Obama not waiting for a settlements deal, will meet Netanyahu and Abbas

Posted: September 20th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments »

So even after the failure of the Mitchell talks, Netanyahu, Abaas and Obama will meet on Tuesday in New York (the Israeli media has already reported that “there will be no meeting”, but than came the White House announcement). It is, I believe, a good move by the president and the State Department, as there was a growing feeling that the push for renewal of the negotiations is losing momentum.

I wonder though if Obama didn’t get in the ring a bit too soon. The president’s involvement will be required when real negotiations kick off, and it might have been better to leave all the preliminary steps to the Secretary of State, like other administrations did before. For some reason, Hillary Clinton is all but absent from the process (or maybe she is involved, but not heard on the media here). Laura Rozen has an article in Politico.com analyzing the dynamic behind the decision to force a meeting on the two sides. She also speaks of some differences between the State Department and the White House on how to proceed:

“Very roughly, [the State Department] continues to focus on Mitchell who continues to focus on the settlements and wants to nail down that issue before moving on,” one Washington Middle East hand said on condition of anonymity. While National Security Council Middle East strategist Dennis “Ross at the White House and others want to get out of the settlement issue as soon as possible and move quickly into permanent status talks ASAP.

“I think State and Mitchell will in fact have a role in structuring the talks, but I think the initiative is coming out of NSC and the White House, partly as a bureaucratic maneuver and partly because they genuinely want to get away from the settlements issue that they feel was a mistake and the trap, and actually a quagmire, and get into permanent status talks where they can try to achieve some kind of time horizon at the very least.”

While I agree with Rozen’s conclusion that both Abbas and Netanyahu agreed to the meeting just so they won’t be blamed for failing the president’s peace plan, I don’t think that this move will help Netanyahu build up credit with the Israeli right (since he will travel to NY without agreeing to a settlements freeze). I think that the anxiety in the Right will only grow now, though it doesn’t seem that Netanyahu’s coalition might be in danger. Not yet.

5 Comments on “Obama not waiting for a settlements deal, will meet Netanyahu and Abbas”

  1. 1 Jami said at 6:25 am on September 20th, 2009:

    I feel that Netanyahu is destroying the credibility of the Israeli people. His insistence on the continuation of building the settlements is becoming a matter of stubbornness more than any real strategic value. He’s shooting himself in the foot.

  2. 2 noam said at 7:32 am on September 20th, 2009:

    Jami – I agree that the settlements have absolutely no strategic value, and are even creating some security problems (more on tactical level than strategic). But with Netanyahu, it’s not just a matter of ideology. His political base is in the ideological and even religious right, so it’s a bit like asking a Republican presidential candidate to allow abortions – something which is not totally impossible, but still incredibly difficult in the current political structure (but don’t get me wrong – personally I’m totally against the settlements).

  3. 3 Aviv said at 12:01 am on September 23rd, 2009:

    The whole settlements conundrum is purely of Obama’s making, and was never introduced as a precondition to any previous round of negotiations. If anything, the Palestinians used it to harden their position. This is what happens when the US pressures Israel – The Arabs say all concessions will have to come from Israel first, and then we’ll see. Israel gets blamed for being “stubborn” anyway.

    So what we have is a photo-op in NY, 9 months into the Obama presidency when it could have happened by February, with promises to start negotiations, which will probably go nowhere. Color me unimpressed.

  4. 4 Meyrick Kirby said at 8:19 am on September 24th, 2009:

    It would appear the majority of American’s support Obama’s desire for a settlement freeze.

    As a caveat, I would note that the question is a bit “leading” in calling the West Bank “Palestinian Territories”.

  5. 5 noam said at 3:30 am on September 26th, 2009:

    I think that part of the reason that the administration chose to confront Israel on this issue is that it knew there is little support for Israel’s position here, as opposed to the question of national security, for example.