Hillary Clinton, speaking on behalf of the Obama Administration reversed nine months of Obama policy statements on Israeli settlement activity by calling Netanyahu’s concessions on restricting settlement activity “unprecedented” even as settlement expansion continues.
The Palestinians reacted angrily accusing Obama of killing the peace process and accusing him of “back pedaling” on his previous policy.
Only a few months ago, the issue of settlement expansion was called “unacceptable” by Obama and at that time Obama demanded Israel freeze its settlement activity. It was a demand that Netanyahu ignored and settlement expansion continued.
The new U.S policy, far from demanding Israel stop expanding its settlements, is now applauding Netanyahu for, in Clinton’s words, “his unprecedented concessions” to the Palestinians for making voluntary restrictions on settlement expansion.
Clinton also pointed out in a joint press conference with Netanyahu that never before had the Palestinians demanded a settlement freeze as a precondition for peace talks. At the same press conference Netanyahu said he was willing to resume peace talks “without precondition”.
The Palestinians are demanding that Israel stop building settlements on land in the West Bank they claim is for a Palestinian state, and in East Jerusalem where the Palestinians hope to have a capitol.
This major shift by Obama shouldn’t be surprising to anyone. Obama has made a life long habit of making unequivocal statements of policy only to completely reverse himself when its resisted or ignored, In 2008 while running for the Democratic nomination for president he told a gathering of 7,000 American Jews in Miami that he unqequivocally supported a unified Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel. When the Palestinians reacted harshly to his speech he reversed himself the next day claiming he was misunderstood.
Obama’s sudden change in US policy in all probability was initiated by Clinton as both an acceptance of reality that Netanyahu is not about to accept any demands made by Obama and that Obama’s stance was clearly not working and represented an erosion of influence since it was clearly and publicly refuted and ignored by Netanyahu.
Clinton now wants Abbas to agree to allow the completion of 3000 housing units in the West Bank and more construction for government offices in East Jerusalem. According to the AP, Saeb Erekat, a Palestinian negotiator said that was a “non-starter” for resuming peace talks and Abbas has rejected it . Abbas has already been heavily criticized for being to ready to give up Palestinian demands and make concessions to the United States. And so there are no real prospects for peace talks to resume at all much less see any progress, which tarnishes Obama’s Peace Prize.
Earlier last month the Israeli foreign minister had said that coming to a peace agreement with the Palestinians was a “fantasy”, and that everyone should simply learn to live with it and make small agreements to the benefit of both sides. He said there is no real prospect of any negotiation leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state within the next few years.