Obama Fails in Middle East UPDATE

A few days ago, Robert Dreyfuss in The Nation magazine provided a summary of the state of Barak Obama's Middle East policy, as delivered in his world changing Cairo speech, which promised a new era of peace. The center-piece of Obama's policy was Palestinian statehood (the two state solution) for a people held intolerably in bondage (military occupation) for over four decades, while their lands were being colonized (through various illegal means) by Israel.


The announcement by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that he will not run for reelection is the exclamation point on the utter collapse of the Obama adminstration's Middle East policy. Launched to great expectations -- the appointment of George Mitchell, Obama's Cairo declaration that the plight of the Palestinians is intolerable -- it is now in complete disarray. It is, without doubt, the first major defeat for Obama's hope-and-change foreign policy.

Dreyfus provided the details on how the Obama peace plan unraveled.

Obama first tested Israel's policy of illegal settlements, the expansion of its colonialism in the West Bank (and East Jerusalem). Netayahu refused to stop. Obama lost. Obama then capitulated by refusing to apply any penalty for Netanyahu's intransigence. Another Obama loss. Obama had hinted that he might announce this fall a comprehensive US plan for the Middle East, which many believed would look like prior two-state proposals (withdrawal from the West Bank, dismantling of the settlements, end of the Gaza embargo, division of Jerusalem, land swaps to adjust borders). Netanyahu insisted that these were points for negotiation. No plan was forthcoming. Obama lost again. Then the US, in contrast to its principles, supported Israel on the damning Goldstone Report which accused Israel (and Hamas) of war crimes in Gaza. Obama conformed to Netanyahu's wishes once again. Finally, Secretary of State Clinton went to Israel and praised Netanyahu for his "unprecedented" compromise to essentially continue the colonization of Palestinian lands by expanding settlements. The Obama administration sucked up once again.

So how can anyone blame the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, for getting off of Middle East peace merry-go-round by indicating he will not run again. Apparently, he's had enough of American disingenuousness that goes back decades.

A recent Washington Post article reports that the Obama administration has essentially acknowledged that its Middle East policy is a failure.

CAIRO -- The Obama administration has concluded that an early resumption of high-level negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians over a Palestinian state is unlikely in the near future -- an acknowledgment that it has fallen short, for now, on one of its major initial foreign policy goals.

While still pressing for face-to-face talks between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Binyamin Netanyahu, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has begun to urge Arab states to encourage Palestinian participation in lower-level talks with Israel to avoid a vacuum.

A "vacuum," indeed. That vacuum would seem to be caused by Obama's disengagement from his own ambitious Middle East policy, which for all practical purposes is now dead.

Where do we go from here?

UPDATE from Philip Weiss' blog:

Avnery: Barack W. Obama

November 8, 2009

J Street’s aim is to enable progressive American Jews to pressure Obama to force the two-state-solution. So far the pressure seems to be coming from Palestine. Uri Avnery:

"Mahmoud Abbas is fed up. The day before yesterday he withdrew his candidacy for the coming presidential election in the Palestinian Authority.

"I understand him.

"He feels betrayed. And the traitor is Barack Obama….

"At long last an American president who understood that he had to put an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not only for the sake of the two peoples, but mainly for the US national interests. This conflict is largely responsible for the tidal waves of anti-American hatred that sweep the Muslim masses from ocean to ocean…

"As high as the hopes were then, so deep is the disappointment now. Nothing of all these has come about. Worse: the Obama administration has shown by its actions and omissions that it is not really different from the administration of George W. Bush."


Uri Avnery is the founder of the Israeli peace activist group, Gush Shalom.

Tags: Gaza, Hillary Clinton, Israel, Netanyahu, obama, Palestine (all tags)



Re: Obama Fails in Middle East

Where do we go from here?

In Haaretz this morning:

PM heads to U.S. under threat of Palestinian statehood declaration

Concerns are growing in Israel's government over the possibility of a unilateral Palestinian declaration of independence within the 1967 borders, a move which could potentially be recognized by the United Nations Security Council.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently asked the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama to veto any such proposal, after reports reached Jerusalem of support for such a declaration from major European Union countries, and apparently also certain U.S. officials.

The reports indicated that Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has reached a secret understanding with the Obama administration over U.S. recognition of an independent Palestinian state. Such recognition would likely transform any Israeli presence across the Green Line, even in Jerusalem, into an illegal incursion to which the Palestinians would be entitled to engage in measures of self-defense.

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1126 594.html

And there is no doubt that Obama would veto such a proposal.

So just what do the Palestinians have to lose? In contrast to the US, their cause has considerable support from the international community.

It is therefore probably time for the Palestinians to simply reject the US arbitrarion and move for international support. Our dishonesty, especially to our own principles, goes back at least to Bill Clinton, continued through the Bush administration, and now we are seeing it emerge in the Obama administration.

by MainStreet 2009-11-08 05:45AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Fails in Middle East

I always assumed that actual progress in finding a sustainable disposition for the Palestinian people would come through pressure from Europe and the rest of the world.  

