Former President Jimmy Carter is not at all impressed with Barack Obama’s efforts toward Middle East peace. Speaking Tuesday at the LBJ library’s annual Harry Middleton Lectureship series, Carter said that in terms of the peace process in the Middle East, "nothing is going on."
Answering a question about Egypt, the former president praised President Obama’s handling of the situation there saying he’s "done quite well" and that Obama has handled it "about the same way I’d have handled it if I’d been in office."
However, on the broader question of the Middle East peace process, Carter was much less complimentary saying, "President Obama has basically given up on peace in the Middle East."
Pointing out that Obama had started out well, Carter blasted Obama by claiming that he’d now become "more accommodating to Netanyahu and Israel than George W. Bush was." Trying to dampen his critique of the Obama administration, Carter said he really wasn’t there to criticize, but he’d been asked a question and that was the answer. "I don’t have any feeling of success for what President Obama had done in the Middle East", Carter concluded.
The session was an hour long question and answer period on a wide range of topics including Carter’s run for the presidency, his term in office and his work after he left office. In it Carter’s most pointed remarks came during the discussion of the Middle East peace process.
Often cited as someone who cozies up to dictators, Carter admitted to having "lunch or dinner" each time he went to Egypt with Omar Suleiman, the intelligence chief, because he knew "more about the Middle East than anyone", and he described Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad as a "young, fairly progressive president" who had "inherited" the presidency from his father.
But it seems that even the likes of Jimmy Carter knows an empty suit when he see’s one and a person from whom you would expect to see fairly significant support can’t find it in himself to say anything positive about the Obama Middle East peace initiative – or lack thereof.
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After it appeared there might be a possibility the US might broker a “final accord” following the meeting in New York, Israel is pouring cold water on the idea:
Israel’s powerful foreign minister declared Thursday that there is no chance of reaching a final accord with the Palestinians any time soon, casting a pall over the U.S. Mideast envoy’s latest effort to get peace talks moving again.
Peacemaking policy in Israel is decided by the prime minister’s office, and not the foreign ministry. But Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman carries significant weight in Israeli decision-making, and his is a sentiment common among confidants of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Or, said another way, Lieberman is only saying what Netanyahu is thinking. With all the happy talk coming out of the Obama administration after the President managed to get Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the same room in New York, you’d have thought peace talks and happy days were just around the corner.
Not so says Lieberman:
Lieberman told Israel Radio on Thursday that anyone who thinks the two sides can soon reach a deal ending their decades-old conflict “doesn’t understand the situation and is spreading delusions.”
What the two sides should do, he said, was to come up with a long-term interim arrangement that would ensure prosperity, security and stability, and leave the tough issues “to a much later stage.”
This approach runs counter to U.S. efforts to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal quickly. Obama has declared that establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel is a vital U.S. interest. Also, Israel would not find a Palestinian partner for putting off a resolution to the conflict indefinitely.
Lieberman’s view does not bode well for U.S. attempts to restart negotiations.
The non-negotiable point for both sides is settlements on the West Bank. Abbas won’t go to the negotiating table without them and Netanyahu refuses to freeze such settlements permanently. Without a resolution on that, there are no negotiations, and such a resolution seems improbable at the moment.
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Caroline Glick, writing in the Jerusalem Post, seems to have as good a measure of Barack Obama’s “foreign policy” as anyone I’ve read. Discussing that in the context of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Sunday speech (two state solution/demilitarized Palestine), Glick writes of Obama and his advisors:
To be moved by rational argument, a person has to be open to rational discourse. And what we have witnessed over the past week with the Obama administration’s reactions to both North Korea’s nuclear brinksmanship and Iran’s sham elections is that its foreign policy is not informed by rationality but by the president’s morally relative, post-modern ideology. In this anti-intellectual and anti-rational climate, Netanyahu’s speech has little chance of making a lasting impact on the White House.
