Obama is­sues a veiled threat over the Mideast

Ap­par­ently nudg­ing Is­rael, he speaks of al­low­ing a U.N. vote on Pales­tinian is­sues.

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Christi Par­sons and Michael A. Me­moli christi.par­sons@la­times.com michael.me­moli@la­times.com Times staff writer David Lauter con­trib­uted to this re­port.

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Obama took a step to­ward a tougher line with Is­rael in an in­ter­view re­leased Tues­day, rais­ing the pos­si­bil­ity that the U.S. would al­low a United Na­tions vote on is­sues re­lated to the Pales­tini­ans if the two sides make no mean­ing­ful move­ment to­ward peace.

In an in­ter­view with an Is­raeli tele­vi­sion sta­tion, Obama noted that his ad­min­is­tra­tion has “up un­til this point” quashed such ef­forts at the U.N. while in­sist­ing that the Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans must ne­go­ti­ate a res­o­lu­tion. But he said it is a chal­lenge for the U.S. to keep de­mand­ing that the Pales­tini­ans ne­go­ti­ate in good faith if no one be­lieves the Is­raelis are do­ing the same.

“How do we move off what ap­pears right now to be a hope­less sit­u­a­tion and move it back to­wards a hope­ful sit­u­a­tion?” Obama asked in the in­ter­view. “That will re­quire more than just words. That will re­quire some ac­tions. And that’s go­ing to be hard work, though, be­cause right now I think there’s not a lot of con­fi­dence in the process.”

The com­ment was the lat­est sign that Obama has con­cluded the U.S. must re­think its stance on the Mideast peace process if it is to main­tain cred­i­bil­ity in the world.

His think­ing on the mat­ter was clearly spurred this spring by Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Benjamin Ne­tanyahu’s stand against Pales­tinian state­hood dur­ing Is­rael’s elec­tion cam­paign. Although Ne­tanyahu has since pub­licly reversed his po­si­tion, Obama said in the in­ter­view that Is­rael “as a whole loses cred­i­bil­ity” on the point.

“If, in fact, there’s no prospect of an ac­tual peace process, if no­body be­lieves there’s a peace process, then it be­comes more dif­fi­cult to ar­gue with those who are con­cerned about set­tle­ment con­struc­tion, those who are con­cerned about the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion,” Obama said. “It’s more dif­fi­cult for me to say to them, ‘Be pa­tient and wait be­cause we have a process here’ — be­cause all they need to do is to point to the state­ments that have been made say­ing there is no process.”

Obama’s crit­i­cal tone to­ward Ne­tanyahu, de­scrib­ing him as some­one who is “pre­dis­posed” to “think per­haps that peace is naive,” ap­peared to re­turn to the tough lan­guage that marked ad­min­is­tra­tion state­ments around the time of the Is­raeli elec­tion. More re­cently, the White House had seemed to be try­ing to mend fences.

The ap­par­ent shift in tone seems “hard to un­der­stand,” said a Demo­cratic strate­gist with close ties to the White House. Pre­vi­ous White House crit­i­cisms of the prime min­is­ter clearly strength­ened Ne­tanyahu elec­torally, he said, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity to avoid alien­at­ing White House of­fi­cials. “Th­ese kind of at­tacks don’t re­ally hurt him. They help him.”

Obama’s veiled threat about Pales­tinian state­hood comes as the U.S. and other world pow­ers are in high­stakes ne­go­ti­a­tions with Iran over its nu­clear pro­gram. Is­rael deeply op­poses the deal on the grounds that it will bol­ster Iran’s nu­clear ef­forts and boost its ag­gres­sion in the Mid­dle East; some of Iran’s lead­ers have said Is­rael does not have the right to ex­ist.

The dead­line for a deal, a ma­jor for­eign pol­icy pri­or­ity for Obama, is the end of the month, and the pres­i­dent is al­ready gear­ing up for the dif­fi­cult sales job ahead if an agree­ment is reached. Congress has de­manded a chance to re­view the ac­cord, a point Obama has ceded, but the deep op­po­si­tion from Is­rael could com­pli­cate his at­tempts to gain ap­proval from U.S. law­mak­ers who ar­dently sup­port Is­rael.

In ad­vance of that prospect, Obama re­cently vis­ited a prom­i­nent Wash­ing­ton sy­n­a­gogue to talk about his deep love of Is­rael.

Close ad­vi­sors and friends have tried to un­der­score the point, with for­mer se­nior ad­vi­sor David Ax­el­rod telling Is­raeli Chan­nel 2 that Obama feels a deep per­sonal affin­ity for the Jewish peo­ple.

In an in­ter­view with the At­lantic mag­a­zine last week, Obama talked about his per­sonal com­mit­ment to the se­cu­rity of Is­rael, an idea he re­peated in an in­ter­view with Chan­nel 2’s Ilana Dayan.

Obama told Dayan that the U.S. as­sis­tance to Is­rael on se­cu­rity, in­tel­li­gence and mil­i­tary mat­ters “doesn’t go away” be­cause it is part of a “solemn com­mit­ment that I’ve made with re­spect to Is­rael’s se­cu­rity.”

But there may be a “prac­ti­cal con­se­quence” if there are new res­o­lu­tions in­tro­duced in the U.N., he said.

The peace process could be­come a big­ger prob­lem for Obama in his com­pli­cated ties with Is­rael, but an­a­lysts say he’s been try­ing to sim­plify that re­la­tion­ship by ex­plain­ing him­self to the Is­raeli public. As he pre­pares to talk about a pos­si­ble res­o­lu­tion with Iran over its nu­clear deal, said one an­a­lyst, Obama’s pri­mary mes­sage is about his in­tent.

“He has to per­suade the Is­raeli au­di­ence that he is pre­oc­cu­pied with the se­cu­rity of Is­rael,” said Jon Al­ter­man of the Mid­dle East pro­gram at the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies. “Did wear­ing a kippa and speak­ing in a prom­i­nent sy­n­a­gogue do the trick? It cer­tainly re­in­forced a sense of affin­ity and re­as­sured some peo­ple of the na­ture of his ties to Is­rael.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.