Two weeks ago David Ignatius wrote:
In retrospect, it seems clear that the step-by-step approach was a mistake: Constructive ambiguity, in this case, proved destructive. It allowed the Israeli right wing to perpetuate the idea that it could have it all — obtain a peace deal without making concessions on Jerusalem. And it allowed Netanyahu to continue his straddle.
Jerusalem is the hardest issue of all in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiation, and for that reason, would-be peacemakers have wanted to save it for last. But this month’s crisis makes that strategic waffling impossible. Thanks to the Israeli right, the Jerusalem issue is joined.
What’s needed now is for Obama to announce that when negotiations begin, the United States will state its views about Jerusalem and other key issues — sketching the outlines of the deal that most Israelis and Palestinians want. If Netanyahu refuses to play, then we have a real crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations.
At the time Barry Rubin observed:
Has anyone else noticed that David Ignatius, a Washington Post columnist who always tries to echo what he’s hearing from his administration contacts, has just called for an imposed settlement on Israel and the Palestinians?
On a hopeful note Meryl wrote yesterday:
I think that given the pushback of the last few weeks, the Obama administration will not be publicly calling out Netanyahu. Itâ€™s all going to be behind the scenes now. And I donâ€™t think Obama is going to succeed in getting Israel to stop building apartments in Ramat Shlomo. Nor do I think that Israel will be agreeing to final status issues up front.
Obama may want to count an Israel-Palestinian peace deal among the accomplishments of his administration, but I donâ€™t think he can bully Israel into it. He has far too much trouble right here at home right now. The Tea Party movement is more popular than the president.
However, Ignatius has weighed in again. It would appear that the administration remains undaunted.
Obama’s embrace of a peace plan would reverse the administration’s initial strategy, which was to try to coax concessions from the Israelis and Palestinians, with the United States offering “bridging proposals” later. This step-by-step process was favored by George Mitchell, the president’s special representative for the Middle East, who believed a similar approach had laid the groundwork for his breakthrough in Northern Ireland peace talks.
The fact that Obama is weighing the peace plan marks his growing confidence in Jones, who has been considering this approach for the past year. But the real strategist in chief is Obama himself. If he decides to launch a peace plan, it would mark a return to the ambitious themes the president sounded in his June 2009 speech in Cairo.
A political battle royal is likely to begin soon, with Israeli officials and their supporters in the United States protesting what they fear would be an American attempt to impose a settlement and arguing to focus instead on Iran. The White House rejoinder is expressed this way by one of the senior officials: “It’s not either Iran or the Middle East peace process. You have to do both.”
Taken together with the smearing of Dennis Ross, the suggestions that supporters of Israel are not loyal to the United States and that Israel is somehow a strategic liabilityÂ for the United States – all seemingly coming from the administration, it appears that President Obama having successfully railroaded a healthcare plan through congress, is spoiling to do something similar in the Middle East. In the meantime Iran, no doubt, continues to be emboldened.
Crossposted on Yourish.