Why is President Obama so obviously humiliating Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu? Why is Secretary of State Clinton negating everything she said when she represented New York state and piling on the Jewish state?
They want Benjamin Netanyahu out. Specifically, they want him to feel such pressure that he dumps his right-wing coalition partners and forms a new government with the center-left party Kadima headed by former Prime Minister Tzipi Livni. Livni, who thinks nothing of trading land for peace, no matter how flawed the peace might be, will then hold Netanyahu's government hostage and force it to bend to the will of Washington and sign a deal with the Palestinians that cedes them land in return for a handful of vague vapors and promises none of which will be kept.
On March 3, Livni said in a Knesset debate that since Netanyahu took control, "Israel has become a pariah country in the world." She is trying to use Obama's and Clinton's rejection of Netanyahu's course to force her way into the government. And Obama and Clinton are intent on helping her do so by publicly humiliating Netanyahu.
But Netanyahu insists that he'd be happy to negotiate a peace accord. But, as he told me last year, "I just don't have a peace partner with whom to negotiate."
The Palestinians are expert at playing "good cop/bad cop" with Israel. The good cop -- the Palestinian Authority -- wants to negotiate a peace deal and insists on signs of Israeli good faith in order to do so. Meanwhile, the bad cop -- Hamas -- fires missiles at Israel from Gaza, land Israel ceded to the Palestinians in order to promote the peace process earlier in the decade.
Any peace deal with the Palestinian Authority will not be binding on Hamas, and the pattern of Gaza will likely play out again: First, Israel ceded land to the Palestinian Authority. Second, Hamas seizes the newly ceded land through elections or military action. Third, Hamas refuses to recognize the peace deal and uses the newly acquired territory as a base from which to launch further attacks against Israel.
Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome each time.
When Hillary Clinton and Obama explode in indignation against Israel for building apartments in East Jerusalem, they deliberately miss the point: There is no reason for Israel to catalyze peace negotiations when there is no single entity that is both committed to peace and speaks for the entire Palestinian people. Without a peace partner, negotiations are either a trip to nowhere or a slippery slope to more Gaza-like concessions that do nothing but strengthen the enemies of Israel without providing any advancement to the cause of peace.
The merits of building in East Jerusalem or the need for a moratorium on all settlement construction are quite irrelevant as long as a substantial body of Palestinian opinion wants a war with Israel and the prevailing political authority in Gaza insists on the Jewish state's eradication.
Clinton's and Obama's studied humiliation of Netanyahu during his recent visit to Washington suggest a more sinister agenda at work. They are trying to show the Arab world that the United States is quite willing to throw Israel into the sea. When Clinton characterized the American commitment to Israel as "rock solid" while, at the same time, warning that Israel faced destruction unless it concluded a peace deal with the Arabs, it illustrates how conditional U.S. support really is.
Unless Israel toes the U.S. line -- to the satisfaction of the Arab world -- American support won't really be there. The rocks to which the secretary refers will be tied to Israel's foot as she is thrown overboard by the Obama administration.
By raising the profile of the housing issue and by lending legitimacy to the idea that it is Israeli construction that is frustrating the peace process, Obama and Clinton both redirect pressure that should be aimed at Hamas' refusal to honor or participate in any peace talks or accord.
So why are Obama and Clinton so intent on raising the profile of the construction issue and publicizing it? One suspects that an effort is afoot to link Israeli resistance to the peace process to the ongoing loss of American lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, if not to the global terrorism of al-Qaida.
Gen. David Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee that "Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples (in the region). ... Enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests in the area of responsibility." In other words, blame Israel.
And ultimately, the administration agenda may be to explain its withdrawal of support for Israel by blaming its stubborn insistence on housing construction. One can well see the Obama administration learning to live with an Iranian nuclear weapon while blaming Israel for fomenting Iranian hostility by building housing.
All the while, through American aid to Gaza, the Obama administration is helping Hamas to solidify its position in Gaza and lengthen its lease on political power -- the very power it is using to torpedo the peace process.