Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Only Thing Scarier Than An Obama Plan For Israel Is That He May Have No Plan At All

Last month, Laura Rozen wrote at Politico:
Sources say within the inter-agency process, White House Middle East strategist Dennis Ross is staking out a position that Washington needs to be sensitive to Netanyahu’s domestic political constraints including over the issue of building in East Jerusalem in order to not raise new Arab demands, while other officials including some aligned with Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell are arguing Washington needs to hold firm in pressing Netanyahu for written commitments to avoid provocations that imperil Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and to preserve the Obama administration’s credibility. …

“He [Ross] seems to be far more sensitive to Netanyahu’s coalition politics than to U.S. interests,” one U.S. official told POLITICO Saturday. “And he doesn’t seem to understand that this has become bigger than Jerusalem but is rather about the credibility of this Administration.”

What some saw as the suggestion of dual loyalties shows how heated the debate has become.
At the time, Noah Pollak wrote about 3 things that could be learned from Rozen's report, the first being:
The administration has essentially been winging it, at least on the details. If senior officials are just now debating how to handle the crisis, it means that there wasn’t a particularly coherent or well-considered strategy in the first place — just a generalized desire to knock the Israelis around. Smart power.
Read the whole thing.

Pollak's analysis seems to be borne out by an article in Foreign Policy: The Cable. In Obama advisors all over the map on Israel, Josh Rogin reports:
Although the public fireworks between top U.S. and Israeli officials may have died down in recent days, a fully fledged debate has erupted inside the Obama administration over how to best bring Middle East peace talks to fruition, let alone a successful conclusion.

Some reports have suggested there are two camps within Obamaland -- one favoring an incremental approach focused on persuading the Israelis and Palestinians to return to negotiations, and a second group pushing the president to lay his own "American plan" on the table.

But one U.S. official close to the issue told The Cable there's a more diverse spectrum of opinion inside the administration, with different officials exhibiting a range of views on what the tactics and tone of the U.S. approach should be going forward. There is no prospect of an Obama peace plan surfacing anytime soon, however.
This comes as Zbigniew Brzezinski and Stephen Solarz came out today with an op-ed in the Washington Post coming out forcefully in favor of Obama making a major push with his own peace plan and a person visit to the Middle East to present it, along with Arab leaders and the Quartet.

But apparently Obama is not ready for such a move:
National Security Advisor Jim Jones is the one most clearly advocating for a more definite American plan for how to proceed. Washington Post columnist David Ignatius and New York Times reporter Helene Cooper both described Jones as the prime mover behind a recent White House meeting in which a group of former national security advisors urged Obama to consider proposing his own peace initiative.
But Jones denied Friday that Obama has decided to take their advice.
Read the whole thing.

Nevertheless, with Jones, Jarrett, Clinton, Biden, Ross and Mitchell each having Obama's ear, it is not completely what kind of approach Obama is going to take--or when he is going to take it, though we can assume that whatever Obama is going to do, it will be sooner rather than later. And that it is unlikely to be focused on the long term.

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NormanF said...

The President has to rescue his flagging political popularity. At Israel's expense if at all possible.

Although I think Israel isn't inclined to do him any great favors these days.

Daled Amos said...

Obama is not counting on favors from Israel and other 'allies' in the same category.

He is counting on the pressure that can be applied.

NormanF said...

The Chicago Way... browbeat, threaten and break your enemies and cajole, flatter and bribe your friends.

The Obami modus operandi may not be elegant and smooth but it does produce results. Just look at Obamacare. And the same thing is being applied now in the Middle East. For Israel, supplication or on the Obami's terms, submission - is not going to allow it to effectively defend its existence.

Only by defeating the Chicago Way can Israel remain a truly sovereign nation.

Daled Amos said...

The problem is that Obama is in the drivers seat, and if he does decide to push his own peace plan, he will be able to apply an awful lot of pressure--not only from the US but also in terms of the Quartet.

This is the Chicago Way on steroids.