Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Middle East Media Sampler 6/19/2012: The Extent Of Obama's Failure With Palestinians

From DG:
1) Betting on the PA

Steven Rosen in a summary of a recent paperIsraeli Settlements, American Pressure, and Peace wrote:
President Obama apparently believed that pressuring Israel to halt construction of homes in Jewish neighborhoods in parts of Jerusalem formerly controlled by Jordan would advance peace. In reality, the opposite ensued. As a result, he was the first president since the Madrid conference in 1991 to have had no sustained high-level, direct negotiations between the parties. Never before were peace negotiations held up by putting the wish for a settlement freeze first. Mahmoud Abbas participated in 18 years of direct negotiations with seven Israeli governments, all without the settlements freeze that he now insists is an absolute precondition to begin even low-level talks.
The expectations engendered by President Obama's focus on "settlements" fueled last year's Palestinian effort to bypass negotiations by obtaining a Unilateral Declaration of Independence through the UN.

Though the United States belatedly scuttled that effort by using a veto, the Palestinians are not deterred. Israel Hayom reports Palestinians might go to UN for statehood this month ...
(h/t Challah Hu Akbar)
Abbas last year applied for UN membership, but the United States made clear it would veto the move in the Security Council. However, the Palestinians, who currently have observer status at the UN, could secure a resolution at the General Assembly that would grant them the status of a nonmember state, similar to the Vatican. Under such a resolution, Palestine would be considered a “state under occupation,” according to Erekat. 
While Palestine would not have a vote in the General Assembly, it could join the International Court of Justice or the International Criminal Court. 
“I don’t know why the Israelis are against this move,” Erekat said in the interview Friday, sitting in the PLO’s negotiations office in his hometown of Jericho, in the West Bank. “Why couldn’t they stand tall in the UN and say Israel will be the first nation to vote for the nation of Palestine, because we are for the two-state solution? Especially when the Palestinians are going to put [forward] a resolution [calling for] ‘a state of Palestine with ’67 lines and East Jerusalem as its capital, to live side by side in peace and security with the State of Israel.’
I know Erekat is asking those questions rhetorically. Currently the PA is engaged in efforts to silent dissent as its leader and his family try to cover up their ill gotten wealth. In other words the PA is becoming like Egypt under Mubarak, an entity that Israel is being told it can't trust because it doesn't respect its citizens.

Consider too that Israel is getting little sympathy over the erosion of the peace treaty with Egypt, or that its withdrawals from Gaza and Lebanon only encouraged terror wars (by Hamas and Hezbollah).

Is there anything to gain by making peace with the Palestinian Authority?

Finally Khaled Abu Toameh writes:
The security crackdown in the West Bank has nothing to do with combating terrorism. The arrests and confiscation of weapons are part of an effort by the Palestinian Authority to fight crime and dissension within its own ranks. 
The clampdown could last for weeks or months. Abbas is fighting to regain control over refugee camps and other Palestinian communities that have fallen into the hands of gangsters and thugs. 
In the last week, Abbas has renewed his threat to go back to the UN to ask for recognition of a Palestinian state if Israel does not comply with his demand for a freeze of settlement construction and acceptance of the pre-1967 lines as the future borders of the state. But before he heads back to New York, Abbas will have to prove that he has not lost control over certain parts of the territories which are supposed to be under his jurisdiction.
Past experience shows that Israeli peace treaties and gestures have backfired. Current experience shows that the PA is barely functioning as government. Do further concessions to the PA make sense? Is it worth it for Israel to bet on them?



