The row between the Obama Administration and the Israeli government seems to be cooling off considerably, in the face of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit early next week for an AIPAC conference.
But how did the dispute end up? To hear Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the United States soundly won the war of words and is reaping the benefits of the escalating rhetoric. She claims Israel’s proposals were “useful and productive.”
Yet the “trust building” moves proposed by the Netanyahu government appear to offer little of substance, and most importantly skirted the only demand the Palestinian Authority had for the resumption of the peace talks, the halting of the settlement construction announced last week. On that one all-important issue Israel has remained firm: settlement expansion will continue abreast.
Indeed, the compromise with the US seems to do the PA more harm than good on this front: the two sides are said to have agreed on something bizarrely called “don’t ask, don’t tell” wherein the Israelis would continue to expand its settlements in occupied East Jerusalem with impunity, in return for promising not to publicize the moves. The agreement has some clear benefits for Netanyahu, but not for the PA.
Moreover, the PA didn’t cancel the indirect peace talks because Vice President Biden was embarrassed by the publicity the settlement expansion got, and that Israel has come to terms that will prevent such embarrassments happening in the future means little, so long as the settlements continue to expand.
The Obama Administration is now brimming with confidence, predicting the talks will restart soon. Yet it is unclear why the PA would agree to restart the talks, and more importantly, it appears that there is no reason to believe the next round wouldn’t just be torpedoed by some other, similar move.