Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Obama is Backing Down from Settlement Freeze Insistence

The Obama administration appears to be backing down on its insistence that Israel halt all settlement activity as a condition for restarting peace talks with the Palestinians.
We saw this coming, miles away.
"We put forward our ideas, publicly and privately, about what it will take for negotiations to be restarted, but ultimately it'll be up to the parties themselves, with our help, to determine whether that threshold has been met," Crowley (US State Dept. spokesperson) said. "Ultimately," he added, "this is not a process by which the United States will impose conditions on Israel, on the Palestinian Authority, on other countries.
This is not a process by which the U.S. will impose conditions on Israel? Really? What does that scenario look like, when the U.S. will impose conditions on Israel? That scenario is more serious than skirting the peace process by continuing settlement expansion in the West Bank? It's more serious than continuing the siege on Gaza? It's more serious than Operation Cast Lead?
Getting Arab buy-in on such a deal will be difficult, particularly since Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to resume negotiations with Israel until there is a full freeze on settlements. U.S. officials said Thursday that they will continue to press Israel for as broad a suspension as possible.
So basically, whatever you can do, Israel, we are behind you. From another article in Haaretz, it's clear that Israel can't commit to much of a freeze.
The Obama administration has agreed to Israel's request to remove East Jerusalem from negotiations on the impending settlement freeze...
U.S. envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell has recognized the fact that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cannot announce a settlement freeze in East Jerusalem. The officials said the U.S. will not endorse new construction there, but would not demand Jerusalem publicly announce a freeze.
Netanyahu "cannot" announce a settlement freeze in East Jerusalem? How do you mean? The fact is he can announce that. It's baffling to me that the part of these discussions/negotiations do not include acknowledgment that the U.S. gives Israel $15 million per DAY. How can Obama say, "freeze all settlement construction," and Netanyahu say, "No." It's like a child telling his mother that his sack lunches aren't good enough, that he wants more Capri Suns and Gushers, and somehow the mother doesn't understand that she holds all the cards because she buys the food and makes the lunch. And somehow we end up in a situation where this is the result...
The new Israeli proposal will exclude some 2,500 housing units on which construction has already started.

Additionally, in special cases where it is necessary to keep "normal life," Netanyahu wants to be able to erect public buildings in the settlements - mainly kindergartens and schools.

Finally, Israel wants the freeze to have a clear "exit plan." In Israel's view, the freeze is a confidence-building measure that must be matched by reciprocal steps from the PA and Arab states. If these fail to materialize, Israel wants an American guarantee that it will not oppose renewed building.
This is a mad, mad world.