Of all people, it is Dennis Ross who comes to Netanyahu’s aid

Posted: March 28th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off

800px-Dennis_RossLaura Rozen has an excellent story in Politico.com on the internal battle in the administration regarding how to approach the Israeli government from now on.

Apperantly, while several people close to special envoy George Mitchell believe that the US must continue putting clear demands before Netanyahu’s extreme-right government in order not only to get some results, but also to restore the administrations credibility in the Arab world, some Oslo veterans, led by Dennis Rose, believe that the White House should avoid steps that might put Netanyahu’s coalition in danger. In other words, Dennis Ross actually thinks that the president of the US should be careful not to agitate Eli Yishay or Avigdor Liberman, because that might make the Israeli government fall.

This is what one of Laura Rosens’ anonymous sources had to say:

“He [Ross] seems to be far more sensitive to Netanyahu’s coalition politics than to U.S. interests… and he doesn’t seem to understand that this has become bigger than Jerusalem but is rather about the credibility of this Administration.”

What some saw as the suggestion of dual loyalties shows how heated the debate has become.

Last week, during U.S.-Israeli negotiations during Netanyahu’s visit and subsequent internal U.S. government meetings, the official said, Ross “was always saying about how far Bibi could go and not go. So by his logic, our objectives and interests were less important than pre-emptive capitulation to what he described as Bibi’s coalition’s red lines.”

This development shouldn’t come as a surprise to those who follow Denis Ross closely. While I do think Ross truly whishes end the occupation and advance the two state solution, he is clearly a man living in the past, and his involvement in the Oslo process might stand in the way of his better judgment. He blames the Palestinians and the Palestinians only for the failure to reach peace in the end of the previous decade, and consequently, believes that the US must apply constant pressure on the Arab side in order to get results. This was the exact attitude taken by the Bush administration, and anyone can see where it got us.

Ross dedicated a chapter of his recent book, Statecraft, to the steps which should be taken by the US in order to promote a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinian. His ideas would have won him praises in the AIPAC convention, as they all deal with ways to deal with the Palestinian side. The only thing the administration have to do with regards to Israel, according to Ross, is declare its commitment to the two state solution – something even George W Bush didn’t have a problem saying.

Reading this book, I got the feeling the Denis Ross thinks that the Israeli PM is still Yitzhak Rabin. The notion that US policy should fall in line with a government ran by radical nationalists like Liberman and Yishay is so absurd, that I don’t even understand how he rationalizes it for himself. As Gidon Levi wrote today in Haaretz, President Obama did better service for both Israelis and Palestinians in the last two weeks than any other politician in the last decade. We should all pray he doesn’t let Denis Ross disrupt him.

What moratorium? Netanyahu playing games

Posted: November 25th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Right, The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The top news item this evening on walla.co.il – Israel’s most popular web site – reads as follows: “Netanyahu in a message to Obama: Abu-Mazen has no more excuses”. I think this sums it all up. The settlements moratorium PM Benjamin Netanyahu announced was never intended to re-ignite the peace process. It’s not a step toward the Palestinians. It is, as Netanyahu all but put it himself, a message to the White House, asking it to get off our back, and start blaming the Arabs for the occupation, like they did until a year ago.

Netanyuahu and Barak know very well that the Palestinians won’t settle for this. A moratorium that does not include Jerusalem, does not include public buildings, does not include projects already under construction, does not include “security needs”? – what is it exactly that it does include? No wonder all the Right wing’s ministers but one voted for it!

In the State Department’s briefing today, George Mitchell was walking a thin line: wanting to praise Netanyahu, but at the same time being very careful not to say that the Americans got what they asked for:

The steps announced today are the result of a unilateral decision by the Government of Israel. This is not an agreement with the United States, nor is it an agreement with the Palestinians. United States policy on settlements remains unaffected and unchanged. As the President has said, America does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.

We recognize that the Palestinians and other Arabs are concerned because Israel’s moratorium permits the completion of buildings already started and limits the effect of the moratorium to the West Bank – concerns which we share.

As to Jerusalem, United States policy remains unaffected and unchanged. As has been stated by every previous administration which addressed this issue, the status of Jerusalem and all other permanent status issues must be resolved by the parties through negotiations.

And if the US thinks that’s not enough, how can a Palestinian leader agree to negotiate with Netanyahu now? It will be as if he is saying “go ahead, do your stuff in Jerusalem. I’m cool with that.”

Abu-Mazen can barley hold on to his post right now, with Israel is doing all it can to undermine him. This week Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman declared again that the Palestinian Authority asked Israel to invade Gaza. Imagine what happens to the Palestinian president if he sits to talk with Netanyahu and Liberman, when they not only humiliate him this way, but declare that they will go on settling East Jerusalem?

Here is a naïve question: why is it the world that has to beg Israel to stop building the settlements? The whole goal of this 42 years old project was to prevent the establishing of a Palestinian state or handing back the West Bank to Jordan (it was funny to hear Sarah Palin says that the settlements has something to do with housing needs for Jews. Then again, I wonder if she can find the West Bank on a map, or the entire Middle East for that matter). Now, if Israel is going to evacuate most of the area anyway – and Netanyahu said so himself, didn’t he? – Why go on building there? Why move there people that you will have to evacuate and compensate in a few years?

Israel is playing games, and it’s all too familiar. Read the rest of this entry »

Obama more successful than appears, peace process about to restart

Posted: August 26th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off

There are signs in the last couple of days that the diplomatic pre-game is about to end, and that we are heading for a renewal of the peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

PM Benjamin Netanyahu has met with US envoy George Mitchell today, and although there is no agreement on the settlements freeze the administration demanded (maybe it’s even for the best), there are indications that the Israeli PM understands that if he won’t engage in some sort of meaningful negotiations with the Palestinians, he will end up with a “take it or leave it” American offer on his table, possibly as early as October. Since such a plan would put Netanyahu in a tough corner – he will have to choose between saying yes and losing his coalition to saying no and losing all credibility with Europe and the administration – he probably prefers to deal with Mahmud Abbas personally.

There are also other signals hinting that Netanyahu is willing to take some steps forward. In response to his deputy Moshe Yaalon’s nationalistic statements last week, Netanyahu has reaffirmed his commitment to the two state solution. As Akiva Eldar reported in Haaretz, his aids have even pointed out to foreign diplomats that in his recent remarks, Netanyahu didn’t demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish State, as he did previously. There is even some nervousness in the right wing regarding Netanyahu’s plans. I guess that they are sensing something.

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Liberman left out; Barak lobbying for settlements

Posted: July 6th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Left, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The control over the relations with the US was a source of tension between Israeli PMs and their foreign ministers throughout the years. Whenever the Prime Minister assumed control over the dialogue with Washington (and being the most important element in Israeli foreign policy, this usually happened very quickly), the foreign minister would start feeling he was cut out, and behave accordingly. The fact that the foreign ministers are usually political rivals of the PM – whether in his own party or as leaders of a senior coalition partner – didn’t help either.

But yesterday we saw something new: Israel’s Foreign Minister, Avigdor Liberman, graciously (and publicly) accepting the fact that Ehud Barak, the defense minister, has taken over the negotiations with the US special envoy, George Mitchell:

“Our relations with the United States are more important even than the dignity of the foreign minister,” Lieberman continued. “I don’t want people to say that a settler put our relations with the U.S. at risk.”

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