There are already some signs indicating a change of tone regarding the Palestinian issue from the Obama administration.
Sen. John Kerry’s visit to Gaza and to Syria was the first of them. Though Kerry is not an official WH envoy, it is clear he wouldn’t have gone without some sort of approval from the president. There haven’t been a top level American visit to Gaza for some time, and Syria was until recently part of ”the axis of evil”, so this visit could hint a rapid shift from the Bush policies.
Another sign was the intended appointment of former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Chas Freeman, to the role of Director of the National Intelligence Council. Freeman is a know critic of Israel’s occupation of the West bank, and the news of his candidacy already drew criticism from the Jewish Lobby.
But the clearest massage to come out of Washington was Hilary Clinton’s trip to the Middle East. Clinton is taking part in the Gaza donor conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, and will later on arrive to Jerusalem. Haaretz’s Natasha Mozgovaya mentioned it today, and wondered what exactly the Secratery of State would say to the Israelis. But that’s missing the point. The visit is the message, and it is a very strong one. There is no government in Israel. I don’t remember such a high level visit under similar circumstances. This could – and I believe should – be seen as a blunt interference in local politics.
The night after the election in Israel, the WH was too confused to understand who of the two candidates won, and therefore who should be congratulated by the president. Obama ended up calling president Peres, and complimenting him on Israel’s democratic process, like we were some African nation holding its first elections ever. But now the administration knows who the next PM will be. They also understand that in all likelihood, Netanyahu’s partners will be from the extreme-right. By sending Clinton to Jerusalem before we have a government, they send Jerusalem a very clear message: the diplomatic game starts now. Are you in or are you out?
If Netanyahu does give the Foreign Office to Liberman, the world might feel it got its answer.