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Netanyahu and Obama on the brink -- again

The crisis in the Middle East peace talks over Israeli settlement construction is "coming to a head," Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren told me in a video interview on Wednesday. If the process fails -- which currently seems as likely as not -- another fracture between the Obama administration and the Israeli government of Binyamin Netanyahu may follow.

Click here to watch the video interview with Ambassador Oren.

In the next day or two, Netanyahu will determine whether his right-wing cabinet will accept a U.S. proposal that a ten-month freeze on building in the Jewish towns of the West Bank be renewed for another 60 to 90 days, in exchange for a series of American concessions -- including a promise not to ask for any more extensions. The cabinet is closely divided; Netanyahu himself has taken a neutral stance. The decision could hinge on small parties representing immigrant Russians and ultra-Orthodox Jews -- both of which have so far opposed any further restrictions on settlements.

If Netanyahu rejects the U.S. offer, the current impasse in his peace talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will almost certainly harden into a freeze. On Friday, the Arab League will very likely back Abbas's position that he cannot proceed with the talks unless the settlement moratorium is renewed.

Both sides agree that the issue is purely symbolic. No Israeli settlement construction that occurs in the next year -- the term set for reaching a peace agreement -- will have a material impact on the final agreement. Both sides say they want the negotiations to continue. So why might settlements kill the talks?

The main reason, in my view, is that the Obama administration has once again chosen to ask Netanyahu for an unnecessary concession -- and one he may be unable to deliver.

Netanyahu finds himself in a familiar bind. When he last led an Israeli government, in the late 1990s, he also came under crushing U.S. pressure to make concessions in an earlier round of peace talks. When he did so, his right-wing allies deserted him, while Israel's left-wing parties refused to support him. His government fell, and he lost the subsequent election.

The same fate could befall Netanyahu if he accepts Obama's offer. Right-wing parties in his coalition could turn against him -- and the largest center-left opposition party is signaling that it will not back up the prime minister even though it supports the settlement moratorium. So the prime minister is unlikely to accept the deal with the U.S. unless he can persuade his coalition partners to go along.

At the same time, Netanyahu knows that if he rejects the deal, he will anger Obama -- who hasn't shied from open confrontations with Israel over settlements. Obama isn't likely to turn on Netanyahu before the U.S. midterm elections; but a breakdown in the peace process could seriously complicate relations between the two countries next year, when Israel hopes the United States will act decisively to stop Iran's nuclear program.

Another U.S.-Israel crisis is probably what Abbas is hoping for -- and why he has taken a hard-line position on the settlement issue. The Palestinian president has engaged in negotiations with Israeli governments for years without demanding any such freeze. But he appears convinced that he cannot negotiate a deal with Netanyahu -- a conviction that was publicly articulated by one of his top aides, Yasser Abed Rabbo, in a radio interview Thursday.

All along, Abbas has shown scant interest in these peace talks -- he made a point of saying he was dragged to the bargaining table. He turned down a far-reaching peace offer from Netanyahu's predecessor, Ehud Olmert. If he were genuinely interested in reaching a peace settlement with Israel, he could set aside the settlement issue without risking his own hold on power.

So why has the Obama administration chosen to focus its diplomacy on extracting a purely symbolic but next-to-impossible concession from Netanyahu? That will be the question worth asking if the peace process breaks down this weekend.

By Jackson Diehl  | October 7, 2010; 8:12 AM ET
Categories:  Diehl  | Tags:  Jackson Diehl  
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Comments

If stopping the expansion of the settlements is purely symbolic, why don't the Israeli's accept the moratorium? It is because it isn't symbolic to part of the ruling party. The extreme parts of the Israeli political system will not give up the settlements. Please quit making excuses for the Israeli position. When are the Israelis going to do something difficult?

Posted by: mg11231 | October 7, 2010 9:15 AM | Report abuse

There are many commentators - Diehl is certainly one of them - whose primary allegiance is to the state of Israel. For them, US exists only so that it can do all the dirty work for Israel.

Posted by: nbshrest | October 7, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Here is what Obama has promised Israel in return for a 60-DAY NON-RENEWABLE EXTENSION of a freeze on construction of settlements in the West Bank:

* military hardware
* support for long-term Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley
* help to enforce the ban on smuggling weapons through a Palestinian state
* a promise to VETO UN Security Council resolutions critical of Israel during the talks
* a pledge to forge a regional security agreement for the Middle East

Why not just say we are giving Israel anything it wants and be done with it? Frankly, I am tired of
"foreign affairs" trumping domestic affairs. Stop catering to Israel, Mexico and other countries and start worrying about the problems of joblessness, poverty, homelessness and more in our own country.

Posted by: Utahreb | October 7, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

As a nation, we need to get past the conceit that it is our job to keep everybody else from killing each other.

Posted by: dataflunky | October 7, 2010 9:35 AM | Report abuse

History can give one some ideas here! Pres. Truman recognized the State of Israel without defined borders. The Palestinians should get this thing done! Go for it, so that by this time next year they will have a State. Problelms completely solved? No, but a beginning for the Palestinian people.

Posted by: ritapolicarpotexas | October 7, 2010 9:38 AM | Report abuse

"a breakdown in the peace process could seriously complicate relations between the two countries next year, when Israel hopes the United States will act decisively to stop Iran's nuclear program." Tell us Mr. Diehl, do you want us to start another war just to protect those illegal settlements on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem? How many American lives are you willing to sacrifice so those settlements can be expanded?

Posted by: eeitreim | October 7, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse

"Obama has asked Netanyahu for another unnecessary concession"? I thought Jeffrey Goldberg was Netanyahu's official stenographer, but it appears he is job-sharing with Diehl.

No honest person moves their furniture into a house while pretending to negotiate to give it back.

Here's the concession I would ask Israel for: You are invited to peace talks that will take as their starting point commitments you already made at Oslo, Wye River, Annapolis, Taba, and all the other agreements you have failed to honour in the past. These talks will deliver a two-state solution within 12 months on the basis of the situation as it existed prior to 1967, and any land exchanges that take place will be fair, equal, and mutually agreed upon. During these talks there will be no attempt to alter facts on the ground with new settlement building.

If after 12 months Israel is still refusing to make peace, the US will recognize a Palestinian state with the Green Line as its international borders, and formally request that all uninvited foreign elements, military or civilian, leave the territory immediately. The US will give Palestine the means to enforce its own sovereignty. The US will also suspend all aid to Israel until this withdrawal is complete and verified.

Oh, and while we're at it, please stop spying on us and trying to corrupt our political process.

Posted by: tomscanlon1 | October 7, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse


Thank you, Israeli Press Secretary Jackson Diehl, for your thoughts.

Posted by: ThoughtfulGuy | October 7, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

A neutral stance by Netanyahu is an abdication of leadership. Netanyahu certainly knows the Israeli political landscape, so it would seem that he is either timid about voicing opposition to the controlling interests or he agrees and is willing to let the controlling interests scuttle the negotiations.

Why is a pause in the settlement construction so important? First, continuing the construction creates a resetting of the basis for the negotiations. And, second, if Netanyahu cannot even offer a simple pause, even with a load of extra’s from the US, then how can there be any expectation that he will be able to orchestrate any reasonable compromise. Thus, as the so-called negotiations would continue, the settlements would continue to reset until the Palestinians get the message.

Posted by: riskpref | October 7, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

I agree with some of these anti-Israel morons to a certain extent. Let Israel worry about its own problems. Send the Arabs in the West Bank to Jordan where they belong, annex the land to Israel proper, and simply move on from there. If/when the Arabs attack the next time, and there will be a next time regardless of settlements or negotiations, let the Israeli army strike such a blow to the Arab enemy they will need another 43 years before they try again. Even if they could kill all the Jews as they want to do, they would just turn and kill each other because that is what they do. Its the Scorpion and the Frog.

Posted by: bobo_d_clown99 | October 7, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

garbage in garbage out. a zionist journalist is an oxymoron.

