Indeed, the Palestinian issue appears to have figured heavily in Clinton’s meeting Monday night with Israel’s prime minister, with the secretary of state reportedly pressuring Binyamin Netanyahu to woo the Authority back to the negotiating table with gifts of small weapons and released prisoners. Clinton was said to have further told Netanyahu that time was of the essence in “achieving peace” with Fayyad and President Mahmoud Abbas since it’s not known who will be replacing them. The perception, then, that Israel can do something to bribe and entice “peace” out of a Palestinian side that negates its very existence seems an implacable article of faith for the Obama administration.
And it wasn’t only the Palestinian issue. Clinton also urged Netanyahu to mend Israel’s rift with Turkey, seemingly impervious to the fact that it was—among other things—Ankara’s dispatching of the terrorist-laden Mavi Marmara vessel to break Israel’s blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza, and Islamist prime minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan’s subsequent obsessive excoriation of Israel for its commandos’ having defended themselves against a lynch attempt on the ship, that widened what was already a growing rift. Again, despite professions of commitment to Israel and an undeniable degree of security cooperation, the ability to blame the Jewish state for its troubles in a hostile and unstable Middle East appears embedded in this administration’s DNA.
On the Egyptian issue, Clinton reportedly sought to convey a calming message to Netanyahu and Defense Secretary Ehud Barak, telling them the newly crowned President Morsi is currently preoccupied with domestic issues and not with unraveling the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. And on Iran, the secretary of state told a press conference late Monday evening that the U.S. would “use all elements of American power” to stop Tehran from going nuclear.
One can conjecture that, given this administration’s difficulty grasping Middle Eastern realities and trouble distinguishing friends from foes and moderates from radicals, the Israeli leaders were not necessarily pacified by Clinton’s reassurances about Morsi. And as for Iran, how much stock to put in Obama and his lieutenants’ repeated avowals and tough words is the central and most difficult question now confronting Jerusalem.
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