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'Obama’s Middle East Fallacy'

5:34 PM, Mar 17, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Jackson Diehl, writing in the Washington Post:

Two weeks ago President Obama took time off from the crisis in Ukraine to pursue the foreign policy cause that, together with nuclear disarmament, has been closest to his heart: Israeli-Palestinian peace. Having invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House, Obama welcomed him by publicly declaring to Bloomberg View’s Jeffrey Goldberg that Israel “could face a bleak future — one of international isolation and demographic disaster — if [Netanyahu] refuses to endorse a U.S. drafted framework agreement for peace,” as Goldberg summed it up.

Fair enough, you might say: An April 29 deadline for obtaining agreement to the framework is getting close, so it’s time for a little presidential arm-twisting. It follows that when Mahmoud Abbas troops into the Oval Office for his meeting on Monday, he should be met with equally dire predictions of Palestinian doom if he fails to accept the framework.

So far, there’s no sign of it: no presidential interviews, no statements by Secretary of State John Kerry, no leaks of potential U.S. punitive measures if Abbas — repeating a long personal and Palestinian history — says no. Therein lies the fallacy that has hamstrung Obama’s Middle East diplomacy for the past five years.

Obama, as he made clear in the Goldberg interview, perceives Abbas as the golden key to Mideast peace — “the most politically moderate leader the Palestinians may ever have,” as Goldberg paraphrased it — and Netanyahu as the potential spoiler. “I believe that President Abbas is sincere about his willingness to recognize Israel and its right to exist,” the president said. “You’ve got a partner on the other side who is prepared to negotiate seriously . . . for us not to seize this moment I think would be a great mistake.”

But is Obama right about Abbas? Netanyahu, like most Israelis, doesn’t think so — and with some reason.

Whole thing here.

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