Posted by: MumboJumboo | October 7, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

zionist racists control american media. zionism is same as nazism.
nazis killed inferior jews, zionists are killing inferior palestinians.
over 7 million palestinian refugees are not allowed to go back to their
homes and neighborhoods for fear of "upsetting dremographic balance".
Killing palestinian civilians is a sport for crazed zionist settlers.
western human rights organizations need to take a break from advocating tibet/tehran human rights.

Posted by: MumboJumboo | October 7, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

The US is being used by apartheid israel supporters to fight endless wars to protect the racist zionist regime,
meanwhile apartheid israel is busy with ethnic cleansing of palestinians and spying on the US.
Five years max and china will be SUPERPOWER.

Posted by: MumboJumboo | October 7, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

The solution to the settlement issue is very very simple: a Peace Treaty !

Tragically, the Palistinians continue to make the same tragic mistake - thinking as do their sign-carrying children do every Nakba day... "All Palistine is ours ! "

Posted by: pvilso24 | October 7, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

thanks to Israel's friendship, the U.S. is going down the toilet.

Posted by: MumboJumboo | October 7, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

The "Two State Solution" is a joke anyway. Who wants to live in an internationallly recognized ghetto, completely dominated by your enemy?

End the Apartheid now!

1 state, two people.

Posted by: hoos3014 | October 7, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

It's so telling that the "Mideast" negotiations have boiled down once again to the US offering promises in exchange for concessions from Israel. Why? Because any meaningful concessions from the Palestinians are not even on the table, and because Obama is so desperate to save his political kiester that he's willing to put American promises on the table instead of requiring the Palestinians to seriously participate. Obama and Hillary are the same joke repeated many times in the past --- surrogates for a Palestinian people against the only functioning democracy in all of the Mideast.
No wonder Bibi sees this political garbage for what it is.

Posted by: albo | October 7, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

mg11231: "When are the Israelis going to do something difficult?"

Israel has pulled out of Gaza, uprooting more than 15 communities and thousands of people from their lives. Families have been broken, teens are at risk, and established farmers are being re-educated to enter new fields of work. You are naiive, foolish, and possessed of an incredibly short memory if you think Israel has not done difficult things for the sake of peace.

I hope that your short-sightedness in commenting does not come from anything deeper than a poor memory.

On the other hand, I challange you to present any concrete actions, any "doing something difficult" as you put it, on the Palestinian side.

Posted by: DanielWeltman | October 7, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Diehl is such a rabid supporter of Isracist policies and culture who appears to be nothing but an apologist for the creation of aparthied in Israel and the occupied West Bank.

Posted by: LeeChase1 | October 7, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

I would just like to point out also that the term Aparthied does not apply to Israel. Aparthied refers to the second-class treatment of an ethnic group or race of citizens because of their race or ethnicity.

This is simply not true regarding Arab citizens of Israel (Israeli Arabs). They enjoy the same rights as Jewish Israelis, they vote, they study at university, they get governement and non-government jobs, and the only hardship they encounter is that since they are Arab, and those who blow up busses are Arab, they are screened slightly (only slightly) longer than non-Arab Israelis at security checks.

Now if one would like to debate the pros and cons of racial profiling in law enforcement, that is fine. However, that is far from Aparthied. It is the difference between any major city in the US and South Africa of 20 years ago.

I hope we can attempt to keep a level head and not re-use incendiary imagery to attempt to score political or emotional points.

Posted by: DanielWeltman | October 7, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

@DanielWeltman: You talk about short memory when you decide that it fits your comments. Palestine was a nation before....As you know. The war though ill-fated does not justify occupation of land that other people lived on. I'm glad Isreal is an ally and has their own homeland but it does not mean that they are entitled to all the land. However, as we all know, there will only be peace when both parties want peace. Right now there are too mnay outside interests involved and internal conflicts to have peace in that region. One day, maybe they will get tired of the misery and the death of innocent children and women on both sides to finally give peace a chance. Until than, we are all walking but going nowhere and we are kidding ourselves to believe that we can resolve this conflict.

