Washington Post and Obama’s Diplomacy Skills

Is there an unofficial freeze in East Jerusalem?

Today, the Washington Post printed an editorial about the re-ignition of informal peace talks between Israel and Palestine.  In the editorial, the author claims that the two-month delay was symbolic of Obama’s diplomacy at its worst: “President Obama chose to escalate what could have been a blip into a public quarrel, in the apparent hope of extracting a series of concessions from Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.”

[tweetmeme] It is hard to believe that Obama did not get anything from Israeli PM Netanyahu, particularly when one reads a newspaper once in a while.  After the spat between Israel and the US concerning the construction in East Jerusalem, there was the mysterious call between Bibi and Sec. of State Clinton in which Clinton asked the Israelis for certain concessions to mend the damage of the politically disastrous decision to announce more East Jerusalem construction while VP Biden was in town.  Presumably one of the demands was a freeze of construction in the future Palestinian capital – something that is as close to a political impossibility for Bibi as is possible.

Palestinian President Abbas then cam out to say that indirect talks are impossible without a freeze in East Jerusalem (hardly an extreme demand).  Now, indirect talks are about to begin, meaning, perhaps, Abbas withdrew his request.  Or, perhaps more likely, the rumors are true that Bibi agreed to an informal freeze in the Arab section of the town.  Of course, Israeli officials deny there is a freeze (such a move, if official, could tear down the ruling coalition), but there is strong evidence that one exists:

Jerusalem Councilman Meir Margalit of the left-wing Meretz Party said top Jerusalem officials intimately involved with construction projects had told him that Netanyahu’s office ordered a freeze after the approval of 1,600 new housing units in the north Jerusalem Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, which is located over the Green Line, was announced during a visit by US Vice President Joe Biden last month, sparking a diplomatic row with Washington.

“The government ordered the Interior Ministry immediately after the Biden incident to not even talk about new construction for Jewish homes in east Jerusalem,” Margalit said. “It’s not just that building has stopped: The committees that deal with this are not even meeting anymore.”

So, there is perhaps an unofficial freeze in East Jerusalem and the US is apparently willing to abstain from votes in the UN condemning Israel if the latter commits aggressive acts that disrupt the peace process (something that became politically viable due to the political disagreement between the US and Israel).  I would hardly call that extracting nothing.

Photo from CBC

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