If rational thought was the basis for the administration’s policymaking on foreign affairs, North Korea’s decisions to test long range ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons, send two US citizens to long prison terms and then threaten nuclear war should have made the administration reconsider its current policy of seeking the approval and assistance of North Korea’s primary enabler – China – for any action it takes against Pyongyang. As Nicholas Eberstadt suggested in Friday’s Wall Street Journal, rather than spending its time passing UN Security Council resolutions with no enforcement mechanisms against North Korea, the administration would be working with a coalition of the willing to adopt measures aimed at lowering the threat North Korea constitutes to regional, US and global security through its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and its proliferation activities.
But the administration has done no such thing. Instead of working with and strengthening its allies, it has opted to work with North Korea’s allies China and Russia to forge a Security Council resolution harsh enough to convince North Korean leader Kim Jung Il to threaten nuclear war, but too weak to degrade his capacity to wage one.
Similar to Obama’s refusal to reassess his failed policy regarding North Korea, his nonreaction to the fraudulent Iranian election shows that he will not allow facts to interfere with his slavish devotion to his ideological canon that claims that no enemy is unappeasable and no ally deserves automatic support. Far from standing with the democratic dissidents now risking their lives to oppose Iran’s sham democracy, the administration has reportedly expressed concern that the current postelection protests will destabilize the regime.
Obama has also refused to reconsider his decision to reach a grand bargain with the ayatollahs on Iran’s nuclear weapons program that would serve to legitimize their continued grip on power. His refusal to make a moral distinction between the mullahs and their democratic opponents – like his refusal in Cairo to make a moral distinction between a nuclear-armed Iran and a nuclear-armed America – makes clear that he is not interested in forging a factually accurate or morally clear-sighted foreign policy.
At that point in her article, she brings it home to Israel and points to why, given her assessment of Obama’s foreign policy tendencies, Netanyahu’s speech will not be met with the approbation it deserves, in her opinion, by the US. And she makes a good case for her point which you ought to read.
But I was far more interested in the general analysis than how it specifically applied to Israel because it is one of the best and most clearly stated I’ve seen yet. While she doesn’t say it directly, the path the administration is taking is an extremely dangerous path in dealing with these problems she points too.
Regimes like NoKo and Iran see any conciliatory or ineffective moves toward them as signs of weakness to be exploited. And NoKo is presently in the middle of doing precisely that. Iran, caught up in its own internal difficulties at the moment, will soon follow once those are resolved (and they will be resolved).
To bring it back to the Israeli question, the same sort of policy is at work there – lean on Israel to come up with the solution and make the concessions while mostly ignoring the Palestinian side of the equation. Netanyahu made a point, in his speech, to remind the Obama administration of the very first thing which must be done before any meaningful peace process can begin:
Netanyahu demonstrated that through their consistent rejection of Israel’s right to exist as the Jewish state, the Palestinians – not us – are the side responsible for the absence of Middle East peace.
Until that is done, nothing will change. Instead of trying to get Israel to accept Palestine and make concessions, this should be the focus of the US effort there. Without it, nothing changes. But, as Glick points out, that isn’t the focus of he US effort and thus, it is doomed to failure (and she assumes when it failure is finally admitted, it will be Israel that is blamed).
A very interesting and disheartening read. Like I said, I think Glick has nailed it, and, to quote someone close to the Obama administration, in a few years, unfortunately, these foreign policy chickens are going to “come home to roost”.
A billion dollars of your tax dollars is on its way to Palestine, 300 million of it earmarked for the Gaza Strip where Hamas still rules:
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday will pledge about $300 million in U.S. humanitarian aid for the war-torn Gaza Strip, plus about $600 million in assistance to the Palestinian Authority, a U.S. official said Sunday.
State Department spokesman Robert A. Wood told reporters traveling with Clinton Sunday that she would announce the donations at an international pledging conference at this Red Sea resort. The conference is seeking money for Gaza and the Palestinian economy.
So thanks to your generosity, Hamas doesn’t have to ante up $300 million to support its own people. Yes, your subsidy will allow them to instead purchase some new munitions and rockets with which to attack Israel.
This is the same Secretary of State who recently was peddling our debt bonds to the Chinese, ostensibly so we could borrow more money to, what, fund Hama’s war on Israel?
Isn’t life ironic?