Daily Israel Report

Obama Backfires: Media Raise Doubts, Egypt Snubs ‘Instant Peace'

Obama’s Mideast peace plan may be backfiring. Israeli media have raised doubts, Bibi rejects a building freeze and Egypt rejects “instant peace.”
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 6/1/2009, 2:08 PM

Israel News Photo

Two days before U.S. President Barack Obama’s high-profile visit to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Israel's mass media has raised doubts about the president’s intentions while both Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Egypt have rejected parts of his vision for a new Middle East.

Israel’ largest newspaper, Yediot Acharonot, published an op-ed article Monday morning, stating that the Obama government "assumes that the support of Arab and Islamic countries will aid America in exiting Iraq and in successfully dealing with its enemies in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and with the Iranian nuclear project.”

The writer, Nahum Barnea, one of Israel’s most widely known journalists, added that Prime Minister Netanyahu is worried that American diplomatic plans, including its idea of acting against Iran in exchange for a “two-state solution,” may topple his government.

Shmuel Rosner, writing in Maariv, was more specific. “Among [the president’s] advisers, there are those who seemed to be inclined toward this view” that Washington would be better off trying to engineer the collapse of the Likud-led coalition government. He noted that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is rumored to favor that strategy.

Former Israel Ambassador to the U.S. Zalman Shoval wrote in Yisrael HaYom, the second-largest Hebrew-language paper in the country, “If the Obama administration decides that the issue of settlements will top the list of issues that are to be resolved – the failure of its planned move is assured in advance."

Prime Minister Netanyahu flatly told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee Monday morning that “freezing life” in Judea and Samaria is not reasonable. He said he accepts the need to dismantle hilltop communities that the U.S. considers illegal but rejects President Obama’s immediate halt on all building in Judea and Samaria.

He said the call for stopping all construction is unreasonable and must be part of a final status agreement with the Palestinian Authority, which has American support for agreeing to most of its demands for a new PA state.

The outcome of White House talks with Jordanian King Abdullah II, Prime Minister Netanyahu and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has encouraged the PA and the Arab world to expect President Obama to back his words with actions. Abbas traveled to Jordan on Sunday to coordinate policy before the president arrives in Saudi Arabia and Egypt later this week.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit flatly rejected Washington’s pan-Arab peace plan. In an interview with the Saudi newspaper A-sharq Al Awsat, Gheit said the Arab world would not agree to President Obama’s suggestion that it prove its good faith by opening its skies to Israel’s El Al Airlines.

He said that Muslim countries want Israel to surrender all of Judea and Samaria, as well as the Old City in Jerusalem and several large neighborhoods in the capital, before making any moves that would indicate recognition of the Jewish state.

Gheit echoed Abbas’s refusal to define Israel as a Jewish state, a term that would preclude carrying out the Saudi 2002 Peace Plan proposal for the immigration to Israel of millions of foreign Arabs claming ancestry there.

Congress Backs Israel
Before President Obama finished final preparations for his Middle East trip, more than three-quarters of the U.S. House of Representatives signed a letter calling on the government to “work closely with our democratic ally [Israel], who will be taking the greatest risks in any peace agreement." The same letter was signed by 76 senators, out of the 100 delegates in the Upper House.

The statement to the president also demands an "absolute Palestinian commitment to end violence, terror and incitement.” President Obama told Abbas last week that there still is incitement in “some” PA schools. Most textbooks in Arab classrooms, as well as the PA media, depict all of Israel as “Palestine.”