In the meeting, according to participants, Obama expressed strong support for Israel and acknowledged a 'misperception' that the US was disproportionately pressuring Israel, indicating that the US would be doing more to prod the Palestinians and Arab countries forward.This was in response to a 'misperception' held by more than just one of the leaders attending the meeting with Obama:
The Orthodox Union subscribes to the serious concern, expressed by several participants in the meeting, that the Administration has allowed a perception to develop that the onus for progress toward peace between Israel and Arabs lies with Israel, and also that the U.S. is pressuring Israel to undertake various steps while demanding little of the Palestinians or other Arab governments. We welcome the President’s recognition that this perception gap is problematic and his stated intention to recalibrate his Administration’s actions in the coming weeks to make clear that the U.S. insists that concrete steps – with regard to incitement and other anti-Israel activities – must be taken by the Palestinians and others.Sure enough: no sooner said than done. During her foreign policy address at the Council on Foreign Relations, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed the issue:
And we know that progress toward peace cannot be the responsibility of the United States – or Israel – alone. Ending the conflict requires action on all sides. The Palestinians have the responsibility to improve and extend the positive actions already taken on security; to act forcefully against incitement; and to refrain from any action that would make meaningful negotiations less likely.
And Arab states have a responsibility to support the Palestinian Authority with words and deeds, to take steps to improve relations with Israel, and to prepare their publics to embrace peace and accept Israel’s place in the region. The Saudi peace proposal, supported by more than twenty nations, was a positive step. But we believe that more is needed. So we are asking those who embrace the proposal to take meaningful steps now. Anwar Sadat and King Hussein crossed important thresholds, and their boldness and vision mobilized peace constituencies in Israel and paved the way for lasting agreements. By providing support to the Palestinians and offering an opening, however modest, to the Israelis, the Arab states could have the same impact. So I say to all sides: Sending messages of peace is not enough. You must also act against the cultures of hate, intolerance and disrespect that perpetuate conflict. [emphasis added]
Sadat and Hussein are interesting examples for role models: there were at least 12 failed attempts to assassinate Hussein while Sadat was in fact assassinated.
In any case, the sudden US interest in Abbas and the Palestinian Authority actually taking an active role in the peace process might come as a bit of a surprise to Palestinian Arabs--or it might just be put down as a sop by Obama after his meeting with Jewish leaders on Monday.
After all, after Obama's Cairo speech, where he praised Muslims and Islam--it is only Secretary of State Clinton who is claiming that more than just Israeli concessions are required. While the US is demanding a concrete step from Israel to freeze the settlements, there is no specific demand made of the Palestinian Arabs, and Clinton praises the PA for taking actions on security. Imagine if the Secretary of State praised the sacrifice Israel made in executing the Disengagement--thereby emphasizing the lack of action taken by the Palestinians.
Clinton warns the Palestinian Arabs to "refrain from any action that would make meaningful negotiations less likely"--an odd circumlocution--instead of pushing for something meaningful, such as requiring Abbas to stop naming things after Palestinian terrorists.
Secretary of State Clinton's speech only serves to emphasize the very tangible lack of balance between the demands being made of Israel and the passing reference to the Palestinian Arabs.
This is a framing which friends of Israel should particularly welcome. It is the Palestinian/Arab side which continues to foster anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and more in their schools and media, and continues to deny the basic legitimacy of Israel to exist (in contrast to Israel which has said and acted time and again to recognize and potentially realize the rights of Palestinians).It remains to be seen whether the US will demand action on any of these issues with anything near the persistence and forcefulness with which it addresses Israeli settlements.
UPDATE: Greg Sargent, who had an advanced copy of Clinton's speech, predicted:
In a major foreign policy speech this afternoon, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will take direct aim at Arab states for not doing their part towards securing Mideast peace, demanding that “all sides” do more to crack down on the “cultures of hate, intolerance and disrespect that perpetuate conflict,” according to an advance excerpt I’ve obtained.With all due respect to Sargent, if you want to see Clinton take direct aim and be demanding with a muscular tone and criticize with a sense of insistence -- that would be her addressing the issue of Israeli settlements:
Clinton’s muscular tone towards Arab states could blunt criticism from conservatives who say that the Obama administration has disproportionately pressured Israel by demanding a complete halt to settlement activity...
Clinton will criticize Arab states for sitting on their hands while awaiting a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the wake of the 2002 Saudi peace proposal...
Clinton’s insistence on action from “all sides,” Israel included, will likely spark more criticism from the right. [emphasis added]
With respect to settlements, the President was very clear when Prime Minister Netanyahu was here. He wants to see a stop to settlements – not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions. We think it is in the best interests of the effort that we are engaged in that settlement expansion cease. That is our position. That is what we have communicated very clearly, not only to the Israelis but to the Palestinians and others. And we intend to press that point.I look forward to the kind of evenhanded pressure on both sides that Obama claims to be applying--but let's be honest: we are nowhere near that point.
At the very least, Clinton had better be more 'muscular in tone' than demanding from the Palestinians that they "refrain from any action that would make meaningful negotiations less likely."
UPDATE II: Abe Greenwald doesn't see what all the fuss is about Clinton's speech:
She starts out by defending the indefensible settlement red herring, goes on to praise the Palestinians for improving security conditions, and calls on “all sides” to act against cultures of hate and intolerance. Did someone on her staff go through the speech beforehand and make sure to take out anything that referenced the world as it really is?
What about the perpetual reality that is Palestinian terrorism? The continued rocket attacks? The non-stop campaign of dehumanizing propaganda? The overarching fact that Palestinian leadership wants neither peace nor two states?
...So what’s left? Surreal rhetoric about cruel settlements and positive Palestinian security steps. On Israel, the administration, Hillary included, is a bust.
More about Clinton's speech at Memeorandum