U.S. and Israeli leaders have agreed to a 90-day freeze in Israel's West Bank settlement construction in a bid to jump-start Israel-Palestine peace talks. The Palestinian leadership had threatened to abandon talks if settlement growth resumed, which it recently did. Although Palestinian representatives have not abandoned peace negotiations as they had warned, those talks have largely stalled. The settlement freeze must still win approval by the Israeli cabinet, which is expected to grant it. If it goes through, will this be a breakthrough for the difficult peace process, or just another false start?
- What Obama Promised Israel Haaretz reports, "The deal includes a U.S. undertaking not to request a further extension of the freeze, and to veto any attempt by the Palestinians to win UN recognition of their state unilaterally. The Obama administration would also ask Congress to approve a $3 billion sale of warplanes to Israel and, should there be peace with the Palestinians, guarantee its wider security needs. These would supplement the 20 F-35s Israel already plans to buy for $2.75 billion drawn from annual grants it gets from Washington."
- How It Could Backfire The New York Times' Ethan Bronner and Mark Landler warn that the plan "carries huge risks for all sides. Even before the cabinet began to consider it, both the Israeli right and the Palestinian leadership raised strong objections. ... It is unclear what will happen to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process if this freeze, like the last one, comes and goes without a Palestinian commitment to remain in negotiations with Israel on creation of a Palestinian state." If the peace process goes nowhere, Obama will have handed over significant concession to Israel and walked away empty-handed.
- 'A Bad Deal All Around' Commentary's Jennifer Rubin writes, "Both Israel and the U.S. are the worse for this deal. ... Does anyone really imagine that another 90 days — or 90 weeks for that matter — will make any difference? ... Israel’s credibility is damaged, the non-peace talks (that continue to promote friction between the U.S. and Israel) are extended with virtually no chance of success, the world obsesses a little longer over the Palestinian-Israel conflict, and, meanwhile, those centrifuges keep spinning in Iran."
- Obama Handling Israel-Palestine Like He Did Health Care Talking Points Memo's Bernard Avishai compares Obama's performances. "As with healthcare, the administration is taking a path that is not easy to watch, but may be the most practical. I have argued here before that the US government must have, and eventually convey to the parties, a view regarding the elements of a final status agreement: more Dr. Kissinger, less Dr. Phil. ... The administration has been criticized for allowing Senate committees to debate the shape of the healthcare bill before committing itself to a final plan. The process was ugly; and the administration sweetened the outcome for resistant blue-dogs along the way. In the end, however, it got senators who had skin in the game, and it used their disagreements to define the 'solution space' in which to intervene."
- Obama's Shrewd Long-Game The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan muses, "It hasn't been an easy process, and Obama has had to allow himself to be humiliated to get this far. But we know that Obama's modus operandi is often to give his opponents a tactical victory, as long as it advances his own strategic goal. ... A first term that brought universal healthcare to the US and a resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict would be quite something, wouldn't it? Even the lefty complaint chorus might be able to muster a few cheers for that."