Zuheir Kseibati
Dar Al-Hayat (Blog)
July 9, 2010 - 12:00am

One cannot deny Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s success in clearing his page with American President Barack Obama, assuming it was darkened not due to the killing of the Turks on the Freedom Flotilla, but also due to the embarrassment caused to the White House and the besieging of its efforts to revive the Palestinian negotiations track with an endless series of settlement projects.

While some among the Israelis were “extremely surprised” by the change which affected Obama’s tone from one of scolding to the ally to one of praise toward its steps to alleviate the blockade on Gaza (using the experience of the Americans with the economic blockade imposed on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq), the reality is that shock is the least that could be said about the impact of the summit which was held at the White House and through which Netanyahu wanted to mislead Washington. This task was accomplished with flying colors, rendering anything classified as being threatening to Israel’s security banned by Obama. Once again, this classification was monopolized by the alliance of the extremists in the Hebrew state, considering it to be too complicated for the experience of the American and the know-how of his envoy George Mitchell.

What the Israeli prime minister did in Washington after months of tensions and turmoil affecting the relations with the American partner, is that he was able to place Obama in the position of the seeker of forgiveness for the “relentless” insistence on the discontinuation of the settlement activities, for not standing up against the attempts to drag Israel toward the dock for the first time ever during the nuclear treaty conference, and for not insisting on a Palestinian “good behavior” pledge to be presented by President Mahmoud Abbas as a condition for the mere resumption of the negotiations.

For his part, Obama ignored the attack on the Freedom Flotilla and did not insist on the extension of the term of the partial freezing of settlement activities in the West Bank. Moreover, he seemed to have shifted his pressures toward Abbas to get him to accept direct negotiations with the government of Netanyahu who sought to present himself - through the American media outlets - as being a caller for peace begging for good intentions. In this context, some of these media outlets (The New York Times) may not have been interested in responding to the Israeli insult to American Vice President Joe Biden during his famous visit and the embarrassment caused to him by the announcement of a new cancerous settlement plan, seeing how on the day of the summit of misleading at the White House, it chose to reveal $200 million in donations pumped by American groups in ten years to Judaize parts of the West Bank and Eastern Jerusalem and maybe even arm the settlers.

For her part, when she anticipated the summit of the exchange flowers and promises between Obama and Netanyahu by categorically rejecting the extension of the freezing of the settlements, the Israeli culture minister was probably trying to alleviate the pressures on the prime minister who is eager to shake hands with Abbas and hug him before the table of negotiations whose color, timetable and goal are unknown to all. In this context, when Abbas pointed to the issues of the border and security, the Israeli prime minister responded by promising the implementation of measures to build “trust” through the alleviation of the restraints which hindered the movement of the Palestinians. This was enough to give Obama a push, as the fruits of intelligence and security cooperation between Washington and Tel Aviv were enough to clear the air at the summit and prompt the lord of the White House to remind us that what existed between the two allies will not be broken.

Regardless of the possible brainwashing that took place during the summit, the American side cannot claim that its insistence on Netanyahu to extend the period of the settlement freeze is a condition for pressuring Abbas and convincing him to engage in direct and imminent negotiations. In fact, what was revealed by Obama to spread optimism in regard to those talks “long before” next September, places the authority before two options, each worse than the other: Either to see the lifting of some of the Israeli barricades and the alleviation of the restraints imposed on the movement of the Palestinians in the West Bank in exchange for the resumption of the negotiations while subjected to Hamas’s intimidation once again without anything serious in return at the level of the pointless talks, or reject the Israeli trap and face a crises with Washington.

This last option is the one raising the concerns of certain Arab states, since it could defuse the impact of the Palestinian authority’s threats to disband itself, clear the arena for the Judaization plans and diminish the space of the project of the state which would thus go back behind the Gaza “border.”

Netanyahu definitely succeeded in playing the card of the “new threats” facing “American-Israeli interests,” at a time when Obama’s heart is with the Congressional midterm renewal elections and his eyes are on the Jewish lobby in the United States to get its support. While it is still too soon to talk about the American president’s recanting of the promises he made at the beginning of his term and during the crisis of trust with his “primary ally,” it is certain that the language of common interests between the Palestinians is still much weaker than the courses of the blockade on Gaza and Judaization in the West Bank. In light of this situation, it would be impossible to wager on reconciliation between the latter or on any crisis that could shake the “unbreakable” alliance.


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