She has been very quiet for an awfully long time, this professor of history – maybe she has tried to tally the steadily growing pile of bodies in Syria but ran out on numbers, or maybe she just wants to get some free marketing for a book she has written. Whatever, no prizes for guessing that her only remedy is to bash Israel. Can somebody please point her back to her dusty cupboard, until she realizes that the more pressing issues are not in Israel but in the many surrounding states, e.g Syria on which topic she has had preciously little to contribute with as the corpses pile up. Alternatively, can somebody buy her a ticket to Gaza, it has sort of gone tits up there after her very bright analysis of Hamas on Norwegian TV in 2006: Hamas is the closest you get to the (Norwegian) Christian Democratic Party and the Norwegian Laymen’s Movement. Or she can try Tahrir square for the unmatchable combination of brutal repression and rampant sexual harassment.
lifted from nrk.no (very bad google translate job)
Obama and the Middle East – what now?
Tuesday, it was announced that President Obama heads to Israel in March. He could use “money and weapons” and put them as a condition for Israel to change its policy. But will he do it, asks Hilde Henriksen Waage.
Professor of History. Having recently released book “Conflict and power politics in the Middle East”
Hilde Henriksen Waage
On 20. January 2009, Barak Obama was inaugurated as the new president of USA. What was the newly elected president plan to do with the increasingly hopeless relationship between Israel and the Palestinians? Would – and could – Obama help create peace in the Middle East?
The President was certainly very aggressively out, to many people’s surprise: It “will be the policy of my administration to actively and aggressively seek a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and between Israel and its Arab neighbors,” Obama said two days after the inauguration. Obama really wanted to highlight that his Middle East policy was different than the previous Bush administration. The newly elected president stretched out a conciliatory hand to the Muslim world.
The differences could not have been greater
In Israel, however, the right-wing government of Binyamin Netanyahu came to power in the elections of February 2009. The gap in political attitudes between the new administration in Washington and the new government in Jerusalem could hardly have been greater. Netanyahu was not at all interested in resolving the conflict with the Palestinians. For him, the Iran at the top of the agenda. Obama would in turn that Israel should stop building new settlements in the West Bank.
But that Netanyahu refused to accommodate. He put in place in time a new, ambitious resettlement program in both the West Bank and East Jerusalem. He and his government did not want a Palestinian state. After a massive American pressure went anyway with Netanyahu to halt settlement construction for ten months. An important exception, however, was made for East Jerusalem, where development continued unabated.
As long as not all development was stopped, refused Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to enter negotiations with the Israelis. An exasperated President Obama in January, 2010, after only one year in the White House, stating that his government had “overestimated its ability to persuade them”, ie Israel and the Palestinians. “If we realized this before,” Obama continued, “we would not have created such high expectations.”
A dream shattered
Obama then lowered the requirement to Israel and was satisfied that Netanyahu offered to halt construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank – which was already half a million Jewish settlers – to September 2010. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas went after this with to resume talks with Israel, but not face to face in direct negotiations, which had been the standard since the Oslo process started in 1993.
It was now recognized “indirect talks”, led by the U.S. special envoy George Mitchell, who was commuting between Jerusalem and Ramallah and deliver opinions. In Washington, the program with indirect negotiations portrayed as a great victory, though in reality it was taking many steps back. But Obama was happy, and he sent Vice President Joe Biden to the Middle East to highlight the progress of the so-called peace process.
But there the mood had now become explosive. The Israeli government had since it took office in March 2009, stepped up construction of Jewish settlements sharply, particularly in densely populated Palestinian areas in East Jerusalem. To accommodate all the new settlements, the government had also decided to demolish the old Palestinian houses in the area. Not only that Palestinians their houses being destroyed. They also dream of a Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital, being crushed in the process.
Obama was playing checkmate
In the midst of Vice President Joe Bidens visit, announced the Israeli government that 1,600 new homes would be built in East Jerusalem. The timing could not have been less well chosen. Or maybe the timing just was well chosen set of Israeli eyes?
For a year, the Obama administration had tried to revive peace talks, and the Americans’ main demands had been halt the expansion of settlements. After the United States had finally yielded to Israel’s intransigence and accepted a resolution that entailed suspension for ten months, the Israelis tightened the screw further and highlighted emphatically who it was who decided over war and peace in the Middle East. Abbas resigned immediately from the indirect talks. Obama was playing checkmate of Israel.
Then it was over to President Obama’s attempt to “actively and aggressively” to contribute to peace. In reality lasted peace talks this year alone. The indirect peace talks were resumed admittedly, but nothing came out of them.
It was wrong to try
To improve relations between the U.S. and Israel, Israel received $ 205 million in additional military aid – in addition to the annual three billion they receive from the U.S.. In July 2010, Netanyahu visited Washington, and this time the tone was completely different than before. Obama assured Netanyahu that “the U.S. will not ask Israel to do anything that undermines its security.” U.S. and Israel had in fact “unbreakable” ties. The conclusion of Obama’s advisers was not that the U.S. should get tougher with Israel in new peace talks, but that it was a mistake by Obama to be tried in the first place.
Israel had been successful on both counts, the Palestinians had lost. A two-state solution with Israel and Palestine side by side was farther than ever, a separate Palestinian state equally. While the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians was worse and Palestinian territory shrinking, Obama turned the attention completely away from the Middle East. U.S. President had nothing else to do than to contribute to the American policy that would probably cost him his job in the White House.
Taking the money and weapons, ignoring the advice
What will Obama do in his second presidential term? Will he re-embark on the deadlocked conflict between Israel and the Palestinians? He will no longer be re-elected. Does this make him a bigger space? Maybe. But all the obstacles that destroyed for Obama’s peace offensive in his first term, is still present. Also rumored in Jerusalem that Obama has a poor relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu that he again will try out a new peace offensive.
As U.S. President Obama still has big muscles. He could use “money and weapons” and put them as a condition for Israel to change its policy. But will he do it? Will Obama try again? And what will the Israelis do?
Israel’s former defense minister Moshe Dayan summed up how he and Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir as the relationship to the United States in the following manner: “America gives us weapons, money and advice. We welcome your weapons, we’ll take the money, and we ignore the advice. ”
There is little evidence that this attitude has changed significantly in Israel that Obama is now embarking on his second presidential term in the White House.