Good reading on today’s Obama-Netanyahu-Abbas meeting
09/21/2009 - 23:00
James Besser
Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009 There’s been a lot of hype written about the Obama administration’s Middle East plans – everything from the claim the president is planning to impose a full-blown plan on the reluctant Israelis and Palestinians to the idea he’s been totally outfoxed by an Israeli Prime Minister much too sly for him. That’s why Aluf Benn’s story in today’s Ha’aretz is a must read. Coming only hours before the three way meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and President Obama, Benn cuts through the static generated by activists who want to see U.S. efforts succeed – and others salivating for their failure. He writes: “Obama didn’t promise to present a quick solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. He promised he would be more involved than George W. Bush, and work toward reviving the peace process. Obama has thus far made good on his promises: He appointed George Mitchell special envoy to the Mideast, and Tuesday will meet with leaders on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide for the first time since Netanyahu returned to power.” It’s the activists and media who are predicting spectacular peace plans, bloody confrontations and catastrophic failure. In fact, this administration shows every sign of working far more actively than its predecessor for an active peace process but avoiding the big roll of the dice without sufficient preparation that bedeviled Bill Clinton at Camp David. Benn points out a critical difference between Obama and the guys he’ll be meeting with Tuesday. The President is not yet a year through a four year term, with the potential for four more, and nothing Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh can say can get him out any sooner.  Netanyahu, on the other hand, presides over a fractious, ideologically extreme coalition,  and Abbas remains in power only because of “legalistic tricks.” In other words,  President Obama can afford a patient, step-by-step approach without a lot of drama. If that sounds a lot like the character of special envoy George Mitchell…well, it is. Maybe Obama erred when he started his Mideast efforts by publicly demanding a compete settlement freeze without publicly demanding tough actions by the Palestinians to live up to their obligations, which gave Netanyahu some wiggle room.  But all indications are that Obama and his administration have learned from that mistake. Learning from mistakes is something most recent administrations have a hard time with, so it’s not surprising some people just don’t get it. Bottom line: don’t listen to those predicting acts of diplomatic derring-do by the president, and don’t believe those predicting he will get outfoxed by the slippery Netanyahu and worn down by the pathetic Abbas. We’re only in Chapter 1 of what  could be a long book.

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