2) Democracy is not the only value

The New York Times - Egypt's Democracy Interrupted:
Egyptians made their revolution and ultimately must make it succeed. The reformers are going to have to regroup. They will be stronger if they work together. 
And they will be stronger if they have less equivocal backing from the Obama administration, which was quiet for too long. It sent the wrong message in March when it resumed military aid to Egypt — $1.3 billion annually — after a five-month hiatus, even though the generals had not repealed the emergency law or dropped prosecutions against employees of four American-financed democracy groups. The administration should have delayed some of the aid to show firm support for the democratic process. 
American officials were right to warn the generals on Monday that they risk losing billions of dollars if they don’t swiftly transfer power to the president, ensure elections for a new Parliament and begin writing a new constitution with help from a broad range of Egyptians. The United States needs to work with Egypt to maintain the peace treaty and a stable border with Israel. But an undemocratic Egypt in perpetual turmoil is no help to its own people or Israel or the rest of the region.
The Washington Post - Egypt's Generals Grab for Power:
The military council may have calculated that the United States would look the other way while it usurped the first democratic election for president in Egypt’s history. After all, that’s been the administration’s pattern so far. On Monday, the State Department said that the military must honor its commitments to allow a transfer of power to civilian control and that its decisions “will have an impact on the nature of our engagement.” We hope the message is being stated more bluntly in private. If the generals suffocate Egyptian democracy in the cradle, U.S. military aid must cease.
Max Boot - Let the Brotherhood rule Egypt:
I do not envy President Obama having to figure out how to respond. The American interest in democracy appears, in this case, to be at odds with our strategic interest, which is working with the Egyptian military, as we have since the 1970s, rather than trying to deal with the anti-Western, anti-Israel Brotherhood. The U.S. has considerable leverage over the process, thanks to the $1.3 billion in military aid that we provide to Egypt every year. How the U.S. uses that leverage can help to shape the outcome. 
Tempting as it is for the U.S. to acquiesce in the military’s latest power grab, it is a mistake. The military is either ushering in the day of reckoning (if civil war breaks out) or delaying it (if it doesn’t). Either way, Egypt’s long-term prospects are not served by this decision, because it will allow the Brotherhood to claim the cloak of martyrdom. The best bet in the long run for weakening Brotherhood authority would be to allow it to rule. Already, the Brotherhood’s appeal seems to have declined since the parliamentary elections which ended in January. 
Undoubtedly, if the Brotherhood were granted full authority over Egypt’s dysfunctional state and anemic economy, its popularity would decline some more–unless it were able to moderate its wilder instincts and deliver real results. By keeping the Brotherhood out of power, the SCAF is taking upon itself all the blame for Egypt’s dire condition–not a wise long-term bet.
All three proceed from the assumption that Egypt's military remaining in power is the worst possible outcome. Egypt's military probably looks at the the way the AKP has run Turkey for the past decade, and its members probably don't relish being sent off to jail as a means of retirement. Of course, in Erdogan's Turkey, it isn't just the military that's been persecuted by the government. The AKP has been jailing journalists, taking a strong stand against any sort of criticism. In other words, if the Muslim Brotherhood comes to rule Egypt, freedom is by no means a sure outcome.

All three opinions quoted here suggest that the United States use the leverage of aid to ensure that the Egyptian military fulfill its obligations to its citizens.

But governments don't just have obligations to their citizenry, they also have obligations to other countries.

Since Egypt's revolution, the country has
  1. Failed to secure the Sinai allowing it to become a new front that Israel needs to defend
  2. Reneged on a natural gas contract with Israel falsely characterized at being solely to Israel's advantage
  3. Allowed the sacking of the Israeli embassy last September
The reason Egypt was awarded the American aid in the first place was to secure the peace between Egypt and Israel. Yet there have been few voices that America needs to condition its aid on the way Egypt respects (or disrespects) its peace treaty with Israel.

Thomas Friedman, of course, claims that Israel needs to adjust its expectations and make peace with the Palestinians in order to deserve peace from Egypt.

An exception was Jackson Diehl's profile of  Maikel Nabil Sanad:
Now he is trying to explain to Americans why it is wrong to continue funding the generals. Start, he says, with the first sentence of the State Department’s explanation, that Egypt “is meeting its obligations under its peace treaty with Israel.” Actually, Nabil points out, the military is systematically whipping up hostility to Israel inside Egypt and using the treaty to “blackmail both Egyptians and U.S. taxpayers” by hinting that the loss of aid — or a democratic government’s control of the military — will mean its rupture.
Israel gave up a significant strategic buffer to make peace with Egypt. It is constantly being urged to make further concessions for peace. But if the world (and especially the United States) is unwilling to support Israel as Egypt slowly abrogates aspects of the peace treaty, why should Israel be willing to trust international guarantees to make concession?

Contrary to the assertion at the end of the New York Times editorial, the Muslim Brotherhood would certainly be worse for Israel - it has announced its alliance with Hamas - than the current regime. Democracy is not the only value at stake here.
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