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Middle East “peace” talks: more of a joke than ever

How will President Obama’s willingness — over the strong objections of Israel — to ease sanctions on Iran in exchange for virtually nothing affect his administration’s ability to broker a “peace” agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority? The question should answer itself. Given the disregard for Israel’s interest displayed by Obama and John Kerry last week, Israel clearly cannot trust this administration to make good on the promises that would have to prop up any deal with the PA.

Doug Feith sums up the situation well:

What [Obama] is doing now with regard to Iran undercuts the approach he adopted in March when he was in Israel.
“Israel: we’ve got your back” will now be put in the same museum alongside “You can keep your health plan if you want to” and “There’s a red line if Syria uses [chemical] weapons.”

What the president is doing time after time on issue after issue, foreign and domestic, is declaring policy in categorical terms that a few weeks or months later he issues a “never mind” for.

For Israel, then, the problem isn’t just that the PA is an unreliable peace partner. The additional problem is that the U.S., under Obama, is not reliable.

The Obama administration may try to use the Iranian negotiations as leverage against Israel. For example, if a six month freeze agreement is entered into (as still seems quite possible), Obama might link his posture towards Iran at the end of the six months — e.g., his position on the extent to which Iran is deemed to have complied with the temporary freeze or his position as to what should be required of Iran in a new agreement — on Israel’s willingness to make concessions to the PA.

Accordingly, Prime Minister Netanyahu remains in a delicate position. The shrewd course is to present himself as a willing partner in the “peace” process and to rely on the usual Palestinian intransigence and overreaching to prevent an agreement from being reached.

But if, against the odds, the negotiations pick up steam, expect Netanyahu to push the buttons needed to stall them. Five years of experience has surely convinced the Israeli Prime Minister that an agreement with anyone — never mind a peace agreement the Palestinians — if backed by promises from Obama, is worthless.

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