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Learning Curve Courtesy of Sisyphus

November 29th, 2010 - 9:50 am

All is not well in the Middle East. I mean, duh, but we’re not exactly helping things along between the Israelis and the Palestinians. From the Financial Times

There was an astonishing report out of Jerusalem last week. Israel, it said, was growing increasingly frustrated with the US.

Israel unhappy? But had Washington not just offered the Jewish state a generous security package, including subsidised fighter jets, to buy a 90-day freeze on the expansion of Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land? And are the settlements not illegal under international law in any case and the moratorium a demand the Obama administration has been making for two years?

The answer to those questions is yes. And in theory Israelis should be delighted the US is paying for a freeze on actions Israel should not engage in. But so poorly managed has been the US Middle East peacemaking effort that trust is in short supply, whether it is between Palestinians and Israelis or Americans and Israelis.

While the Obama team rightly identified Middle East peace as a foreign policy priority when it came into office, two years on it has yet to identify a coherent strategy.

Talk about incoherent. Two years ago, Obama insisted that Israel halt building settlements as a precondition for peace talks — making the Palestinians dig in, wondering what other concessions Obama might force on the Israelis. Now, Obama is bribing Jerusalem with state-of-the-art F-35 stealth fighters, just to buy a (very) temporary freeze. So now the Israelis are the ones digging in, wondering what other treats they can get out of this incoherent and incompetent White House.

I’m not sure the two sides have ever been further apart, all thanks to an American President who doesn’t know the difference between a carrot and a stick — and who hasn’t learned the difference, even after two solid years of getting it exactly wrong.

Aren’t there any grown-ups left at all in the State Department?

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