Friday, April 23, 2010

The Paradigm Shift In Israel's View Of The Palestinian Conflict Catches Obama Unawares

Gary Rosenblatt writes about a talk given by The Jerusalem Post's Herb Keinon in Teaneck, NJ. Keinon described how Israel's attitude went through a major change over the past decade:
Israel, he said, has undergone “a fundamental political transformation” as a result of enduring five years of high-level terrorism, beginning in 2000. He pointed out that whereas Labor and Meretz, the two leading political parties of the left advocating for territorial concessions, received 56 seats in the 1992 national elections, they won only 16 seats in last year’s vote.

“Israel was mugged by reality,” according to Keinon, with missile attacks on northern cities from Lebanon in 2006 and on Sderot from Gaza for years have heightened a national sense of insecurity. Not a time for diplomatic risk-taking and ceding land, he said.

“We can’t go back to the land-for-peace paradigm” the U.S. is calling for now because “we got terrorism for land,” after withdrawing from Lebanon in 2000 and Gaza in 2005.
Washington believes in resolving the conflict, but Israelis now talk about managing the conflict.

Netanyahu has a peace plan, Keinon said, though it is not to Washington’s liking because it calls for gradual rather than dramatic progress, based on creating economic growth for the Palestinians and involving Arab states in the process, as well as insisting on recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.

Obama, by contrast, “needs immediate results,” Keinon said, because he is convinced a resolution of the Palestinian conflict will help speed up the effort to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
It should be noted that Obama has received advice along these lines already. In a post from February of last year entitled Obama Being Advised To Pursue A Minimalist Approach In Israel-Palestinian Conflict I wrote about Robert Malley, an Obama adviser during the campaign, Aaron David Miller, who recently wrote that resolving the conflict will not fix the Middle East, and Robert Satloff, the Executive Director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy--who all advised Obama to take it slow.

Obama has chosen not to take this advice. Keinon writes that Obama believed--wrongly, as it turned out--that tensions between the US and Israel would cause Israelis to pressure Netanyahu to do what Obama wanted. Obama also thought--incorrectly--that the Israeli public strongly opposes the settlements. Keinon clarifies that
“...while Israelis oppose “the hard-core ideology” of some settlers and are against outposts, they are sympathetic to communities in areas like Gush Etzion, Ma’ale Adumim and east Jerusalem with large Jewish populations.
The question now is whether Obama will realize his mistake and change strategies--or insist on following the same course more forcefully.

One of the claims against Obama from the beginning has been that he lacks experience.
Now we will see if he knows how to learn from it.

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