The Globe and Mail, like all other newspapers, are all over the recent American decision to stop pushing for a settlement freeze. The Globe chose to run a piece highlighting the winners and losers of the whole settlement debacle. Needless to say the author chose Obama (read: all of America) as the loser and the settlers as the winners. The part that really struck me though was how the author, one Patrick Martin, chose to describe how the whole issue could have been avoided:
Could the failure have been avoided?
Only if the demand for a settlement freeze had never been made. “The whole idea of the settlement freeze for negotiations was a mistake,” said Yossi Alpher, co-editor of BitterLemons, an Israeli-Palestinian website. “It was never demanded of any previous Israeli government, including governments much more inclined to make peace with the Palestinians.” Once made, however, it became too appealing for the Palestinians to resist, and too infuriating for Mr. Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition partners to accept.
[tweetmeme] I have two issues with this. First of all, it was not that the offer of a freeze was too appealing for Abbas et al. It was the fact that Obama (remember that peace prize?) demanded a full settlement freeze, including East Jerusalem, long ago and Abbas could not have possibly asked for more. Imagine if Obama demanded a full settlement freeze and then the PA came out and said that it was not necessary. What is left of Abbas’ domestic political support would be gone for good. It was not that the offer was simply just too enticing, it was the fact that Obama lifted Abbas up and then hung him out to dry.
Secondly, I highly doubt that some sort of permanent, deal-breaking deadlock would have arisen. Anyone paying attention (and with a brain) can see that Netanyahu is not and has never been ready for peace. Forget his speeches, the man set these talks up to fail. If it was not settlements, it would have been recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. If it was not recognition, it would have been a permanent Israeli presence (see annexation) of the Jordan Valley. If it was not the Jordan Valley it would have been control of Palestine’s airspace.
Of course, Obama bumbled this whole process by continuing to bow down to Netanyahu, by sacrificing American standing and by boxing the Palestinians in a corner. But, to me, Obama’s biggest blunder was simply engaging in a process that was doomed to fail. Perhaps now (we’ll find out on Friday) the EU or Russia or Turkey (or anyone) can step in and do what America could not. By that, of course, I mean kiss Netanyahu’s feet. The US needs to take a time out. For Israel, for Palestine and for its own self-image. Though, it is highly unlikely that Obama will give up the justification for his Nobel that easily.
Photo from Washington Note