Congress Takes Aim At the Palestinians

The imbroglio over House Speaker John Boehner’s unseemly invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and John Boehner

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and John Boehner

Netanyahu after President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address last month is continuing to rage in Washington. But when it comes to the Palestinians, it is business as usual in Congress.

On February 4, the House of Representatives’ Sub-Committee on the Middle East and North Africa will hold a hearing on suspending aid to the Palestinian Authority as punishment for their temerity in exercising their legal right to bring their grievances against Israel to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The sub-committee, chaired by hawk Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), has stacked the deck well against the Palestinians. Read more at LobeLog

Obstacle: The US Role In Israel-Palestine

Obstacle: The US Role In Israel-Palestine

A slightly edited version of this article originally appeared at LobeLog, where I and many other foreign policy experts regularly

Photo: US Secretary of State John Kerry leaves the US Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, behind as he concludes his failed trip to Israel on April 1, 2014. Credit: State Department

Photo: US Secretary of State John Kerry leaves the US Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, behind as he concludes his failed trip to Israel on April 1, 2014. Credit: State Department

publish. I’d recommend the site just as strongly even if they didn’t publish my stuff. 

There are many false clichés about the Israel-Palestine conflict. There are also some very true ones, though these are heard less frequently. Perhaps the most profound of these was proven once again this week: the United States is incapable of playing a positive role in this arena.

There is nothing about that statement that should be controversial. A decades-long line of U.S. politicians and diplomats have spoken of the need to resolve this conflict. In recent years, these statements have often been accompanied by an acknowledgment of the need for “Palestinian self-determination.” But Israel is the one country, among all of the world’s nations, of whom those very same leaders speak in terms of an “unbreakable bond,” a country between whose policies and ours there “is no daylight.”

Let’s say my brother gets in a dispute with someone else, perhaps even someone I am acquainted with. Would anyone think that I would be the appropriate person to mediate that conflict? If my brother also had a lot more money and influence in the conflict, and therefore a fair mediation needed a broker who was willing to pressure my brother into compromise because, right or wrong, he does not have incentive to do so. Am I the person to be expected to level that playing field? Continue reading

As Direct Talks Die, What is Washington Doing?

A short while ago, I was asked to write an article about why there was some hope for the peace process. I agreed to write it, after some consideration.

I was completely honest in the article, describing why I thought the best hope for success in the talks lies in the potential for a serious American effort to move the process forward and how this was actually possible politically.

What I left out, or really, only lightly alluded to was my near certainty that such effort was not likely to be forthcoming. For the most part, that seems to have been the case.

A photo op even seems too much to hope for from direct peace talks now

What we’re left with now is a growing sense of despair, as the Palestinians seemed poised, at this writing, to quit the current round of talks (the first in two years) in the wake of Israel’s refusal to extend the phantom “moratorium” on settlement construction.

There have also been some significant developments in Washington that bear some scrutiny in the wake of what seems to be a disastrous failure of a great deal of effort on the part of the Obama Administration to broker direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

I’ll start with one event that, while it certainly made the news, has not gotten anything like the attention it deserves, especially from Israel. That is Obama’s success in convincing Russia to cancel a billion-dollar weapons deal with Iran.

This deal was in the works from 2006, and was agreed upon in 2007. The Bush Administration had spent considerable effort to thwart the sale, with no success, and the fact that Obama succeeded is a major foreign policy victory for him. More than anything, it should have been a major bone to toss to Israel, whose current government has repeatedly indicated that they would be more disposed toward negotiations with the Palestinians if more was done regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The Russian arms were air defense systems, and their presence could have made a theoretical Israeli attack on Iran more difficult. Continue reading