Jewish Right To Israel

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

State Department: Obama Administration Has Accomplished More Than 8 Years Of Bush

That is simply too good not to check. First, here is the actual comment, from yesterday's daily press briefing with State Department spokesman Ian Kelly:
QUESTION: Could you give us just a brief synopsis of the progress that Senator Mitchell has made in his months on the job?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think we have – we’ve gotten --
QUESTION: Yeah, maybe if the --

MR. KELLY: -- both sides to agree on this goal. We have gotten both sides --

QUESTION: Ian, they agreed on the goal years ago. I mean, that’s not --

MR. KELLY: Well, I think that we – this government --

QUESTION: You mean you got the Israel Government to say, yes, we’re willing to accept a Palestinian state? You got Netanyahu to say that, and that’s his big accomplishment?

MR. KELLY: That is an accomplishment.

QUESTION: But previous Israeli administration – previous Israeli governments had agreed to that already.

MR. KELLY: Okay, all right.

QUESTION: So in other words, the bottom line is that, in the list of accomplishments that Mitchell has come up with or established since he started, is zero.

MR. KELLY: I wouldn’t say zero.

QUESTION: Well, then what would you say it is?

MR. KELLY: Well, I would say that we’ve gotten both sides to commit to this goal. They have – we have – we’ve had a intensive round or rounds of negotiations, the President brought the two leaders together in New York. Look --

QUESTION: But wait, hold on. You haven’t had any intense --

MR. KELLY: Obviously --

QUESTION: There haven’t been any negotiations.

MR. KELLY: Obviously, we’re not even in the red zone yet, okay.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. KELLY: I mean, we’re not – but it’s – we are less than a year into this Administration, and I think we’ve accomplished more over the last year than the previous administration did in eight years.

QUESTION: Well, I – really, because the previous administration actually had them sitting down talking to each other. You guys can’t even get that far.

MR. KELLY: All right.

QUESTION: I’ll drop it.

MR. KELLY: Give us a chance. Thank you, Matt.
To be honest, Kelly does seem to maybe have realized he exaggerated--but the same cannot be said for Secretary of State Clinton, who said in a speech in September:
And I think that what George Mitchell has done has been very valuable in sorting through a lot of the concerns, because if you recall in the previous efforts of the Bush Administration through the Roadmap, the parties were encouraged to work themselves toward a resolution. The United States was not actively engaged in it, as we were in the ‘90s. So do I think maybe we’ve lost some ground, or maybe it’s a little more difficult because of that? I do. But that is not going to discourage us. So let me just reassure you. We are going to continue to do all that we can working with everyone involved, but most particularly the Palestinians and the Israelis, to reach that comprehensive peace agreement that we think is in the best interests of both countries.
So what, if anything, were the accomplishments of the Bush administration during the 8 years of its administration? Rick Richman has a list:
Far from ignoring the Arab-Israeli issue, Bush did the following:

(1) became in 2002 the first U.S. president to endorse a Palestinian state as a matter of official policy;

(2) translated the policy in 2003 into a Road Map approved by the UN, the EU, Russia, the Palestinian Authority and Israel;

(3) negotiated with Israel in 2004 on the Gaza Disengagement Deal (and got West Bank settlements dismantled to demonstrate it would not stop with Gaza);

(4) supported a Palestinian election in 2005 to endorse a new leader pledged to dismantling terrorist groups;

(5) permitted all parties to participate in the 2006 elections to give Palestinians a choice between the “peace partner” party and the premier terrorist group;

(6) scuttled the first two phases of the Road Map in 2007, in order to keep the process going, even after the Palestinians elected their premier terrorist group;

(7) convened a worldwide conference in Annapolis in 2007 to begin a year-long period of final status negotiations; and

(8) had his Secretary of State make umpteen trips in 2006-2008 to push the negotiations.
You can argue about the policies of the Bush administration, but to say it stood by and did nothing is just wrong.

Getting back to the Obama administration, just what has been accomplished? The Washington Post is not nearly as confident as Hillary Clinton. In fact--quite the opposite:

After nine months of shuttle diplomacy by U.S. special envoy George J. Mitchell, the gap between Israeli and Palestinian leaders appears to have grown, and it now includes not only a dispute over Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank, but also renewed tension over Jerusalem, disagreement over the framework for the talks and controversy over a U.N. report on alleged war crimes during Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip last winter.

When Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Mitchell report to the White House next week on the administration's goal of restarting the peace talks, they will be describing a situation that has arguably regressed, particularly in the three weeks since a high-level session in New York involving President Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. [emphasis added]
In tracking the failure of the Obama initiative, Elliot Abrams points to 4 issues--
1. The instant hostility towards the new Netanyahu coalition
2. The obsession with a settlement freeze, including Jerusalem--which even the Palestinian Arabs had not made a central issue
3. The demand from Saudi Arabia to reach out to Israel--which was rejected.
4. Manipulating the Palestinian leadership: (i) by encouraging them to also insist on a settlement freeze--and then leaving them high and dry by drawing back from the demand
(ii) by pressuring them to not push for the approval of the Goldstone Report in the UN Human Human Rights Council.
So for Mr. Kelly to say:
we are less than a year into this Administration, and I think we’ve accomplished more over the last year than the previous administration did in eight years
is, if nothing else, an indication of how glibly one can create facts in Washington.
One can only hope that the US is basing itself more firmly on the facts when dealing with our allies.

But at least--as the questions asked of Kelly above indicate--the press is showing more of a tendency to challenge what the administration is claiming.

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