Sunday, November 01, 2009

Clinton rejects PA condition for a West Bank settlement freeze.

Don't get me wrong, it's not as if this is unprecedented, it's just annoying how often and easily this happens:

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Saturday night rejected Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's demand that Israel freeze all settlement activity as a precondition to negotiations.

Stopping construction in the settlements "has never been a precondition, it has always been an in issue within the negotiations," Clinton said at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

In a strong show of support for Israel, she said she approved of Netanyahu's decision to issue a moratorium on new construction permits.

"What the prime minister has offered... 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," Clinton said, in advance of her meeting with the prime minister.

Every time Israel refuse to go along with US demands, the US pretend that no demand was ever made.

Of course, we all remember what Obama actually said:
“Settlements have to be stopped.”
Which makes a nonsense of Hillary's latest claim that this was never a precondition. It was always a precondition until Netanyahu refused to go along with it, at which point it was instantly withdrawn.

This is where the Americans always get it wrong when it comes to the Middle East. Pressure will now be applied to the Palestinians to stop making "unreasonable" demands, like demanding that their occupier stop stealing more and more of their land before they will agree to talks, instead of applying the pressure to the party which is acting outside of international law, which in this case is clearly Israel.

This is why the US is so distrusted in the Middle East, because we have all seen this game played in this way a thousand times before.

Earlier in the day, Clinton met with Abbas in Abu Dhabi. He rejected Clinton's request to resume peace talks with Israel, saying this would not happen unless the Netanyahu government froze all construction in the settlements, chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat said.

Israel has insisted that work must continue on the 3,000 homes now under construction in the settlements and says there are no limits on building in Jerusalem.

PA officials described the meeting with Clinton as "hard" and expressed deep disappointment over what they said was Washington's refusal to pressure Israel to halt construction in the settlements.

According to Erekat, Abbas turned down an offer by the US to resume the peace talks on final-status issues on the basis of "understandings" reached between Washington and Israel regarding settlement construction.

"President Abbas rejected the offer because the understandings are completely unacceptable," Erekat said.

Clinton also made a comment which is simply baffling:

In Jerusalem on Saturday night, in response to a press query, Clinton said, "It is a fact that for 40 years presidents of both parties have questioned the legitimacy of settlements."

The legitimacy of the settlements is not under question, their illegality is already well established in international law, so Clinton will not endear herself to the Palestinians by accepting this Israeli insistence that everything is open to negotiation.

Sure, come to negotiations saying that we can talk about anything, but you can't enter negotiations saying that you are able to change international law if you decide to do so.

Clinton should be putting pressure on to the Israelis to conform with international law, not insisting that the Palestinians somehow accept that international law itself is open to debate.

What originally impressed me about Obama was the feeling that he was not going to allow Israel to use obstructionism as a de facto veto over his foreign policy regarding the Middle East, and yet that is where we now find ourselves.

Look at how Israel reacted when Obama was sticking hard to his policy that settlement building must stop:

Daniel Levy, a former adviser to the left wing Israeli cabinet minister, Yossi Beilin, said Jerusalem was not prepared for the shift in policy.

"Israelis have been surprised to the extent that the administration has held the line on this, and the extent to which there is unity on this," said Levy who now works with a pro-Israeli peace group in Washington.

"The settlement freeze issue is the wedge issue. The administration's public position is that settlements undermine confidence in the two-state solution. [Obama's Middle East envoy George] Mitchell was clear about this in his report eight years ago, that there has to be a settlement freeze. This is an issue where Obama can hold a line with Congress, with public opinion."

How quickly that line was conceded. Now Hillary plays "let's bully the Palestinians" because there is hardly anyone in Congress pushing for their corner.

As I say, it's not surprising, we've all seen it a thousand times before. However, for those of us who expected more from Obama, it is profoundly disappointing.

Click here for full article.

No comments: