Saturday, March 13, 2010

Quartet condemns Israel: Unilateral action cannot prejudge talks' outcome.

Netanyahu is claiming that he knew nothing of the announcement made during the visit of Joe Biden to Israel, giving permission for 1,600 new homes to be built in East Jerusalem. If he's telling the truth, then he's not really in charge of his government.

For a mistake of that size could simply never occur in a competent administration, where all the players are aware of the government's priorities.

I said at the time that I wanted the Obama administration to extract a price from Israel for embarrassing Biden in this way, and didn't want Biden's fierce words to be the only condemnation Israel faced for what she had done.

It seems that I might get what I wanted.

The Quartet of Middle East peacemakers condemned Friday Israel's decision to approve construction of 1,600 new homes in east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as their future capital.

"The Quartet condemns Israel's decision to advance planning for new housing units in east Jerusalem," the statement said. "The Quartet has agreed to closely monitor developments in Jerusalem and to keep under consideration additional steps that may be required to address the situation on the ground."

"Unilateral action by the Israelis or Palestinians cannot prejudge the outcome of (peace) negotiations and will not be recognized by the international community," the statement said.

"The Quartet will take full stock of the situation at its meeting in Moscow on March 19," the statement said.
The Quartet called on all concerned to support the urgent resumption of dialogue between the parties and to promote an atmosphere that is conducive to successful negotiations to resolve all outstanding issues of the conflict. The group reiterated that Arab-Israeli peace and the establishment of an independent, contiguous and viable state of Palestine is in the fundamental interests of the parties, of all states in the region, and of the international community.
Obama introduced an important change in the way this situation was dealt with then he started to say that it was "in America's interest" that this situation be resolved.

Now we see the Quartet state that it is in the interests of "the international community" that a state of Palestine be established. And that the international community will not recognise as legal the constructions which Israel has approved.

Now the pressure is being heaped upon Netanyahu.
United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Friday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that his government sent a "deeply negative signal" by taking steps which undermined renewed Middle East peace talks.

Clinton telephoned Netanyahu and expressed frustration over Israel's announcement on Tuesday of new settlement construction, a move that deeply embarrassed visiting U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and imperiled U.S. plans to launch indirect negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Clinton told Netanyahu the announcement was a "deeply negative signal about Israel's approach to the bilateral relationship ... and had undermined trust and confidence in the peace process."

"The secretary said she could not understand how this happened, particularly in light of the United States' strong commitment to Israel's security," Crowley said.
"She made clear that the Israeli government needed to demonstrate not just through words but through specific actions that they are committed to this relationship and to the peace process," he said.
So, Clinton has now told Netanyahu that his words are not enough and that he must signal his commitment to peace "through specific actions".

And she has reminded him that the US is Israel's strongest ally, implying that this made the insult to Biden all the more unacceptable.

Ha'aretz explain what they think Obama and Biden have done to Netanyahu:
Pushing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to express regret over the announcement of the building plans in Ramat Shlomo enabled Obama and Biden to tie Netanyahu's hands. They leave him no option of implementing the declarative decisions.

This week the Obama administration showed Netanyahu a yellow card. Next time, if Netanyahu takes that risk, whether with ill-intent or because one of his 30 ministers, a mayor or some clerk forgets to coordinate with him - the White House will brandish a red card.

Biden also trapped Netanyahu by bringing up the latter's agreement to establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel, as he stated in his Bar-Ilan University speech. Netanyahu listed reservations in that address. Biden ignored them - as a way of telling Netanyahu he must choose between siding with the international community in general and the Obama administration in particular, or surrendering to the right wing within and outside Likud.

Biden indicated that Israel has a right to define and prioritize its interests as it sees fit, but Israeli-Arab peace is also an American interest.

Netanyahu focused on Iran as his main source of concern. Biden, speaking for Obama, explained to the Israeli public the importance of preventing a rift between Jerusalem and Washington. This is another reason the status quo with the Palestinians "is unsustainable," as Biden put it.

This was a support speech by an old friend, with whom the Israeli public can identify. Israel's leaders should respond to his call.
Biden has made it clear that Israel must now choose between it's own right wing and the interests of America and the international community. This is also the message which the Quartet has emphasised.

After years of watching Bush and Cheney pretend that Israel's interests and America's interests were both one and the same, this is a welcome change. It is in all of our interests that this situation be resolved and, at last, it sounds as if we are all singing from the same song sheet.

Now, Netanyahu has to choose.


The usual noises.
Some analysts applauded the administration's tough stance, saying it may jar the right-leaning Israeli government into making gestures to the Palestinians. But others said Clinton's call risked emboldening Arab and Palestinian officials to make new demands before talks start, if only so as not to seem softer than the Americans.
There are some who will always find reasons as to why Israel should never be criticised by the US.

Bush never said a single word of criticism of Israel for his entire eight years in office. It got him a Road Map, but to get that he had to promise the Israelis that they could keep building illegal settlements, even though the Road Map explicitly forbade such construction.

Indeed, unlike Clinton's frantic efforts to bring peace between the two sides, Bush lent solidly on the side of Israel. In terms of achieving peace, it got him utterly nowhere.

The US tried the carrot, Obama is right to now try the stick.

Click here for full article.

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