September 23, 2009

Defining Naivity

President Obama, his supporters claim, is a gifted orator capable of translating his words to deeds. George Bush's linguistic inadequacy obscures the true skills of Obama, as a good number of people could best Bush in eloquence. Obama's flowery prose has won praise from American detractors in Europe and the Middle East, but he also relies on it too heavily, especially when reality stands opposite of his words.

No need to mince words in The Trench - Obama stabbed himself and the Palestinians in his UN speech.

The Washington Post, in an editorial, falsely observed: “The administration's inflexible stance, unwisely spelled out in public by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, led to an unwinnable confrontation with Mr. Netanyahu, turned Israeli public opinion against Mr. Obama, and prompted Palestinians to harden their own position.”

Palestinians haven’t hardened their position any more with Obama than Bush, though they are likely about to do so now. It also turns out Obama won his confrontation with Israel and his inflexible stance is more gummy than steel. His UN speech called for, "a re-launch of negotiations without preconditions that address the permanent status issues: security for Israelis and Palestinians, borders, refugees, and Jerusalem.” Beyond how unacceptable this position is to Palestinians, Obama backtracked from a settlement freeze to a “refrain.” He then affirmed a “Jewish state of Israel," a precondition itself!

With one paragraph Obama handed a silver platter to Israel and threw the Palestinians to the wolves. Obama would bristle at this analysis, but the evidence is stacked against him and none greater than the glee from Israeli leaders. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he welcomed what he called Obama's “unequivocal support for Israel as the nation of the Jewish people” - that will cost him support in the Middle East.

“I found many things that were very good for us,” Netanyahu told reporters. “First of all, he said, 'Let's return to peace talks without preconditions,’ and that's what I've been saying for the last six months. I was happy that just like yesterday [in the tripartite meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas], that was the central message.”

And the exact opposite message preached by Palestinians. But Netanyahu was euphoric with Obama’s recognition of a Jewish state of Israel, who said, "I think that's the core of the conflict, or more precisely, the core of the solution to the conflict. I was happy to hear this in front of the world, the Arab world and the Palestinian people.”

Unfortunately, he won't find a single Muslim who believes the solution to the conflict is the recognition of a Jewish state. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman later told the Haaretz, "Obama is always trying to maintain a balance. For us, the positive aspect is that he said that Israel is a Jewish state."

But how balanced could he his only cheerleaders are Netanyahu and Lieberman, Israel's premier hawks and extremely unpopular men in Palestine?

President Obama has committed crucial errors, first by altering the conditions of final-status issues while preaching no pre-conditions. This is nonsensical and offensive to Palestinians. He also tilted way too far towards Israel. Octopus Mountain recommended a balanced stance to soothe Israelis, but he tried to revive his popularity in one speech. Obama probably bought himself a ratings boost given how happy Netanyahu is, but he sucker punched Palestinians to get it.

Fatah, who held a national convention just to consolidate its waning power, has been undercut and must now deftly straddle diplomacy and aggression to please its wide-ranging power base. Mohammed Dahlan, a senior spokesman and former security chief for Abbas's Fatah party told Reuters, “The U.S. administration has retreated from its position at the expense of peace.”

Obama hasn't just retreated though, he threw red meat at Israel. Now that Obama softened on settlements, backed a Jewish state, and insists on no pre-conditions, Israel believes it can walk over him and the Palestinians. Here is the true the spirit Obama created - Netanyahu taunting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. “Abbas had said he wouldn't even come unless this and that condition was met, but he came,” relished Netanyahu.

Lieberman similarly boasted, “The three-way meeting [between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and Obama on Tuesday] had a very positive effect because the main thing is that we showed that we do not intend to compromise on our positions and that we will need to conduct a dialogue without preconditions.”

A Palestinian's worst nightmare. Why would Obama want that, and what doesn't he understand about the consequences of his speech? Soon after Obama ended his speech, Netanyahu claimed he only loosely endorsed the Road Map which, “did not intend to pull back to the 1967 lines. All the more so, I don't intend to do so.”

Add up the mayhem. Israel will insist on no pre-conditions now that Obama provided cover, yet Israel is already a Jewish state, refugees aren’t allowed to return, and Jerusalem will stay undivided in Israel’s possession. Netanyahu doesn’t intend to return to pre-1967 borders as advocated by every Arab state. Even if Abbas caved and agreed to no pre-conditions on final status issues, he was in the middle of switching his condition to pre-1967 borders. Obama just broke his last leg to stand on.

“I am not naive,” Obama told the UN, but his words say otherwise as do the potential effects of them.

The definition of a third Intifada is subject to debate. Some believe the Gaza war marked its beginning, though many people agree that an Intifada may be looming but hasn’t broke. Octopus Mountain doesn't think a proper third Intifada has begun, but we’re growing nervous after Obama’s speech. Excluding Hamas is dangerous in itself, but supporting Israel’s demands over the Palestinians at such a high venue as the UN probably has Hamas loading its guns.

The first and second Intifadas occurred after hopelessness besieged the Palestinians and Obama is creating a similar type of futile atmosphere. He collapsed under Israeli pressure, mushroomed Palestinian skepticism, and may actually have jammed negotiations even more by giving up on pre-conditions, which served as one of the Palestinian’s few defenses. His hands completely tied by Israel, he gave a UN speech that ignored the Gaza war and the blockade, further cementing force as Hamas’s only option.

Naive is the only word to describe President Obama’s day at the UN.

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