US credibility in the Arab world has suffered a serious setback after Hillary Clinton dropped demands for a halt to Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank.
By Adrian Blomfield in Jerusalem
Signalling an end to the brief flirtation with the Palestinian cause, the US secretary of state flew to Jerusalem to voice full American support for Israel and its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
In an effort to repair badly strained US-Israeli relations, she heaped praise on Mr Netanyahu, lauding his offer to limit settlement construction – even though it falls well short of President Obama’s original demands.
She said: "What the prime minister has offered in specifics on restraints on a policy of settlements… is unprecedented in the context of prior to negotiations."
Risking the ire of the Arab world, she also joined Israeli calls for an immediate Palestinian return to the negotiating table without preconditions. America's about-turn on the most contentious issue stalling a resumption of Middle East peace talks has delighted Israel. But it will also damage Mr Obama's reputation as a peacemaker for many Arabs, bolster critics who have accused him of naïvety and enhance a growing sense of betrayal in the Palestinian territories. The Palestinian leadership immediately rejected Mrs Clinton's demand to return to negotiations without a resolution on the settlements issue and gave warning that the peace process was "in a state of paralysis". "The result of Israel's intransigence and America's back-peddling is that there is no hope for negotiations on the horizon," said Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Mahmoud Abbas, the moderate Palestinian leader. Delivering a landmark speech to university students in Cairo five months ago, Mr Obama sought to reach out to the Arab world by speaking of his sympathy for Palestinian "suffering" and the "humiliation" of occupation. In a major policy declaration, he also rejected the legitimacy of Israeli settlement in the West Bank saying: "It is time for the settlements to stop." Presented with a subsequent demand from Mrs Clinton for a total settlement freeze without exception, Israel recoiled while the Arab world rejoiced. Critics, however, denounced Mr Obama for setting Israel an unrealistic goal, pointing to the huge domestic opposition that Mr Netanyahu would have faced had he imposed such restrictions on the 500,000 settlers living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. "Obama came with a very idealistic conceptualisation of the Middle East that didn't exist," said Eytan Gilboa, an Israeli political scientist. "He created very high expectations in the Arab world with his excessive focus on the settlement issue. Now he has lost credibility on both sides." Israeli government officials hailed Mr Obama's climb down as a diplomatic victory. Danny Ayalon, the deputy foreign minister, claimed that Israel's policy of refusing to give into US pressure had paid off, while his cabinet colleague Daniel Hershkowitz declared: "The US administration understands what we have always said – that the real obstacle to negotiations are the Palestinians." Yet while the United States and Israel may once more be friends, the confusing shifts in the Obama administration's policy seem to bode poorly for the prospects of a peace settlement. Mr Abbas, America's most important Palestinian ally, has already been severely weakened by the United States after he was persuaded to withdraw support for a UN report that accused Israel of war crimes during its winter offensive in Gaza. Facing unprecedented public uproar and fury from within his own party, Mr Abbas had to back down. Mrs Clinton's demand that he return to negotiations leaves the Palestinian leader in an invidious position. Observers say that were he to do so with his condition of settlements still unrequited, he could be toppled.
- PRESS RELEASE : Protectthe Rohingya. - June 8, 2020
- EID-UL-FITR MESSAGE-1441 (A.H) (2020) - May 23, 2020
- How Israel Legitimizes the Abuse of Palestinian Political Prisoners - April 30, 2020