategic interests with president.
    The administration doesn’t seem seriously engaged, nor seriously interested in leveraging Israel. The congress is simply Israel’s lap dog . . . and the president seems irrelevant.
    What factor would prove a ‘game changer’ to alter administration policy and action, not just words? Arab Spring doesn’t seem to have changed things much? Am I missing something?


  22. ... says:

    endless settlement expansion is the name of the game, with a rubber stamp (and huge military funding for gaza wars and etc) from american congress.. the wealthy base are keen to do in action the exact opposite of what the leaders are saying in words… keep on stalling for another 50 years.. what a game plan…


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