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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

WaPo slams Obama's Middle East missteps

When even the mainstream media starts calling the Obama administration on its mishandling of the Israeli Arab conflict, you know he is doing something wrong:

The dispute's dramatic escalation since then seems to have come at the direct impetus of Mr. Obama. Officials said he outlined points for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to make in a searing, 45-minute phone call to Mr. Netanyahu on Friday. On Sunday senior Obama adviser David Axelrod heaped on more vitriol, saying in a television appearance that the settlement announcement had been an "affront" and an "insult" that had "undermined this very fragile effort to bring peace to that region."

But Mr. Obama risks repeating his previous error. American chastising of Israel invariably prompts still harsher rhetoric, and elevated demands, from Palestinian and other Arab leaders. Rather than join peace talks, Palestinians will now wait to see what unilateral Israeli steps Washington forces. Mr. Netanyahu already has made a couple of concessions in the past year, including declaring a partial moratorium on settlements. But on the question of Jerusalem, he is likely to dig in his heels -- as would any other Israeli government. If the White House insists on a reversal of the settlement decision, or allows Palestinians to do so, it might land in the same corner from which it just extricated itself.

A larger question concerns Mr. Obama's quickness to bludgeon the Israeli government. He is not the first president to do so; in fact, he is not even the first to be hard on Mr. Netanyahu. But tough tactics don't always work: Last year Israelis rallied behind Mr. Netanyahu, while Mr. Obama's poll ratings in Israel plunged to the single digits. The president is perceived by many Israelis as making unprecedented demands on their government while overlooking the intransigence of Palestinian and Arab leaders. If this episode reinforces that image, Mr. Obama will accomplish the opposite of what he intends.
Richard Cohen is no fan of settlements and doesn't have as much of a problem with the Obama team's language, but he can't avoid noticing the double standard (which for some reason he decides to ascribe more to Europe than the White House:)
To my knowledge, there is no square in Israel named for the mass murderers of civilians. Palestinian society, in contrast, honors all sorts of terrorists.

This is not a minor point. The veneration of terrorists says something unsettling about Palestinian society. ...An Israeli can recognize the legitimacy of Palestinian aspiration and appreciate the depth of the calamity that befell the Palestinians in 1948. The Palestinian intellectual Constantine Zurayk coined the term "al-Nakba" (the disaster) for their 1948 debacle -- and there is no doubt it was. But for Palestinians, that disaster has only been compounded by an Arab intransigence and belligerence that has played into Israel's territorial ambitions, particularly the annexation of East Jerusalem. The reliance on terrorism has had cinematic charms and given the Palestinians a certain cachet among the West's kaffiyeh set, but it has caused Israelis to dig in their heels. The adulation of Dalal Mughrabi and other terrorists is bound to give your average Israeli parent a certain pause: Is this the state we want next to us? Didn't pulling out of Gaza produce a steady drizzle of rockets and, in due course, another war?

Editorialists around the world were quite right to bash the government of Binyamin Netanyahu for its in-your-face rebuke to Biden -- even though, as the analyst Stephen P. Cohen explains, the decision by right-wing ministers was meant also as a rebuke to Netanyahu himself.

Still, it would have been nice for those same editorialists to have paused in their anti-Israel jihad to wonder a bit about the virtually simultaneous Palestinian veneration of terrorists. In fact, the determination in the West, particularly Europe, not to hold Palestinians morally accountable for terrorism -- as well as their commonplace anti-Semitism -- is a repugnant form of neocolonial mentality in which, once again, the Palestinians are being patronized. I dare say the Brits would have reacted differently if a square in Belfast had been named for some IRA terrorist.


Leading Republicans poured it on:
The second-ranking House Republican blasted the Obama administration as “irresponsible” in its dealings with Israel, accusing the White House of trying to curry favor with the Arab world by deriding America’s closest ally in the Middle East.

“While it condemns Israel, the administration continues to ignore a host of Palestinian provocations that undermine prospects for peace in the region,” Cantor said in a statement. “Where is the outrage when top Fatah officials call for riots on the Temple Mount? Why does the Palestinian Authority get a pass when it holds a ceremony glorifying the woman responsible for one of the deadliest terror attack in Israel’s history? Surely, the Administration’s double standard has set back the peace process.”
(h/t Soccer Dad, who reads the MSM so I don't have to :) )