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As Obama Continues Israel Visit, His Themes Are Reinforced

The other development was Obama’s visit to Ramallah. There he gave a message to the PA leadership that also preached the benefits of a two-state solution. He even referred to Israel as a Jewish state, which was a significant phrase.

In response, however, Abbas made it clear that he would only negotiate with Israel if certain preconditions were met, including a new freeze on construction within existing Jewish settlements on the West Bank, and also Israel providing its final proposal for where the border should be. Presumably, if Israel seeks to change the pre-1967 borders, Abbas will not come to the negotiating table.

I wonder if Obama and his advisors noticed two things about Abbas’ statement; I think they did.

First: the last time Obama got Israel to do a freeze, Abbas did not negotiate seriously, leaving Obama looking foolish. Netanyahu cooperated; Abbas and the Arabic-speaking regimes didn’t. So why should Obama fall for the same trick twice?

Second: the situation is similar to what happened early in Obama’s first term when Abbas arrived in Washington and gave an interview to Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post, making it clear that he was not interested in negotiating with Israel. Abbas has given several interviews recently in which he explicitly stated that now that the UN General Assembly has declared Palestine a “non-member state,” he doesn’t need to negotiate with Israel.

In other words, Obama’s trip to Ramallah reinforced his view that the “peace process” is going nowhere, and he cannot expect the PA to cooperate with any big effort by him to try to get talks going.

So why should Obama bother to pressure Israel in trying to push ahead?