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Palestinians: Obama ‘Backpedaling’ on Settlements

Palestinian officials on Sunday criticized the United States for what one called “back-pedaling” on demands that Israel stop settlement construction in the occupied West Bank, saying that the Obama administration’s change of approach on the issue damaged the likelihood of a peace agreement. … The settlement freeze has become central to those perceptions: both Egypt and Jordan on Sunday issued statements backing Abbas’ position that talks cannot resume until settlement construction is stopped. – Palestinian officials criticize U.S. over Israeli settlements

Pres. Obama and his administration have decided to go all in, just like the ones who came before, hoping for a different result. That Obama had Sect. Clinton deliver the news while in Israel seems to have come as a cold slap to our Arab friends who had hoped for so much more after Cairo. Hey, talk is cheap, especially when it comes to the Middle East. But once the Goldstone report was delivered, everything shifted pretty quickly; Israel wanting a condemnation, which it got; with Obama asking Abbas to slow up the report in the United Nations Human Rights Council, which he did, hurting Abbas badly.

Now Clinton’s trying to do the dance of the settlements using language that should catch in her throat.

From Haaretz:

“It has always been an issue with negotiations,” she said. “What the Prime Minister has offered in specifics of a restraint on the policy of settlements which he has just described – no new starts for example, is unprecedented in the context of prior to negotiations.”

“It’s also the fact that for forty years, Presidents of both parties have questioned the legitimacy of settlements, but I think that where we are right now is to try to get into the negotiations. The Prime Minister will be able to present his government’s proposal about what they are doing regarding settlements which I think when fully explained will be seen as being not only unprecedented in response to many of the concerns that have been expressed,” Clinton went on to say.

Honestly, as much as I respect Sect. Clinton, I really don’t know how she could deliver that one with a straight face.

The Israeli press will love it, as they also love Hillary; Arabs not liking the language at all and with good reason.

Remember this?

“(Pres. Obama) wants to see a stop to settlements — not some settlements, not outposts, not ‘natural growth’ exceptions.” – Sect. Hillary Clinton

Or this from her boss?

“Settlements have to be stopped in order for us to move forward… That’s a difficult issue. I recognize that, but it’s an important one and it has to be addressed.” – Pres. Obama

That was so last summer.

Now it’s official. Obama’s Israeli public relations offensive has begun. Since Obama took office the Israeli press has battered him into low single digits. The Cairo speech made them feel as if Obama was taking sides, ignoring our special U.S. relationship and not giving Israel enough attention.

No wonder we can’t get this solved. It’s like watching petulant children vie for attention.

Obama’s latest shift reminds me of what happened when Greg Craig advised the Administration on Gitmo: draw a line in the sand that Obama couldn’t stay behind. This time, though the advice is from another corner of the Administration, it’s on an issue ten times more perilous; as Obama began by saying no new settlements, with Clinton repeating the statement with gusto, which has now morphed into Netanyahu’s “unprecedented” proposal on settlements, even as Clinton tries to also say all settlements are illegitimate out of the other side of her mouth. Let’s hope the Israeli press applauds, because the Obama administration should get something for this show.

I can hear the echo of what Gen. Jim Jones said during his speech at J Street; that negotiations would be “without preconditions,” which I questioned at the time.

It’s not where this began.

“Backpedaling” is being kind.

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