Leading article: Barack Obama should keep the pressure on Israel

The American President has some new domestic cards to play

Share
Related Topics

It is a testament to the hubris of Benjamin Netanyhau's government that having seen off an attempt by Barack Obama to freeze settlement construction, it has now given the US President a second chance to claw back that defeat. Much has been said about the inadequacy of Mr Netanyahu's apologetic admission that last week's announcement of a plan to expand the Ramat Shlomo settlement was badly timed. As the American Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, made admirably clear to the Israeli Prime Minister in her famous telephone call last Friday, Washington objected to the substance as much as to the timing.

Yet the timing was indeed bad. It came less than 48 hours after Mr Obama's envoy George Mitchell had finally been able to announce that indirect negotiations would go ahead – negotiations which an infuriated Palstinian leadership said it would not participate in if the plan stood. It is hard to believe that some in Israel's government did not know that this would be the consequence. Certainly Mr Netanyhau's suggestion that because the settlement is viewed by most Israelis as an integral part of Jewish Jerusalem, nobody thought to challenge it, is extraordinarily lame. No one who has been around Middle East politics as long as he has could be ignorant of how Palestinians would see the move.

One view is that President Obama is heading for another defeat and that in an election year he cannot withstand the wrath of the powerful right- wing pro-Israel lobbying group, AIPAC. If so, serious scrutiny of the way AIPAC uses its ample funding to influence American democracy, mainly in what it perceives to be the interests of a foreign government, is overdue. Fortunately the arrival of J Street, a vastly less well-funded group but one more representative of the impressive majority of American Jews who voted for Mr Obama in 2008, and which is backing him now, makes that possible without the usual charges of anti-Semitism.

But, as it happens, many American Jews will rally to the powerful argument that by restraining a Likud government prepared to jepoardise peace talks in this way, Mr Obama is actually acting as a true friend of Israel and its long-term security. And Mr Obama also has other domestic cards to play. This week's warning by General David Petraeus of the "enormous" effect of continued Israeli-Palestinian tension on the tasks confronted by US forces in Muslim countries like Afghanistan and Iraq is a salutary, if overdue, reminder that an end to the conflict is an urgent American interest as well as an Israeli and Palestinian one.

Yet Mr Obama may not be able to rely on mere rhetoric as President Bush senior did not when he briefly suspended loan guarantees to bring Israel to negotiations in 1991. Here the EU, a key trading partner of Israel, needs to lend its (albeit secondary) support. Lady Ashton did herself nothing but good yesterday by visiting Gaza. She should add her voice at the Quartet meeting in Moscow today to those urging an end to the destructive two and half year economic siege.

She was of course right to condemn yesterday's fatal Qassam rocket attack. And as she grows in authority, Baroness Ashton should ally herself with US efforts to break the wider deadlock in the Middle East. That need not bring Mr Netanyahu down (though it may). The Israeli prime minister could reach out to the centre and left to replace the fundamentalists in his coalition. But it is primarily the job of Mr Obama to help him decide whether those friends are more important to him than the alliance with the US.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Consultant - Bristol - Computer Futures - £18-25k

£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Computer Futures are currently...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Real Staffing - Leeds - £18k+

£18000 - £27000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Sales - Trainee Recruitment Co...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Manchester - Progressive Rec.

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Progressive Recruitment are cu...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

Day In a Page

 

Careful, Mr Cameron. Don't flirt with us on tax

Chris Blackhurst
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices