T Nation

Obama Tells Israel 'No'


Thank God.

Telling Israel No: Obama's Bold Move

Published: July 28, 2009
PARIS â?? President Barack Obama, who vowed to revive the Arab-Israeli peace process at the start of his term, has begun with a direct and public challenge to Israelâ??s latest plan to build new settlements in East Jerusalem.

Itâ??s a risky move that has already provoked a sharp rebuke from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But it is hard to see how the peace process could move forward if Washington had remained silent.

Mr. Obama picked a small but symbolic issue, a 20-unit housing project on the site of the former Shepherd Hotel, sparking a full-blown diplomatic standoff. Just days after the United States objected to the project, the European Union, Russia and France did the same.

This gambit puts the settlement issue at the center of the table, even before the next round of Arab-Israeli negotiations starts â?? if it ever does. The downside is that it might only serve to harden Israelâ??s stance, without softening Arab positions.

The stalemate in the Middle East needs a new approach. By opening the most sensitive dossier first, Mr. Obama has delivered to Israel its first dose of tough love since the administration of President George H.W. Bush.

There can be no so-called two-state solution that doesnâ??t take into account the famous â??facts on the ground,â?? created by Israel over international objections. At issue is the fate of about 300,000 Israeli settlers now living in the West Bank, and 190,000 in East Jerusalem.

Neither the United States nor the rest of the world has ever recognized Israelâ??s claim to the territories â?? including East Jerusalem, which is mostly Arab â?? that it captured after its victory in the 1967 Middle East war. By international standards, that makes housing projects for Jewish residents in those areas â??settlements.â??

The Shepherd Hotel site is a case in point. The most important fact about this particular project is that the building permit was granted July 2, just weeks after the Obama administration first signaled that it would object to any new building in the captured territories.

Israelâ??s timing couldnâ??t be more provocative. Giving the green light to the project now, after years of delays, may be part of a larger plan to Balkanize East Jerusalem, splitting neighborhoods in such a way that a future political solution for the city becomes impossible.

Or it might have been intended as a signal that Israel would continue to build as Israel saw fit, no matter what Washington said.

Either way, it is â??unhelpful,â?? as Condoleezza Rice said as secretary of state in 2005 about other unilateral steps taken by Israel in East Jerusalem. That was her polite, and not very effective, way of telling Israel to hold off.

The Obama administrationâ??s call for a freeze on new settlement construction has been unambiguous. The United States â??wants to see a stop to settlements â?? not some settlements, not outposts, not â??natural growthâ?? exceptions,â?? Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on May 27. She could have added â??not in East Jerusalem,â?? which was the point of a message about the Shepherd Hotel project delivered this month to the new Israeli ambassador to the United States.

Israelâ??s reaction was just as clear: An undivided Jerusalem is and will always be the capital of Israel. â??Our sovereignty over it cannot be challenged,â?? Mr. Netanyahu said at a July 19 cabinet meeting. No one, he added, has the right to tell Jews where they can live in their own capital city.

Mr. Obama, as a candidate, promised to support Jerusalemâ??s status as the undivided capital of Israel. What the boundaries of the city will end up being depends on negotiations.

The Israeli government has tried to change the issue: Dan Meridor, an Israeli government minister, accused the Obama administration of breaking with an agreement made in 2004 with President George W. Bush.

But the Israelis themselves have â??not fullyâ?? lived up to that agreement, in the words of Elliot Abrams, a National Security Council adviser in the second Bush administration. One of the four brokered points called for a halt to government subsidies for settlers. Those have in fact continued.

Challenging the Israelis is a requirement for any U.S. administration interested in serious peacemaking in the Middle East, said Aaron David Miller, a scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, who was an adviser on the region to several U.S. secretaries of state.

This time, both Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Obama have â??climbed up a very big tree,â?? Mr. Miller said. â??They can stay there and scream, they can climb down or they can make a deal.â??

Mr. Obama is signaling that there can be no deal as long as Israel tries to get away with creating more â??facts on the ground.â?? Breaking the stalemate requires inflicting some pain, he has determined, even if it means hurting the United Statesâ?? best ally in the Middle East.


Okay, while I actually agree we bow to Israel too much, the settlement expansion stuff makes no sense to me. I don't understand the plan on stopping "expansion". I mean, people have babies. Babies grow up to adults. Adults need housing. What is the plan logistically for even being able to stop expansion?

These are the only way I can see it as even possible:

Force people to not have babies
Deport the growth in population to other areas
Increase the homeless population
Force the population into denser and denser living conditions
Or some combination

What exactly do the people demanding an end to expansion think Israel should do? Is there some other option I'm not thinking of?


Nice article. I don't see much changing in the Arab-Israeli dispute though, regardless of what our President does, at least not anytime soon.


Nothing will change. Don;t people realize that history goes back thousands of years? No peace will be reached. Fake peace will be reached only to buy time to arm up.

FI you shouldn't post about issues you have no idea about. You arguing with me is like Mickey trying to Gatti. Try as you might, face beaten you stand your ground.......But you lose.


Are you kidding? You started a thread, then when I gave counterpoints, you ran away crying like the little vagina you are.

Grow a set or find another board.


Further proof that obama's an idiot. Destabilizing relations with Israel will destabilized the ME. It will embolden Iran, hamas and hezbolah. He needs to practice the art of shutting the fuck up.


can any discussion in this forum remain civil?

Pat: words with no deeds are just that, words. nothing will happen, the status quo will remain. and next time someone shoots a rocket at them from inside Palestine, they are well within their legal rights to shell the fucking place until nothing moves.


Hell no. A thread held long enough can go from hostile to civil interestingly enough.



Build tall instead of wide! Problem solved!



Israel is doing the wrong thing and will provoke another war. There is nothing wrong with trying to preempt that.


The problem is that the place they are building on, has had complications for the past 10 years. So they started the project ten years ago, had difficulties from then until now. All of a sudden the government of Israel let's it all go like nothing is wrong, in a territory that the world does not view as Israel's, even though Israel claimed it in the Middle East Wars.


So you are against them building houses for people?


They are building houses.... not munitions factories...


Hate to say it but Chris is right.

It's not what they are building, it's whose doing the building.


So what is the alternative plan for what to do with population growth?


Time to remove the Empire from around the globe and isolate.


Why not just build the houses on their own land instead of someone else's?


Not against it, but there's nothing wrong with just a home, like an apartment! There's plenty of people living in Apartments and doing just fine.

Japan, especially Tokyo has a massive population problem, they build up (sky scrapers) instead of building outwards (Villa's, compounds, big ass detached houses). It's just more efficient and makes sense if there's a space issue.



Israel does not have to do a damn thing but exist to provoke a war. This is built in to the hamas and hezbolah mission statements.

I think ultimately Israel should do one of two things. Either give the taken land to the palitinians and wish them luck, or make it all Israel and offer to bus any palestinian who has a problem with that to the nearest Arab country. This in between stuff is what is causing all the issues. As far as I am concerned Israel got that land fair and square from the 6 day war. You will find few lands in the world that were not won by conquest and war. 6 countries declared war on Israel. Israel kicked their ass and took there land; in 6 days. That's pretty impressive.
Bottom line though, they should either claim the land or let it go, this status quo is keeping the region mired in conflict with no resolution.


I agree, withdraw civilians and military personnel. That way, like I said, if some fucktard launches a rocket into Israel, you can shell em w/o worrying about your civilian casualties.