September 21 2011
Whatever you think of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, you have to admit that the crisis the U.S. is now facing in the United Nations--where the Palestinians are demanding a vote on statehood, something that was supposed to be contingent on negotiations with Israel--is a man made disaster.
The man who made the disaster is President Barack Obama. He made it by doing the thing he likes best: talking. President Obama, please stop talking. The world can't afford more loose talk about complex issues; the cost is just too great.
An editorial in the Washington Times pretty much sums up our predicament:
In his Sept. 23, 2010, speech before the U.N. General Assembly, President Obama waxed eloquent about the goals of the direct Mideast peace talks being held under American auspices. He said he hoped that "when we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that will lead to a new member of the United Nations - an independent, sovereign state of Palestine, living in peace with Israel." The talks soon broke down, but the proposed timeline remained. The idea of asking the U.N. to upgrade the status of the Palestinian Authority from nonvoting "observer entity" to "observer state" was discussed at an Arab League meeting in Libya in October and soon dominated Palestinian strategic thinking.
Jonathan Tobin has an excellent piece on how the unnecessary drama at the United Nations is the result solely of the administration's misjudgments.
We should have the leverage to control this situation. The United States gives Palestinians an immense amount of aid--$500 million annually (right about what we "loaned" Solyndra, the failed green company), and ordinarily this would give us clout. But who believes President Chatty would actually have the nerve to revoke the aid?
This is not the place to debate what's in President Obama's heart with regard to Israel, though this item from Commentary makes the suggestion, heretofore taboo, that the president has, in fact, been influenced by some of the anti-Israel thinkers to whom he has been close.
But I don't have time to worry about the president's deep down view of Israel. The story here is what is likely to be a profound impact on Israel and the United State's reputation in the Middle East, a region where willingness to exert power is everything. Barry Rubin, one of the most astute commentators on the Middle East, says that that we are not going to come out of this with our reputation intact:
Western countries don't keep their commitments to Israel. They also don't deliver on their supposed sympathy for Arab peoples who-according to the Western states-are struggling for independence and rebelling against unacceptable economic situations. That means instability, civil war, and massive suffering becomes more likely in Egypt and Tunisia. In other words, the West is not reliable. If that's true, why should anyone listen to its advice? Why should Israel take big risks or make large concessions in exchange for Western promises.
I can't help wondering if Barack Obama is realizing that the world is not exactly as he imagined it. But I doubt it. Scariest news report of the day: "Obama to meet with Palestinian leader at UN as push deepens to avoid showdown over statehood bid."
Yeah, he's going to talk some more.
I hope this time he is successful-that he threatens to slam shut the U.S. pocketbook-but, at least early this morning, I am not feeling optimistic. The veto, which will roil the Arab world, may be our only choice.
When he goes into the meeting, President Obama should remember that Middle Eastern leaders don't hesitate to act. Oh, and by the way---they are calling for a mass rally to support statehood today in Ramallah (you remember Ramallah, don't you, where there was dancing in the streets to celebrate 9/11?).