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Mideast Proximity Talks Cancelled?

March 16, 2010

I wrote about the U.S.-Israeli situation over the weekend and quite frankly, the people running around blaming the United States need to re-think things. Clearly, Bibi Netanyahu is trying to get President Obama to back down again and why not? After all, if Obama backed down once, why should Bibi not think he will again?

Haaretz also reported that Netanyahu gave Ambassador Oren his marching orders to drum up support among groups like AIPAC, ADL and members of Congress to turn the tables on Obama and defend the Israeli Prime Minister with respect to the U.S. reaction to events that took place during Vice President Biden’s trip to Jerusalem last week. And sure enough, it seems that Bibi was relatively successful in getting the usual suspects to come out and denounce the Obama administration. I’ve made it pretty clear I think that the administration was well within its rights to denounce Israel’s actions and I think that it’s absurd for people to have their usual, predictable knee-jerk reactions in defense of Israel, irrespective of what happened or why. In fact, it’s damn frustrating.

Now George Mitchell has apparently canceled his trip to the Middle East and it looks like proximity talks have stalled again:

Middle East envoy George Mitchell’s planned trip to Israel Tuesday to try to salvage proximity talks is on hold until Israel agrees to conditions the U.S. made last week, as the crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations appeared to deepen.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the demands in a 45 minute call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday.

She requested that the Israeli government reverse its approval last week for the construction of 1,600 new Jewish housing units in contested East Jerusalem, “make a substantial gesture” towards the Palestinians, and “publicly declare that all the core issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the status of Jerusalem,” be included in upcoming talks, the Washington Post reports.

“This is a fluid situation,” State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said at the Monday press conference. “As of this moment, [Mitchell’s] still in the United States.”

When Clinton “outlined what she thought appropriate actions would be to the prime minister, she asked for a response by the Israeli Government,” Crowley continued. “We wait for that response.”

[snip]

“I think the administration was really rocked on its heels when this happened,” said Daniel Kurtzer, a former U.S. Ambassador to Israel and Egypt who was a campaign adviser to Obama.

Kurtzer said the Israelis had thought Washington was angry by the timing of the East Jerusalem housing announcement coming during Biden’s trip; but U.S. anger at the announcement, Kurtzer said, was that it threatened to blow up the just announced proximity talks, which Mitchell’s team had spent several months trying to achieve, including in securing the Arab League endorsement for Abbas to go into the talks.

“The assumption in Israel is if the [Palestinians] don’t come to talks, they are the ones at fault,” Kurtzer said. “The administration is saying ‘No, you guys have messed this up.’”

Netanyahu “may try to play martyr or provoke [the administration],” contributing Jerusalem Post columnist Douglas Bloomfield said. The Obama administration has “to tamp down the crisis without backing down. …. With two unpredictable parties the U.S. has to … consider how to deftly control a situation that can easily and quickly get out of hand.”

Here are the talking points that Netanyahu has been sending around to aforementioned people, politicians and groups to defend Israel’s actions in this matter. I continue to be floored at Netanyahu’s arrogance.

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 18, 2010 9:37 pm

    Why is it arrogant for the leader of Israel to allow his people to build houses for themselves in their capital city? Isn’t Israel a sovereign state?

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