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Obama and Netanyahu… “A Clash of wills”

By Dr Ahmed Yusuf Ahmed

On 22nd April, US Special Envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, arrived in the region for a new round of fruitless shuttling back and forth between Israel and the Palestinians in an effort to resume the “political process”. The lack of productivity cannot be solely attributed to Mitchell or the administration he represents; the responsibility is shared between all parties, although to varying degrees.

Inside Israel, the current right-wing government is probably the most inflexible in its history or perhaps it is the most capable of conjuring up acts that reflect the consensus among Israelis, and are warmly received by its ultra-extremists.


According to Israel, Jerusalem is excluded from negotiations as it has been deemed “the Eternal Capital of Israel” and as such, the concept of “settlements” simply no longer apply to it; settlement expansion, Judaisation operations, and attacks on holy shrines go unabated in addition to the initiation of a new campaign of population “transfer” triggered by military order 1650 which allows for the expulsion of tens of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank on the pretext of being “infiltrators”. Israeli forces will not leave the Jordan Valley; they would not leave even after having reaching an agreement with Jordan and despite all this, the Israeli government still talks about “preconditions” for the Palestinians and the “tall tree” they have had to climb.

 

Moreover, officials from Netanyahu’s office have denied that he agreed on a solution which would create a Palestinian state with provisional borders on half of the West Bank, with the postponement of negotiations on Jerusalem as a way out of the current crisis. In contrast, individuals from within informed Israeli political circles told Israeli military radio on Friday, that the prime minister “was busy working on developing different versions, and there are new trends, but nothing has been finalized yet”. This means that the solution with provisional state borders, which was rejected by the president of the Palestinian Authority, was a “placebo” that had not yet been ratified by “Israel”. They might have been mere ideas that were exchanged between Mitchell and Netanyahu without taking any formal shape.

Israel’s responsibility for the current stagnation and decline is obvious, and discussing it is a source of frustration because Arabs and Palestinians are still talking enthusiastically about returning to negotiations as the way out of the current crisis. What about US responsibility? Mitchell came to the region on the back of official US “mendacity” expressed by Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, at the opening of the “Daniel Abraham Centre for Peace in the Middle East.” Entreaties were for Israel to show sufficient flexibility to get out of the current situation and there were inexplicit warnings that if it does not cooperate; it would harm the strategic interests of the US. Not to mention that the ongoing deterioration and stalemate threatens the President’s popularity as well as that of the Palestinian Authority and helps increase the influence of “Hamas” in the Palestinian arena complicating matters more than they already are. Mitchell also arrived in the wake of the apparent anger of some members of the American political elite regarding the Israeli position. This was demonstrated in an article by Martin Indyk, an advisor to the former US special envoy to the Middle East and former ambassador in Tel Aviv, published in the “New York Times” and in which he warned of the “terrible” consequences to relations between Washington and Tel Aviv should Netanyahu continue to postpone a political resolution on the ground out of fear for his coalition’s cohesion. In the same context, Indyk also said to Israeli radio: “If Israel is a superpower and does not need the protection of the United States, so be it… let it do what it wants … but if you want the United States on your side you have to take into consideration the American interests”.

However, Israel realises well its power in the US, and it had responded to the previous attack on its policy in the strongest way.  Deputy Israeli Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon, is quoted to have said: “Israel does not expect tips from anyone, because peace with the Palestinians is an Israeli interest”. In an interview with an Israel’s Channel II on April 22nd, Netanyahu talked indirectly about Israel’s political cards in relation to the American public; “they support Israel, and ultimately, the present President will reflect that support towards helping to overcome the differences.”  In other words, the American public is the one that should draw a simple “road map” for their president and a way out of his “trouble” with Israel; as the public supports Israel, and since he is the democratically elected president, he has no choice but to reflect the will of the public in the administration of the dispute with Israel.

Linked with all this, Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper pointed to the paid ads recently published by two prominent Jewish-American newspapers in support of Netanyahu and in which they appealed to Obama to stop putting pressure on Israel. E-Ha’aretz mentioned that such declarations have outraged the US administration, adding that US officials saw these ads which Netanyahu stands behind, as “unwise”. In the meantime, the far-right supporters of Israel continue their campaign against Obama on the pretext of him being the most anti-Semitic president yet in addition to being hostile towards Israel. They plan to burn pictures and toys carrying his image at the upcoming Jewish “torch festival”.

It seems that there is a conflict of “wills” between the American administration and the Zionist entity, and according to precedent, this struggle will end in Israel’s favour. Some indicators suggest that part of it was already concluded in Israel’s favour when the US administration revoked its demand for a freeze on settlements as a prerequisite to resuming negotiations. Not to forget that Obama often appends to his very humble stance, which may be described as positive, excessive talk about US commitment to Israel. In order to win the “clash of wills”, so to speak, Obama needs a radical change in American politics. I do not think it can be achieved, as the price to be paid for such attempts is his opportunity for a second term in office. In any case, the Palestinians and the Arabs can not afford to wait out this lull that could result in the breeding of a very tiny “rat” that may “nibble” away what is left of their rights in Palestine. This brings us to the Palestinian and Arab responsibility for the impasse, and that is another story.

Ahmed Yousef is a senior political adviser to Ismail Haniyeh the elected Prime Minister in the Gaza Strip.

Source: Al-Ittihad Newspaper

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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