Posted by: Realistic5 | October 7, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

The same usual rant, everything that thug Netanyahu does wrong the US administration and Obama are always at fault.

No wonder Rick Sanchez was fired as he was pointing out to the effect of this "Israeli Agent" aka Diehl that constantly supports Israel even at the expense of this country.

The day this shameless treason stops then we would not heed Mr. Sanchez' over the top rants.

Posted by: skennd | October 7, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Realistic5: "you talk of short memory..."
Sorry, I was responding to a truly short-sighted comment implying that Palestinians have been doing all the difficult compromising, while Israel sits in its Ivory tower unwilling to do anything difficult. I simply provided a fact showing that Israel has done incredibly difficult things for a nation and state for peace, and I challanged anyone to provide an example of something the Palestinians had done that was difficult, for peace. I see that you would rather draw across my argument a red herring.

"Palestine was a nation before...As you know."

I don't have the characters to give everyone a full history lesson, but I will say that I can't really agree to that, and neither do the historical facts. Palestine was the name given to Judea after its defeat by the Romans. They renamed it after the ancient Philistines (in Hebrew, Pelishtim), in order to humiliate the Jews into acceptance of Roman victory. From that time, however, until the present, there was never a time when there was not a Jewish presence in the land (particularly Jerusalem). There was never a time Jews world-over abandoned their rights to their conquered homeland.

Nomadic Arabs settled there, but it was under the rule of others: Romans, Turks, British. Arab states had control of Gaza and the West Bank, it is true, but it is not they who demand the land.

The UN partitioned the area in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank into two states. One for Jews, one for Arabs. The Jews accepted. Do you understand? The two state solution could have happened with not one bullet. However, the Arabs said, we have 100 million Arabs, and we can throw 600,000 holocaust survivors into the sea. Why accept half, when we can fight and have the whole?

I would hope that you would agree that when one side is belligerent and demands to go to war, exterminate their enemy, and take what the UN decided was theirs, that that side would lose. And indeed, the Arabs lost. They lost each of the five times they attacked Israel (each time attacking and announcing in their press that they would wipe out the Jewish State.). When you lose, you lose territory. When you agree to armistance lines, you must negotiate if you want to change them. That is what the armistance agreements between the Arabs and Israel were: these are the recognized frontiers, and any change must be agreed upon by both parties.

So, what you call "occupation" has an international-legal term: "armistance lines". It is perfectly legal for Israel to occupy it until an agreement is reached that is acceptable by both parties. That is what happens when you don't accept UN resolutions and try to destroy states. If you lose the war, you may not walk back and say, "ok, fine. We will take the partition." Don't you realize how rediculous that is?

Let us not forget the abovehistory of the region: attempts at extermination by 5-8 arab armies at a time repelled by the only democracy of the region.

Posted by: DanielWeltman | October 7, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

"If stopping the expansion of the settlements is purely symbolic, why don't the Israeli's accept the moratorium?"


Read the article.

Because Netanyahu government will lose the support of it's Right wing base, and fall, triggering a new election. And in the new election, the Left (Labour) will not support Netanyahu.

That is why.

Posted by: princeps2 | October 7, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

this is ISRAEL way of extortion of American Taxpayers. 2 month extension if OBAMA thinks will do any good he is to naive. The only good is for the STAT of ISRAEL as propsed by a Deniss ROSS who being jew is always looking out for State of Israel who is automatically a citizen so it is in best interest to stweal palestinian land. This is another SCAM on US TAXPAYERS

Posted by: khafeez1 | October 7, 2010 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Wow -- the antiSemitic (yes, that is the undercurrent behind such naked vitriol in these remarks when it comes to Israel alone among all countries) polarity of these readers is staggering and truly pathetic. "AntiSemitism is the socialism of fools":August Bebel. Just add this bogus "socialism" to all those other fantasies about socialism currently tormenting the fevered brains of wingnuts everywhere.

Posted by: mylesgordon | October 7, 2010 6:13 PM | Report abuse

Israel is a wealthy, powerful State. Israel is not a victim.

