On Thursday, President Obama stood with the "Moderate" Terrorist Leader Mahmoud Abbas calling for Israel to stop all settlement building including "Natural Growth." As I have pointed out many times before, both President Bush and Secretary of State Rice have made similar statements over the past eight years. After talking to some of my contacts within Israel and those with intimate knowledge of what is happening within Israel, the reports are not good. This time it is different.
When Bush demanded that Israel stop all settlement activity, there was always a wink, wink at the end of it. The Bush administration would never protest too loudly as long as it was "natural growth." Meaning contiguous adding on to existing settlements was OK. So if someone's child got married, they could live in the same area as their parents...etc. My sources tell me that there is no "wink, wink." Obama wants Israel to stop all settlement building PERIOD.
As Gary Ackerman (D-L.I.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, told Stewart Ain of the NY Jewish Week:
“Internal [natrual] growth is not an obstacle — it is life,There is no moral equivalence between settlements and terrorist activity,” he said by phone shortly after leaving a 90-minute meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv.
“Bibi mentioned settlements,” Ackerman continued, using Netanyahu’s nickname. “He pointed out that unlike previous administrations that said they would not build them but built them, he is not building new settlements. But he has a position that you cannot stop people on the issue of internal growth.”Sources say that Senator George Mitchell Obama's Mideast envoy and national security adviser Gen. Jim Jones -- see the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, home to some almost 300,000 people, as a key obstacle to getting a peace settlement. Of course this ignores the fact that the Palestinians including President Abbas still reject recognizing Israel as a Jewish State and that President Abbas is the leader of Fatah, who's Al Aqsa Martyr's Brigade is still committing terrorist attacks within Israel. Even if he wanted to make peace (which he doesn't) Abbas does not have the legitimacy from his own people to sign an agreement. If he did there would have been an agreement with Prime Minister Olmert, who some sources offered Abbas an agreement that was even more favorable than the one Yassir Arafat was criticized for turning down. The reason for turning it down? Because he didn't want to have to recognize Israel as a JEWISH state.
Ackerman said he subscribed to the position of a Kadima Knesset member, Otniel Schneller, who was quoted as saying: “I will not lend a hand to a dictate preventing my daughters from giving birth to my grandchildren.”
Here's the real problem for the Jewish State, in past when Israel has faced problems with a sitting President they have taken their appeal to Congress. But this congress is not likely to go to bat for Israel for two reasons, President Obama is very popular and they are not likely to fight him on this issue especially when you consider that research and anecdotal evidence show the Democratic Party voter is no longer pro-Israel.
So Israel is left with a White House that will continue to pressure her toward one-sided concessions and a Congress that doesn't have the political chops to stand up to the President.
The question is will Netanyahu stand up to Obama? That is still unknown. On one hand the composition of his coalition will demand that he does, but on the other hand one of the major reasons he was voted out of office in 1999 was his poor relationship with Bill Clinton. In fact, Bill Clinton sent James Carville to Israel to help Ehud Barak take the Prime Minister position away from Netanyahu.
Where all this will lead is unknown. What Is known is the era of "good feelings" between an Israel Prime Minister and a US President is ending. And all the worries that many of us had about Obama and the Jewish State, are about to become true.
UPDATE: Jackson Diehl Wrote in the Washington Post that confirmed what I said last night about the deal that Olmert offered. Diehl hyped the right of return part more than it deserved, Olmert did not offer to overrun Israel with Palestinians that would ensure that Israel would no longer be a Jewish State.
In our meeting Wednesday, Abbas acknowledged that Olmert had shown him a map proposing a Palestinian state on 97 percent of the West Bank — though he complained that the Israeli leader refused to give him a copy of the plan. He confirmed that Olmert “accepted the principle” of the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees — something no previous Israeli prime minister had done — and offered to resettle thousands in Israel. In all, Olmert’s peace offer was more generous to the Palestinians than either that of Bush or Bill Clinton; it’s almost impossible to imagine Obama, or any Israeli government, going further.As I reported last May Olmert agreed to accept was offering around a 100-150,000 Palestinians over a ten year period.
" a source I believe to be highly placed and reliable that Olmert and/or his surrogates not only are deep in the details of dividing Jerusalem but also are already agreeing in principle to a "Palestinian right of return". The only specific I have heard is that they are contemplating about 100,000-150,000 but are considering whether spreading it out over 10 years will make it more palatable."