Helene Cooper writes another extraordinary report about the Obama administration’s tightening noose around Israel’s settlements:
As President Obama prepares to head to the Middle East this week, administration officials are debating how to toughen their stance against any expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
The measures under discussion — all largely symbolic — include stepping back from America’s near-uniform support for Israel in the United Nations if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel does not agree to a settlement freeze, administration officials said.
Other measures include refraining from the instant Security Council veto of United Nations resolutions that Israel opposes and making use of Mr. Obama’s bully pulpit to criticize the settlements, officials said. Placing conditions on loan guarantees to Israel, as the first President Bush did nearly 20 years ago, is not under discussion, officials said.
I can’t remember a time when a U.S. veto of hostile Security Council resolutions wasn’t a given. The idea that we might adhere to a more balanced policy in the UN is simply astounding.
Just as astounding is that Obama is putting out these signals with barely a murmur from the pro-Israel lobby. In the past, any president who contemplated putting the screws on Israel was brought up short by a short, sharp yank on the political bridle by Aipac. But that doesn’t work as well as it used to. I’m not saying the lobby has disappeared or that Obama will never face serious opposition to these tough policies seeking to bring Israel into compliance with U.S. policy. But things sure are a changin’.
Meanwhile, this item on the U.S. wish list concerning Saudi Arabia caused me to raise my eyebrows:
Mr. Obama was hoping that King Abdullah would agree to make an overture to Israel that could, in turn, get Israel to move more quickly on a peace process.
Israeli officials would love to see Saudi Arabia open an interests section in Tel Aviv (Saudi Arabia would never put one in Jerusalem…), or issue a few symbolic tourist visas for Israelis, or agree to hold open meetings with Israeli counterparts. These would be a tall order for the Arab kingdom, which has, thus far, eschewed taking much of a role that could be seen as acknowledging Israel.
This is friggin’ rich. Israel has had the 2002 Saudi peace initiative in front of its nose for years and refuses to deal with it in any substantive way. And yet, the Israelis expect Hanukah presents from King Abdullah. For what? What is Israel offering in return? Nada. Is there a settlement freeze let alone a territorial withdrawal? So why would the Saudis do anything substantive to recognize Israel? Let Israel come up with something real and tangible in return. Then it can expect a forthcoming response. Till then, nice try boys.