Posted by: Provincial | October 7, 2010 6:44 PM | Report abuse

DanielWeltman:

Please read your history post again. You state that the Roman's defeated "Judea" and renamed it Palestine to "humiliate the Jews". But even in defeat there was always a Jewish presence in the land. I assume you conclude that in defeat, they never conceded their land.

However, in modern times you contend "when you lose, you lose territory" in reference to Israel defeat of Arabs States over UN partitioned land and that the Palestinians should just deal with it - they lost. Sounds a bit hypocritical, when the Jews were "conquered" they maintain their right to return or wage war. When the Arabs lost it’s a done deal - sorer losers. But you're not bias - just stating the facts as it suits you. Let's be honest here, the UN only stepped in, because none of the member countries wanted the WWII refugees. It is unfortunate that the powers that be did not return the victims to the homes they were taken from and restored their property and pay them for the crimes committed against them. The "world-over" would be a lot more stable.


Posted by: Jon9 | October 7, 2010 6:55 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Diehl must be joking. So is the Ambassador to Israel. What on earth makes them think we owe Israel any thing for helping her live in peace? I do not think Obama wrote that offer it was done by Mr. Ross who can practically be called an agent for Netanyahu and his Party of Neo Nazi characteristic "to the victor belongs the spoil" so as long as we are so stupid to pay for their conquest, by all man lets fight on. President Obama must retract that humiliating offer which, as I said,came from the Secretary of State prepared by Ross. Before making plan how to get "more, this is not enough" best wait because it just hit the news and there are very few American left after GoldmanSack and friends to feel any pain for present day Israel. Obama must tell Israel again as before that it is not really our problem. Israel is a liability not an asset so, take a hike, and let the Palestinians take their case to the UN and declare a State. As for Hillary between her "generosity to Pakistan with our money and this super generosity for Israel I think she needs a new job, not VP. Biden. Obama will hear from many of us. Being anti Netanyahu and his band of terrorist is no more anti Semitic than is being against El Qaeda is anti Islam.

Posted by: Judgment | October 7, 2010 7:19 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Diehl must be joking. So is the Ambassador to Israel. What on earth makes them think we owe Israel any thing for helping her live in peace? I do not think Obama wrote that offer it was done by Mr. Ross who can practically be called an agent for Netanyahu and his Party of Neo Nazi characteristic "to the victor belongs the spoil" so as long as we are so stupid to pay for their conquest, by all man lets fight on. President Obama must retract that humiliating offer which, as I said,came from the Secretary of State prepared by Ross. Before making plan how to get "more, this is not enough" best wait because it just hit the news and there are very few American left after GoldmanSack and friends to feel any pain for present day Israel. Obama must tell Israel again as before that it is not really our problem. Israel is a liability not an asset so, take a hike, and let the Palestinians take their case to the UN and declare a State. As for Hillary between her "generosity to Pakistan with our money and this super generosity for Israel I think she needs a new job, not VP. Biden. Obama will hear from many of us. Being anti Netanyahu and his band of terrorist is no more anti Semitic than is being against El Qaeda is anti Islam.

Posted by: Judgment | October 7, 2010 7:21 PM | Report abuse

I congratulate Mr Diehl for his unwavering support of Israel. A less committed israeli defender might have hesitated, and noticing the daily abuse of Palestinians at the hands of Israeli soldiers, the indiscriminate killing of civilians, the Varsaw ghetto conditions of Gaza, and the Apartheid style conditions in the West Bank would have at the very least shut up and said nothing, hoping tyhat the world would forget Israeli crimes. Not Mr Diehl. He does not satisfy himself with just hiding the crimes of Israel, no sir. He is committed to dress those crimes as justifiably love of the mother land by recent Russian immigrants, most of whom do not even pretend to practice Judaism.

I am tempted to say that Mr Diehl cannot sink any lower, but I am pretty sure his next column will prove me wrong.