Israel is a product of 20th-century European colonialism, and basic to its current functioning is a vicious apartheidism in which the European class enjoys basic rights and freedoms, while the indigenous people left to wallow under restrictive rules or a brutal military occupation.

This fact is well understood by all our allies, which is why they vote against Israel in the UN every year (votes which are blocked by US veto in the security council) but to even suggest it in the US is to be dismissed as anti-semitic, as if this was a religious issue.  

I dont think the Israeli apologists in the US are bad people, but their basic ideas or assumptions can never be challenged, and honest debate is simply not allowed here.  

I am disappointed with Obama's failures, and think that honest people who want to encourage a peaceful resolution should continue discussing the issue seriously.  I hope you keep posting Mainstreet.  

by Winston Smith 2009-11-08 11:58PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Fails in Middle East

Posting is not a problem. The next direction this conflict takes is hard to predict, now that the US is indicating its intent to back off.

The boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement still needs to grow wings, and this movement may be part of the next phase. Israel obviously intends to continue its ethnic cleansing, occupation, and colonization, but that has not changed for 40 years, except for a few months during the Rabin administration.

by MainStreet 2009-11-09 03:37AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Fails in Middle East

Everybody fails in the Middle East.

(Unless you meant that Obama fails to do as you want. If that is your argument, then I see your point.)

by QTG 2009-11-08 06:18AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Fails in Middle East

That is not what Obama preached in Cairo to the entire Arab world and Israel as well.

Unless by everyone fails in the Middle East you are talking about Israel's dominance over the American presidency and Congress, then I may agree with you. Mearshirmer and Walt had it right. However, Obama came on like a different president, a president of the world's greatest superpower, a pro-human rights liberal. Today, we see that he is capable, on behalf of Israel, of tolerating their continuing illegal colonization of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the horrible siege of Gaza.

Pretty much, Israel has put Obama in his place.

Obama has now become a boy

by MainStreet 2009-11-08 07:10AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Fails in Middle East

Sorry about the unfinished sentence.

"Obama has now become a boy to Netanyahu's man. Is there any president that has ever stood up to fear of Israel (and the Lobby)?

by MainStreet 2009-11-08 07:21AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Fails in Middle East

I imagine that if it were the case that the Middle East was the only thing that required attention, then Obama would give it more attention. It is the case that Israelis hate, distrust, and disrepect him - they loved GWB - and the Palestinian leadership is comprised of radicalized and unreliable men, among them Abbas the Quitter.

The Israelis and the Palestinians need to work this out among themselves, and Obama has a lot of other other shit to do for people who appreciate him a bit more, not much, but a bit more.

Sure he was hopeful that the players would actually want to accomplish something, but their failures aren't really his failures. You just like to frame it that way.

by QTG 2009-11-08 11:12AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Fails in Middle East

Probably beacause to characterize the failures of Bibi Nethacnocoo and the Palenstinians as Obama's failures lets the Middle Eastern players off the hook.

by spirowasright 2009-11-08 11:32AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Fails in Middle East

It has long been agreed that the Israelis and the Palestinians need a push from the outside, and only America is in the position to act in this role. On the other hand, our experience over the past nine months suggests that Obama is too impotent to do so. Hence, Hillary's most recent appeal to other nations to get the Israelis to take "small steps."

They have been taking small steps for decades, voicing intents but acting contrary to them. Wich side would that be? You don't have to ask. It is obvious.

by MainStreet 2009-11-08 02:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Fails in Middle East

Hilary, along with everyone else in the universe, will also "fail" by your definition. No big whoop.

by QTG 2009-11-09 03:36AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Fails in Middle East

"The Israelis and the Palestinians need to work this out among themselves?"

They have been trying to do that for over 60 years, but one of the parties has a different agenda that does not equate with working it out. It equates with keeping the strife going, or as Jeff Halper put it, "managing the conflict" rather than ending it. In the meantime, Palestinian lands diminish and diminish in size to the point where many observers are indicating that there is no room for a two state solution.

by MainStreet 2009-11-08 02:09PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Fails in Middle East

Secretary of State Baker under the elder Bush temporarily suspended American loan guarantees to the Shamir government over expansion of West Bank settlements.  If Obama won't pressure Honduras to reverse the coup, he will not stop expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank or East Jerusalem.  In Latin America and the Middle East Obama's rhetoric is an improvement over Bush's, but the final policy is remarkably similar.  Obama insists more loudly than Bush that the United States is opposed to coups in Latin America and Israeli annexation of the West Bank, but so far Micheletti and Netanyahu know that the only consequence to defying the United States is official diplomatic disapproval.    

by darrow 2009-11-09 01:04AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Fails in Middle East

Aw shucks folks.  I just finished reading a blog post (http://atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com/atlas _shrugs/2009/11/vindicated.html ) about my strong anti-Israel postition.  Feeling kinda down I clicked on into this friendly blog.

Can't a guy get a break these days?

Of course, as always, sorry for all the things I've done so very wrong.

by I am Barack 2009-11-08 07:13AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Fails in Middle East

This is a friendly blog, Barak. It is just that you are fucking up in your desire to bring peace to the Middle East.

