Hillary Clinton Speech; Israel-USA Rift

Excerpted from David Horovitz, J.Post:

For all its honey coating, the Secretary of State’s speech was replete with advice and demands…lectured on the untenability of the status quo, as though this was news to Israel….urged Israelis to take risks and seek new avenues to peace, as though Yitzhak Rabin, Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert had not sought compromise, but then been rebuffed….disingenuously misidentified Hamas, rather than Abbas’s Fatah, as the force behind the honoring of the perpetrator of the Coastal Road massacre.

Hillary, the top American diplomat, asserted that Abbas had placed the Palestinians firmly on a peaceful route. In Netanyahu’s and other’s view, the Palestinians haven’t shown the slightest readiness to progress.

Reactions to the speech:

The Israel-US dispute may have exploded over 1,600 homes in Ramat Shlomo, but is essentially rooted in a stark difference of perception between Jerusalem and Washington as to the Palestinian Authority’s peace-making readiness and intentions.

Before the Obama-Netanyahu meetings on Tuesday night, signs were that both sides were making some efforts to acknowledge and try to find a way to move on from their Jerusalem arguments and their conflicting assessments over Abbas’s viability as a peace partner. And yet Netanyahu headed home Thursday, the near-ostracized victim of what he regards as the Obama administration’s wrongheadedness, and more deeply aware than ever of the extent of the rift and a president angry and frustrated by what he regards as Netanyahu’s stubbornness and misplaced priorities.

In The Washington Post, Jackson Diehl accused Obama of adding “more poison to a US-Israeli relationship that already was at its lowest point in two decades…Netanyahu is being treated as if he were an unsavory Third World dictator, needed for strategic reasons but conspicuously held at arms length.”

The divide seems almost impossible to bridge. For all the current Israeli political hysteria, and for all Netanyahu’s deep dismay over the administration’s treatment of him, he is not about to dump the more hawkish wing of his coalition and try to draw in Kadima in order to meet American demands he both opposes ideologically and regards as counter-productive in practice [I see great benefit in dumping the right wing in favor of centrist Kadima-Gideon]. And with that yawning US-Israel divide comes the exacerbation of Israel’s international pariah status.

The Israeli government blames the U.S. administration’s overreach – its centerpiece demand for a halt to all building for Jews in east Jerusalem – for the failure to start proximity talks, much less resume direct negotiations with Abbas. The Palestinian leader, they say, has no need to come and bargain at the negotiating table when the US is doing his bargaining for him. The administration, in turn, regards Israel’s provocative expansion of Jewish building over the Green Line as the prime obstacle to rapid progress.

While the Americans and the Israelis intensified their dialogue of the deaf, 2009 came and went without any direct Israeli-Palestinian talks, the first such barren year in 17 and at the rate we’re all going 2010 will be no more productive. In fact, it looks certain to be a whole lot worse than that.


Back to Clinton’s and Netanyahu’s speeches: The secretary urged Israel to “take risks, even a leap of faith” for peace. The prime minister responded dryly that Israel was “prepared to take risks for peace, but we will not be reckless with the lives of our people and the life of the one and only Jewish state”.

The secretary asserted that Abbas was a potential peace partner. The prime minister wondered by way of derisive retort, “What has the Palestinian Authority done for peace? Well, they have placed preconditions on peace talks, waged a relentless international campaign to undermine Israel’s legitimacy, and promoted the notorious Goldstone Report that falsely accuses Israel of war crimes.”

The secretary had warned that “new construction in east Jerusalem” undermined mutual trust, endangered the proximity talks, exposed daylight between Israel and the United States “that others in the region could hope to exploit” and undermined America’s unique ability to play an essential role in the peace process. Netanyahu slammed back that “The Jewish people were building Jerusalem 3,000 years ago and the Jewish people are building Jerusalem today.”

“Jerusalem is not a settlement. It is our capital… Today, nearly a quarter of a million Jews, almost half the city’s Jewish population, live in neighborhoods that are just beyond the 1949 armistice lines. All these neighborhoods are within a five minute drive from the Knesset. They are an integral and inextricable part of modern Jerusalem. Everyone knows that these neighborhoods will be part of Israel in any peace settlement. Therefore, building them in no way precludes the possibility of a two-state solution.”

Signing his dramatic health care reform bill the next day, Obama declared triumphantly that America is a country “that shapes our own destiny.”

Netanyahu was saying much the same thing. Yet the prime minister’s ripostes paled by comparison to the ferocious defense of Israel mounted earlier that same evening by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham: “To the Palestinians I say, I share your hopes and dreams. All I ask is that you recognize Israel has a place on the planet… Friends disagree, but disagree quietly – so that those who wish you ill, who do not have your interests at heart, are not empowered… It is better to go to war [Iran?] than to allow the Holocaust to develop a second time. I hope and pray that other options will work…”

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