In 2010, Obama’s policy – a combination of pressuring the Israeli government, then hugging it – was an utter failure. Can 2011 be the year he tries the complete opposite?
Summing up 2010, I think everyone can agree that Obama’s policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was an utter failure. It was a combination of pressuring the Israeli government, then hugging it, which would have actually worked under different circumstances. If the current leadership in Israel was genuinely interested in constructive solutions, the pressure would have prodded them along, and the embrace would have reassured their concerns and given them cover.
Netanyahu and his cohorts reacted differently. When they were pressured, they did the absolute minimum to assuage Washington. Netanyahu froze settlement construction for ten months, but refused to negotiate in good faith. When the Americans were offended by the announcement of construction in East Jerusalem during high-profile US-Israel meetings, the government learned its lesson. It would announce construction before or after those meetings (implementation, in Israel, is another thing).
When it was warmly received, Israel’s government interpreted it as weakness, crediting their American allies. It only reinforced its intransigence. Obama is loathed by the majority of Israelis who are in love with the status quo, and has disappointed those who work towards change. With total failure, perhaps it is time for the complete opposite?
On the one hand, Obama should stop pressuring Israel. If the government does not want a real compromise, they will wiggle out of any attempt to railroad them there. On the other hand, Obama should stop hugging Israel’s leaders, and start showing his true affectionate concern for the country’s people. He should hop on the next plane to Jerusalem, hold perfunctory meetings with Netanyahu and Peres, then speak before the Knesset, directly to the Israeli people:
We were wrong to pressure your government, and we will stop doing that. No one can solve your problems but you. As true friends, we will keep saying what we think: that you are making a horrible mistake. You are undermining your society’s moral foundations, and impairing its security. We are horrified to see Israel, our good friend, going down this dark road. If you ever want to get out, we will support you with all our might. In the meantime, we will keep warning you, simply because we care about Israel and want it to succeed.
I’m dreaming, I know …