For all practically purposes, you now lack a Middle East policy, and your larger concern to make friends with countries of the Middle East has gone down the wayside. Even Egypt and Jordan are smelling the same old American Middle East politics. Israel uber alles.

by MainStreet 2009-11-08 07:24AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Fails in Middle East

Well then I'll gladly take you at your word that this is a friendly place.  And I'd be the last one to argue that I'm not fucking things up - after all this is my blogging apology tour.

But, if you don't mind a small suggestion; you might just want to reconsider using the word "boy".

by I am Barack 2009-11-08 11:18AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Fails in Middle East

Poor taste indeed and not a worthy analogy, given our history with racism. But it is so far away these days that the thought never entered my mind.

Sorry Barak but no offense was intended, just the dominance-submissive way postCairo effects are taking place.

by MainStreet 2009-11-08 02:18PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Fails in Middle East


Please dont feed the trolls.  Assuming the identity of the President of the United States, and speaking as him, is grounds for banning.  

by Winston Smith 2009-11-09 01:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Fails in Middle East

Hey Barack,

Assuming a nom de internet is pretty common and welcome, but actually presuming to be another person, and to speak as that person is really not allowed.  

You are new here, so I think we can all overlook your inappropriate handle.  If you are President Barack Obama, your name should probably reflect that.  I am sure Jerome, who I know, would be happy to have you post comments on his website.  

If you are not the President of the United States, you should not take his name and address comments as him.  That is a serious troll thing to do.  

Email the administrators of the site, and request that your user name be changed.  


by Winston Smith 2009-11-09 01:34AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Fails?

Obama failed?  Really?

How the Israelis and the Palestinians and doin'?   How much progress are they making?

I say screw them both, let them kill each other.   We should focus on issues here at home.   We can't force peace on them.

by RichardFlatts 2009-11-09 05:12AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Fails?

Think US foreign policy, the world's only superpower, and leadership of the world.

Well, in a way you are correct. If the US cannot control Israel, the notion that the US is a leader in the world is somewhat disparaged by recent events. You have to give credit, whether you like them or not, to the Israel Lobby for being able to control politics here, even though it mostly comes through the compliant Congress.

Obama is learning his lessons quick about who is really in charge. J Street is still just an infant compared to the adult AIPAC, so don't expect Obama will get any support before his terms are over.

by MainStreet 2009-11-09 06:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Fails in Middle East UPDATE

My opinion: Until the U.S. is ready to threaten aid to Israel and treat each side as equals, it will be hard to change anything. But that's my view as a low information voter on this. At the end of the day, no one will change anything on this issue until we are willing to threaten both sides to the table.

by bruh3 2009-11-09 05:40AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Fails in Middle East UPDATE

I don't think most observers would disagree: Obama must use the nuclear weapon, stopping aid to Israel, if he is ever going to get one-up on Netanyahu. But that will never happen.

Other alternatives is for the Palestinians to come out in favor of a one-state solution, which would force Israel to accord them equal rights, eventually, perhaps after a long human rights battle as happened in South Africa. Of course, boycotts would be part of that solution.

The other thing being talked about is for Obama to push for the recognition of Palestine as an independent state at the UN. Like the nuclear option, however, I don't Obama believe that he can win in a sword fight with the Israel Lobby, so that is out (think relection).

by MainStreet 2009-11-09 06:48AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Fails in Middle East UPDATE

Yes, this is what I understood to be the case although again this is not my issue. As a result of the options available, from a negotiation stand point, with the key tools of negotiation off the table, nothing will change because there is no incentive for change. Not really.

by bruh3 2009-11-09 07:21AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Fails in Middle East UPDATE

I don't see the Palestinians as being satisfied with the status quo, since, for decades, they have been working for their freedom and independence, and that goes beyond the ethnic cleansing they sustained in 1948. What people would be satisfied with living (and dying) under an incessant military occupation, while their lands are being confiscated for someone else's state?

The position, let them work it out by themselves, just cannot be sustained, when one party retains a modern military force, and the other nothing self-defensive of significant value.

by MainStreet 2009-11-09 08:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Fails in Middle East UPDATE

I am simply analyzing this from a negotiating interests perspective. There is no incentive for change when only one or another side has that incentive and the interests are not aligned. This is true regardless of whether it is negotiating  a deal in Congress regarding the public option or this issue.  I look at the interests, and how negotiates are known to work to ask whether what people are doing makes sense regarding negotiation. Look, I can give you a practical example of how interest negotiation works with a more discreet example than the I-P fight that's raged for years. Look at Senator Lieberman in Congress. He acts the way he does because there are incentives for him to act that way with regard to the public option and there are no disincentives such as a lose of power or access to the President that prevents him. This is how negotiation works. So, when you say one or another party is interested in a particular position, I look at the system to ask does that matter? Right now, without something to disrupt the circuit I don't see it. The disruption to me is at the level of U.S. aid to Israel since that's the most salient tool we have in the debate. Morals, etc are not factors.

by bruh3 2009-11-09 09:01AM | 0 recs


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