Monday, November 02, 2009

Netanyahu savours victory after US drops settlement demand.

Netanyahu's government are relishing their victory over the Obama administration:

"There is no question that the United States are our staunchest friends and that Israel's firm stance on its positions pays off," Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon happily told public radio.

Speaking before the weekly cabinet meeting, Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz said: "The US administration understands what we have always said -- that the real obstacle to negotiations are the Palestinians."

And now they get to do what always do best; pretend that they are searching for "a partner in peace" whilst all the while stealing more and more Palestinian land.

As I said yesterday, putting pressure on the Palestinians instead of the Israelis is not only madness, it is utterly immoral, especially as it is the Israelis who are breaking international law with every settlement they build.

But the Palestinians warned that Washington's change of tone threatened to "deal a fatal blow" to US efforts to secure a peace deal.

"Pressuring Palestinians to make further concessions to accommodate Israeli intransigence is not the answer," chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said in a statement.

"Palestinians cannot accept continued settlement construction... in violation of international law," he said, adding that "what would be unprecedented is a comprehensive settlement freeze by Israel."

Arab League chief Amr Mussa on Sunday ruled out any resumption of talks before a freeze on settlements.

"If there is no freeze on settlements, there is no wisdom: What are you negotiating? Why build more settlements? Why create another fait accompli? It is not serious," Mussa said.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit agreed. "It is not reasonable or acceptable to conduct negotiations with the continuation of settlements," he told journalists in Cairo.

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad was more scathing.

"The current Israeli government does not want peace. There is no partner for peace in Israel. The (US) broker can therefore not do anything or be blamed if the Israeli side does not want peace," he said.

The truth is that Netanyahu's government does not want peace and has never wanted it. Obama must surely know this.

All Obama and Clinton appear to be doing now is preparing a way to put the blame for this debacle on to the Palestinians.

But, the demand that settlement building stops before negotiations take place was actually an obligation Israel undertook when she signed the 2003 Roadmap for Peace, so it's utterly wrong to insinuate - as Clinton does here - that the Palestinians are being unreasonable in any way, or springing "pre-conditions" on the Israelis.

Clinton is now eating her previous statement that Obama, "wants to see a stop to settlements. Not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions."

And she's eating those words whilst Netanyahu smirks.

I had great hopes for Obama when it came to the Middle East. With each day that hope shrivels.

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