Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Will Barack Appreciate Bibi's Present?

My current understanding of the construction moratorium extension negotiated between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is that the terms are rather strange.

America is promising Israel it will continue to act in good faith in the United Nations, vetoing the sort of one-sided, anti-Israel resolutions it has always vetoed, including any attempt by the Palestinian Authority to completely violate the very agreement which gives it whatever legitimacy it possesses. It also promises to help Israel maintain its qualitative military edge, something it is already pledged to do but keeps undermining with bonehead moves like selling Saudi Arabia $60 billion worth of advanced equipment - the equivalent of 20 years or two decades of military assistance to Israel. (Of course, it can reassure Israel with the argument that the Saudis are incapable of using the equipment and are basically just wasting their money, which is really our money because it comes from the oil we keep buying from them at exorbitant prices.)

In return, Netanyahu agrees to go back on his promise to his own people, that the unprecedented building moratorium which would never be extended or repeated, and extend the moratorium three months, retroactively.

Three other catches:

1. The agreement amounts to negotiations between Israel and the United States, with Israel making concessions to the Palestinian Arabs through the United States, effectively making America a tool of the Palestinian Arabs. This is a terrible precedent, for both the United States and for Israel.

2. Half the three months have already gone by. If the United States ever gets around to putting the agreement in writing, so Netanyahu can put it up to his cabinet for a vote, there will probably be only about a month to go. Since the moratorium, of course, does not stop projects already in progress, it effectively amounts to a delay of one month in initiating new construction.

3. The United States promises it will never again ask for a construction moratorium. This may look like a gift from the United States to Israel, but it's really Bibi's gift to Barack and, if President Obama has finally learned something, makes the whole charade worthwhile - to Obama!

Here's why:

President Obama has obviously completely botched things with his ham-handed intervention in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Of course, it's really Mahmoud Abbas, the supposedly "moderate" leader of the Palestinian Authority as well as the Fatah and PLO terror gangs, who's refused to negotiate for two years, after refusing an offer from then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for far more than he could ever have expected.

But that was to be expected. The Palestinian Arabs always do whatever they can to avoid negotiating, to not really negotiate when they're dragged to the table, and to reject anything offered to them. The major constructive role the United States has is to not make that easy for the Arabs; instead, Obama did just the opposite.

The centerpiece of his blundering that made it easy for Abbas to avoid even sitting down to negotiate was the priority he gave to stopping construction of homes for Jews not only in the disputed territories, but even in Israel's capital.

Forget the fact that this was immoral; forget the fact that this was racist; forget the fact that he reneged on the promises of his predecessors, severely damaging American credibility; the real problem is that this was stupid.

But Obama climbed up on a limb and just couldn't come down.

With this concession, Bibi has given Barack a face saving way to climb down  from that limb.

Which, of course, is why the Palestinian Arabs are objecting: they'll be losing the excuse they've been using to avoid negotiating.

However, Mahmoud Abbas is very resourceful. One can be confident that even if Barack Obama finally uses his intelligence and accepts Bibi's generous gift, Mahmoud will find some other way to avoid negotiating and avoid peace.

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