Last night, I wrote about President Obama’s desperate attempt to induce Israel to extend by just two more months its building moratorium. Based on the information available to me then, I said that, in exchange for this short extension, Obama offered Israel the following assurances: (1) that Washington will not ask for a moratorium extension beyond 60 days, (2) that the United States will veto any U.N. Security Council initiative — Arab or otherwise — relating to Arab-Israeli peace during the agreed one-year negotiating period, and (3) that Washington will accept the legitimacy of existing Israeli security needs and not seek to redefine them.
I argued that assurances (1) and (2) didn’t amount to much and that assurance (3) amounts to something only because Obama views Israel’s security needs as negotiable. That view shows that he is is not a legitimate intermediary.
It has since been reported that Washington offered Israel additional incentives to extend the moratorium. They include support for Israel’s demand that any Israeli-Palestinian deal include a long-term Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley; additional military aid and advanced weaponry; and stringent measures to halt arms smuggling.
These are genuine goodies and, in the abstract, seemingly are worth a two month extension. But as Evelyn Gordon points out, Obama’s past actions show that he “views presidential promises to Israel as made to be broken.” When Israel left Gaza, it received an oral promise from President Bush that the U.S. would not oppose continued building in the settlement blocs. But when Obama took office, he denied the oral pledge’s existence. He has also failed to take seriously some of the written promises Bush made, such as demanding an end to PA incitement.
As to the latest “assurances,” Israel might well believe that, because peace talks are destined to go nowhere, Obama’s promises about what a peace deal must include are meaningless. And Israel is well advised to believe that, when the talks fail to progress, Obama will feel no compunction about reneging on his promises with respect to advanced weapons sales, measures to halt arms smuggling, etc.
Obama’s chickens seem to be coming home to roost.
Thus, it is quite sensible for Israel to reject Obama’s desperate offer and undertake much needed construction without further delay.
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