The outcome of President Barack Obama’s meeting with American Jewish leaders has not produced any satisfactory conclusion to the growing sentiment that his administration is being tough on the Israelis while hardly demanding on the Palestinians. As the Jerusalem Post editorialized, the issue of a settlement freeze is a red herring, and that “the non-zero-sum nature of Palestinian intentions is far from assured; and that it is the Palestinians who are inhibiting progress on a two-state solution.” And if American Jews do not offer counter pressure, and simply affirm his good intentions, it will serve only to “go on deepening the erroneous perception that settlements are the obstacle to peace.”
Fortunately, the signs are evident that Obama’s position is indeed eroding support where he once had it. Commenting on the meeting, Marty Peretz wrote to complain about Obama’s hectoring of Israeli leaders, which goes on while the various Arab leaders give him nothing. And as even Fatah including Mahmoud Abbas and Saeb Erekat have made clear the past few days, they demand Israeli concessions determined by them before any negotiations, including acknowledging the “right of return.” In this context, for Obama to tell them that they must engage in “serious self reflection” is more than insulting. And Peretz even recommends that the President and his readers look at Bill Kristol’s impassioned blog on the website of The Weekly Standard.
The only thing I would add to these observations is the announcement that the White House had invited to the session Jewish groups that previously were marginalized, and that while purporting to be pro-Israel, have like Obama put their emphasis on attacking Israeli policy rather than try to get fellow Americans to demand that pressure be put on the Palestinians and the so-called moderate Arab states, including those which like Israel, are privately worried about Iran’s growing nuclear threat.
These groups include Americans for Peace Now and J-Street, both of which hardly reflect major Jewish sentiment, both in Israel and the United States, Having them at the White House, while refusing to invite hard-line groups like the Zionist Organization of America- which is no more representative of mainstream Jewish sentiment than they are- makes it more clear that the President wanted a consensus behind his faulty policy, rather than risk any challenges to it. Sadly, except for a few perfunctory comments made by Abe Foxman, Obama evidently received only plaudits.
Certainly, the issues of the “settlements” are a diversion, allowing all who emphasize them to avoid facing the real issue. To recalcitrant Palestinian leaders, all Israel is a settlement. As they have made clear over and over, they are not ready to live in peace with the existing Jewish state. Until they do, the search for renewing the Oslo process is doomed before it even starts.