US President Barack Obama has decided to lie low on the issue of Israeli-Palestinian peace, preferring to let Europe confront Israel, Daily Beast columnist Peter Beinart reported Monday, citing senior administration officials.
Beinart described the White House’s new policy of doing nothing on Israel as “benign neglect.”
Officials told Beinart they believed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was not genuinely interested in making the compromises needed to reach an agreement with the Palestinians and therefore the admininstration decided to take a new tack in dealing with the longstanding Middle East conflict.
Under the new approach, the White House would no longer “insulate” Netanyahu from international pressure and instead make him “own his rejectionism ” — and let an angry world take it from there. This approach is expected to scare Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders back to the negotiating table.
“The tide of global opinion is moving [against Israel],” one senior administration official is quoted as saying. And in that environment, America’s “standing back” is actually “doing something.”
The new policy was tested out in the US’s handling of the Palestinian’s UN statehood bid, according to Beinart, who quotes one insider calling the move “half-assed,” and again in the recent admonishment of Israeli settlement construction by the EU.
“Contrary to reports in the Israeli press, Team Obama didn’t mastermind the angry European response. But neither did they tamp it down,” wrote Beinart. “Even though E1 has long been an American red line, the Obama administration’s response was pro forma and bland. Publicly, Obama himself said nothing.” Israel last month announced plans to build in the controversial E1 area between Jerusalem and the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement to the east.
Beinart stressed that the new policy would not bring about changes to the wider US support for Israel and that Washington would continue to provide Israel with financial and military aid, as well as strongly resist any Palestinian effort to use the newfound nonmember observer state status at the UN to bring lawsuits against Israel at the International Criminal Court.