by Barry Rubin
It is important to understand that the current controversy over construction in east
What are the real issues involved:
1. The U.S. and most European governments are determined not to criticize the Palestinian Authority's (PA) sabotage of the peace process. The facts are clear: The PA rejects negotiations for fourteen months. No reaction. The PA makes President Barack Obama look foolish by destroying his September 2009 initiative saying there would be talks within two months. The PA broke its promise to Obama not to sponsor the Goldstone report. In the end, the PA still won't talk directly. Yet during fourteen months in office the Obama administration has not criticized the PA once. The point is clear: The U.S. government will never criticize the PA no matter what it does. (We'll talk about why this is so in a moment.)
2. Same thing regarding
4. On whom can the Administration's failures be blamed? Answer:
5. By doing so, the Administration gets Europeans to go along easily and can say to Arabs and Muslims: See we are tough on
6. What does the
7. There is also an ideological aspect given the Administration's general worldview, which need not be repeated here at length. But large elements in the government apparently have so accepted the manifestly untrue idea that everything in the region is linked to the Arab-Israeli conflict that high-level officials have reportedly remarked that the construction of apartments in east Jerusalem jeopardize the lives of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan or that Arab states won't cooperate with the United States because of the U.S.-Israel relationship.
The argument that U.S.-Arab relations rests on U.S.-Israel relations has been repeated for a half-century and repeatedly proven wrong. American attempts to resolve the conflict have rarely received help from the Arab world, and often been bitterly opposed. At the same time, Arab states have repetedly functioned on the basis of their own interests to seek U.S. help because they recognized American power: to convoy tankers and deter Iran during the Iran-Iraq war, to reverse Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, to protect them from Iran and revolutionary Islamists today, and in dozens of other cases. They may say that everything depends on
By the same token, if the Arab world--that is the relative moderates--isn't being helpful to the
No matter what the Administration does to
What makes this even more ridiculous is that nowadays the
And even if the
8. The handling of this issue is also counterproductive because it ensures Israel-Palestinian talks won't get going again. After all, if the
Consequently, just as with the original demand for a freeze on construction, the Administration has once gain shot itself in the foot. The chances for even indirect talks in 2010 has gone to virtually zero as a result.
Why is this all not more worrisome for
Third, the Obama Administration's strategy won't work. The radicals will become more aggressive; the more moderate Arabs know that the Administration won't credibly defend them. Sensing blood (albeit mistakenly) the PA will raise its demands higher. The PA could only exploit the opportunity if it demanded final status talks—something it would never do—and try to get the best possible peace agreement with
Eventually, the extremism of
This current crisis will blow over when the Administration grows tired of it and has wrung all the benefits it can from the issue, and not before.
Optional notes: This is not to underrate the importance of the bad timing by an Israeli ministry, letting the PA pretend that
But a more serious
I have been informed that on a number of occasions that my criticisms of the Obama Administration have led to my being denied certain opportunities regarding projects and writing venues. I can only repeat that my criticism is a response to the government's policies. I'd be far happier if they had a better policy and more competent implementation so that it would be possible to praise the government of the
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.