Posted by: nats_uglymanyahoocom | October 7, 2010 7:43 PM | Report abuse

The Arabs understand best force

Abbas was "dragged" to the table of negotiations , meaning he doesn't want to negotiate peace with Israel

what's the solution ?

if you want the Palestinians to hurry to the negotiation table , ACCELERATE the building of settlements and the ratio of land seizing in the West Bank , just move deeper in there more faster , the more the Arabs drag , the less available land they will have to build an independent state

they will come and negotiate , because they know they can't beat the IDF if it takes control of a land and doesn't want to let it go

Posted by: michel1835 | October 7, 2010 7:58 PM | Report abuse

"a breakdown in the peace process could seriously complicate relations between the two countries next year, when Israel hopes the United States will act decisively to stop Iran's nuclear program." Tell us Mr. Diehl, do you want us to start another war just to protect those illegal settlements on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem? How many American lives are you willing to sacrifice so those settlements can be expanded?

Posted by: eeitreim
=======================

The big question is how many American lives is AMERICA willing to sacrifice
for the sake of Israeli settlements?

9-11 and a lot of America's troubles in the Middle East have to do with America's pro-Israel policy. And a lot of Americans died to defend Israel - albeit indirectly.

Remember when USS liberty was attacked by Israeli forces in international waters causing the death of 34 Americans?

America is like the abused wife of Israel. She keeps going back for more.

Posted by: rjpal | October 7, 2010 9:18 PM | Report abuse

I am profoundly disgusted by this. Why not ask that we three million ME JEws in exile from MIddle East countries be permitted to return, have our property restored, and get to bury our dead?

Oh, I forgot. We don't have Oil-producing sponsors, wealth of other sorts.

That is why we are also indifferent to Kashmir, right? So, the discovery of mass graves, the anti-Hindu riots calling for an end to the Indian occupation, withdrawl of India's 100,000 troops doesn't count, right?

Ain't no money in it. I always forget.

Posted by: FarnazMansouri2 | October 7, 2010 10:23 PM | Report abuse

Well, like all Marxists, Obama is an anti-semite. So, of course the relationship is on the brink.


Are you listening Jewish Democrats?

Posted by: FormerDemocrat | October 7, 2010 11:06 PM | Report abuse

One shouldn't expect much from Mr Diehl. America is not his priority.

Posted by: qualquan | October 8, 2010 2:46 AM | Report abuse

Yes, asking the Israeli's to cease building settlements was an unnecessary condition for substantive talks. So was the phony "one year deadline."

Purely for domestic political reasons Abbas looks on a settlement moratorium as evidence that the "right of return" is alive and well.

No final peace deal is going to include the so-called "right of return." Everyone on both sides knows this (except the Palestinian rabble, of course).

So the whole "crisis" is manufactured, and evidence that no progress has been made anywhere else in the status between the parties to even justify a resumption of "peace talks."

Posted by: Curmudgeon10 | October 10, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Jon9: Your equivocation of Judea and the Palestinians is incorrect for a simple reason- Judea was militarily occupied by Rome against the will of it's inhabitants. It was in fact their revolt against Roman oppression that led to the bloody crushing of that rebellion, the destruction of Jerusalem and the beginning of the modern Jewish diaspora. It was Rome that imposed itself on ancient Judea.
The Palestinian Arabs participated in the pan-Arab attempt to commit genocide against the Jews in the newly founded Israel. They were part of the aggression in that war, in which Israel successful defended itself.
So yes, Jews never gave up their connection to their homeland or their right to live there in peace and security, no matter how much murder and oppression they were subjected to, and that is the moral right of Jewish people.
Their failed attempt to commit genocide DOES impact the moral legitimacy of a Palestinian Arab "right of return". I don't think that a truly moral person can consider their narrative in it's true history context with any sympathy. Human beings deserve sympathy, but not the fantasy they have been indoctrinated in for the past 62 years, with the cynical manipulation and abuse by the same Arab countries that originally started and encouraged them to participate in the war.

Posted by: koshscom | October 10, 2010 6:35 PM | Report abuse

funny, i bet the jew bashing on here is being done by illegal immigrants. how ironic.

Posted by: dummypants | October 10, 2010 7:03 PM | Report abuse

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