When the White House announced its “indirect negotiations” between Israel and the Palestinians with much fanfare, the plan seemed little more than a cover up for the lack of progress. This way the peace process could appear to move forward even though it really wasn’t.
But the plan broke down so quickly - it never began - that it revealed an even deeper illusion had been cast. Rather than an umbrella for rainy peace prospects, Israel triggered a transformation after approving 1,600 settlement units in East Jerusalem upon the arrival of US Vice President Joe Biden.
From then on we were watching a show within a show.
Perhaps some opportunism is at work, but America and Israel have systematically utilized every part of the breakdown to make up as if the entire production was planned. The White House’s criticism lasted a few days before returning to a permanent love-fest. Israel continues marching as if nothing actually impedes it - because nothing does.
President Obama’s “pressure” isn’t real.
The White House is briefly acting confrontational to please elements of the US military and public, and of course the Muslim world. The US and Israeli medias have bought the act because they’re in it, instructed to amplify the crisis and favorably shape their governments’ messages. That the US media has perpetuated this pseudo feud for nearly two months isn’t surprising though, having covered up and conjured up bigger controversies in the past.
That’s why we exist.
But despite keeping their illusion relatively intact, the White House has been anything but clean in their performance. Publicly all over the map on policy and whip-lashing between bad cop and good cop, the last two months have been plagued by contradictory statements and leaks. Yet total meltdowns are also rare.
Obama doesn’t seem to realize it or he wouldn’t have done it, but today he brought the curtain down on his play. Perhaps it wasn’t today or yesterday, but recently Obama decided that the debate over US-Israeli relations had grown too hot.
Needing to cool off public discussion for his own comfort, Obama sent a letter to a leading Jewish figure reaffirming America’s bond with Israel.
“All sides should understand that our commitment to Israel is unshakable and that no wedge will be driven between us,” he wrote. "I am deeply committed to fulfilling the important role the United States must play for peace to be realized, but I also recognize that in order for any agreement to endure, peace cannot be imposed from the outside.”
This statement would already make a mockery of his “tough stance” on Israel, but like most US-Israeli interaction the reality is far murkier. Alan Solow isn’t just the chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations. Some believe he got the job based on his personal connection to Obama, having jumped on his election wagon early in the campaign.
Whether this allegation is true or not Solow remains an Obama booster, meaning Obama didn’t actually have to send a letter. Why not just call Solow if he’s such good friends? Obviously a private call would serve no purpose. Solow knows Obama is acting, he was the vehicle for Obama’s message to his audience - the most personal, biased one he could find.
This is Obama’s “tough” hand on Israel and “fair” hand on Palestine.
Has Gaza been eased? No, and now the West Bank undergoes periodic lock-downs, like a prison, for Israelis’ security. Nor have any Palestinian prisoners been released. We’re only told time after time that America and Israel are working out an agreement, how strong their bond is.
Then, as Obama says America’s bond with Israel is unbreakable, his National Security Adviser James Jones goes out and says, “One of the ways that Iran exerts influence in the Middle East is by exploiting the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict. Advancing this peace would... help prevent Iran from cynically shifting attention away from its failures to meet its obligations.”
Still trying to have it both ways, another bad cop to Obama’s good cop.
Certainly Iran uses the Palestinian cause to further its own, and that could qualify for nuclear weapons, but Palestinian occupation is at least part of Iran’s root hostility towards Israel. Instead of focusing on peace dividends, Jones is still focused on war. Iran isn’t “cynically” using Palestine any more than America is using Iran to shift attention away from Afghanistan.
Now notice Jones’ audience: the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. And finally Netanyahu still refuses to halt settlement construction in East Jerusalem. None of these pieces fit together unless the picture is fake.
But Obama wasn’t finished exposing himself as he let slip one of his worst traits - aversion to blame. In Afghanistan it’s Karzai and with Israel it’s the Palestinians and Arab states - or the US media. Stalled by a lack of planning and vision, Obama is trying to blame his vague, possibly non-existent policy on everyone else’s “misinterpretations.”
"I am sure you can distinguish between the noise and distortion about my views that have appeared recently, and the actual approach of my administration toward the Middle East," Obama wrote to Solow.
Of course, they probably speak regularly.
How insulting to those rational observers of an entrenched and failing policy, one being intentionally obscured by Obama himself. And Palestinians should feel especially duped, his administration has singled them out for inciting violence more than Israel. Obama needs to stand up for Palestinians with actions, not words, if he wants people to stop “misinterpreting” his policy.
Unfortunately Obama’s version of a Palestinian state, along with much of the White House, Congress, and Pentagon, is much closer to what Israel has in mind. Until that changes Washington's "pressure" - in the form of Obama, Jones, Clinton, or Petraeus - is nothing more than wolves in sheep's clothing.
And we’re the prey.