In his first 18 months in office, United States President Barack Obama has succeeded in humiliating Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on occasion and forcing a temporary freeze of construction for Jews in Judea and Samaria – but can he exert any more leverage on Israel now that the November congressional elections are drawing near? Obama's window of opportunity for pressuring Israel has closed, TIME magazine appears to say in its latest piece, and may not reopen until his eighth year in office, should he be re-elected.
While Obama may use his “powers of spin” to “sustain the appearance of progress” in his efforts to restart a "peace process" between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, his chances of success are slim, the article by the magazine's Middle East writer Tony Karon said.
Karon portrayed Israel as having “broadened and deepened” its hold on Judea and Samaria in the past two decades, but did not mention the complete withdrawal from Gaza and northern Samaria which Israel effected five years ago under pressure from former U.S. President George W. Bush.
The magazine expressed doubts that Netanyahu has any serious intention of moving against “the hard-line settlers who claim a biblical duty to colonize” Judea and Samaria. In any case, it says, “with the White House's attention now on a difficult November congressional election – a focus that always works to Israel's advantage, given the far greater domestic political leverage its advocates wield in Washington – the Administration isn't likely to expend political capital on the issue anytime soon.”
“Observers on both sides in the Middle East concurred that last week's embrace of Netanyahu by Obama was a domestically driven vindication of the Israeli leader's defiance of Obama's earlier efforts to pressure Israel on the settlements issue,” TIME explained. People who hope that U.S. might pressure the sides into accepting a final-status solution dictated by the international community are “forgetting that the 2010 electoral season – followed by the 2012 presidential race – militates against the Administration's trying anything quite so bold in the Middle East.”
TIME winds up by hinting that there “may be a political logic to Obama's two predecessors' leaving their Mideast peacemaking efforts to their eighth year in office.” The magazine thus implies that the Democratic party's dependence on the pro-Israel lobby in the U.S. will prevent Obama from pressuring Israel any more, any time soon.
PA wants third party
Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority “foreign minister” Riyad Al-Maliki said on Wednesday that direct talks between Israel and the PA would only make sense if the international community were involved, according to AFP. "We have always said we need the presence of a third party. Without third party intervention, a third party presence, this is a waste of time," Maliki said during an official visit to Bulgaria by PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas.