Both Barack Obama and Donald Trump wanted to change US policy toward both Israel-Palestine and Iran. When Obama arrived in the Oval Office, he brought an ambitious foreign policy plan with him. He wanted to diminish the heavy U.S. footprint in the Middle East, “pivot toward Asia,” and rebuild the confidence in the United States as a sober actor on the world stage that George W. Bush had undermined with his calamitous invasion of Iraq.
At the beginning of his first term—after he made his initial speech indicating a willingness to improve relations with Iran—Obama devoted his efforts and political capital to trying to bring a Palestinian state into being. He knew there would be political costs, and although he underestimated them, he understood that it would take all the political capital he had to have any chance at productive talks.
By 2012, Obama recognized that he was not going to get the grand bargain between Israel and the Palestinians that he had hoped for. So he turned his attention toward Iran. Working with U.S. allies in Europe and through the United Nations, he pushed for sanctions to bring Iran to the table. The pressure paved the way for the nuclear talks that would eventually lead, in 2015, to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Iran nuclear deal.
Obama recognized that Israeli-Palestinian peace and the Iran nuclear deal were each very expensive in terms of political capital. He couldn’t afford to pursue both. It’s a lesson Donald Trump still doesn’t understand. Read more at LobeLog
As the curtain drops on 2017, it drops too on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process as we have known it. At the age of 24, that process has finally died, with none other than President Donald Trump
Shimon Peres, John Kerry and Mahmoud Abbas at the World Economic Forum in May 2013
pulling the plug. But let’s not give him too much credit or blame for that. The killing blow was struck by his predecessor, Barack Obama.
There was much to like in Obama’s presidency, especially given the mess he was handed in 2009 and the unprecedented obstructionism of the Republican Party during his tenure. But he also had abject failures that were due to his own shortcomings, and the sharp degeneration in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict under his watch is at the top of the list. Read more at LobeLog
On Friday, the United Nation Security Council passed Resolution 2334, which calls on Israel to cease building settlements in territories it occupied in 1967. The Obama administration decided to abstain from the vote, allowing it to pass 14-0.
What exactly did UN Security Council Resolution 2334 say?
The resolution, among other things:
Read more at Facts On The Ground, FMEP’s blog
To paraphrase Genesis, “And the eyes of the public were opened, and they knew that Benjamin Netanyahu’s opposition to the two-state solution was naked.” The question now is whether the Obama administration will allow Israel to sew some fig leaves together and return to the charade of negotiations that will not lead to a resolution. Read more at LobeLog
I placed a short op-ed in the Daily News today. The headline is not surprisingly misleading, and the News is not exactly a highly professional outlet. But it has a pretty good readership, and, in New York, it gets more of a cross-section than the Times and the Post. Check it out.
The obsession in politics and diplomacy with decorum–largely a relic from the past–can easily distract people from the realities of the present. Case in point, the uproar over Jeffrey Goldberg’s latest article in the Atlantic, the headline of which, The Crisis in U.S.-Israel Relations Is Officially Here, would seem important enough to warrant more attention than it has gotten so far.
Instead, the whisper of an unnamed “senior Obama administration official,” who called Netanyahu a “chickenshit,” has occupied headlines. And instead of taking a strong, or even a weak stance on Netanyahu’s repeated declarations about expanding settlement activity everywhere in Jerusalem and the West Bank, the White House has only tried to distance itself from the remark, describing it as “unauthorized” and “inappropriate.” Read more at LobeLog
My report at IPS on John Kerry’s recent trip to Israel and Palestine. More important, I look at the broader strategy that seems apparent from the new Obama-Kerry-Hagel triumvirate on Middle East peace.