Haaretz: Obama Abandoning Efforts to Limit Settlement Expansion
A close observer of American-Israeli relations is charging that President Obama is backing off efforts to pressure the Israeli government to stop settlement expansion, in order to mend fences with some Jewish Congressmen and to shore up support in the American Jewish community prior to the upcoming midterms. By doing this, he claims, Obama is effectively dooming any prospects for an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
On May 14, Obama asked Congress for an extra $205 million to be used strengthen Israel’s short-range rocket defense system.
On May 18, he met with 37 Jewish members of Congress. The New York Daily News reports its purpose was "to soothe concerns over recent rough spots in U.S.-Israeli relations." Obama said during the meeting:
"I walked through a minefield in the Middle East and I stepped on the land mines. I got some toes blown off."
Regarding US/Israeli relations, Obama called them "fundamentally strong" and said the "rift is greatly overstated."
Commenting on Obama’s remarks, Akiva Eldar, writes in Haaretz:
The delegation left the White House assuaged, feeling perhaps that
a president who has been hurt by mines would be wary of much bigger bombs.
Eldar, who is the chief political columnist and editorial writer for the Israeli publication, Haaretz, writes:
It appears that the Obama administration has realized that it will not succeed where its predecessors have failed. If no peace with the Arabs emerges from the president’s initiative, why should he fight with the Jews? When Republicans are threatening to take over the House of Representatives in six months, it’s not so bad if the Israeli occupation continues for another 43 years….
The meeting with the congressmen was preceded by one with Elie Wiesel – his dinner with the president after the Nobel peace laureate called on the administration to remove Jerusalem from the negotiations. Also, two senior members of the National Security Council at the White House were sent to calm the leadership of the Anti-Defamation League. And White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel held private talks with a group of concerned rabbis. All went home pleased; they were promised that Obama would not pressure Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to give back land. In simpler words: They don’t want peace; there is no need for it.
So Eldar is saying that Obama is giving up his efforts to rein in Israeli expansion in West Jerusalem and the West Bank in return for the support of Joe Lieberman, Elliot Engel and Chuck Schumer and to garner the Democrats some votes in the midterms.
If true, Obama is giving Netanyahu free rein to expand settlements, condemning the peace process to the ash heap, all to enhance Democratic Party prospects in the November elections. The settlements are the primary impediment to a peace agreement and Obama had said he opposed them. Now, with elections looming, he is reversing course, according to Eldar, and dooming the peace process, perhaps permanently.