Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Is the game up for Israel?

For decades, successive U.S. presidents and governments have provided political cover for Israel's real intentions: Grab as much Palestinian land as possible and make a viable Palestinian state impossible. That game may now be over, thanks to what increasingly appears to be a clever strategy developed by President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton: Make illegal settlements the main issue and don't change the subject.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected the U.S. call for a settlement freeze, and the settlers themselves have shown their true colors by attacking Palestinians and burning their fields in an incident near the settlement of Nizhar yesterday.

Basically, the Obama administration seems to be giving the Israelis just enough rope to hang themselves, and the Jewish state is getting little help on this score from its usual American allies, as Haaretz reports today.

The big question now, of course, is what Obama and Clinton will do if Israel continues to be intransigent. A lot depends on how much pressure they are feeling from the rest of us. But Obama could not have picked a better time to give a speech to the Muslim world from Cairo--that's an audience that will be expecting much more than just words.

A little comic relief before Obama's speech in Cairo today (Thursday.) The Israelis are complaining that Obama won't acknowledge that Bush said they could continue settlement activity as long as they made it look as though they were honoring a freeze, according to the New York Times. The newspaper quotes some Bush officials anonymously saying that they agreed to no such thing, another saying they did, etc. Of course, settlement activity is illegal under any circumstances but it would not be the first time that either Israel or the Bush administration violated international law. But very amusing that the Israelis would pull such a desperate stunt at this late hour. Anything to distract people from the real issues at hand.

Europe not looking so shabby during economic crisis? A column by Paul Taylor in the New York Times a couple of days ago points out that European partnerships between government and labor are cushioning the blow of hard times. If we must have capitalism, the version with the human face--as opposed to naked American brutality--seems most desirable.

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