Clinton welcomes Netanyahu’s token 10-month settlement construction freeze

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu appears to be working to a five-month cycle in his first year in office: It took him five months to line up behind Washington on a two-state solution, one for Israelis and one for Palestinians, and another five months to announce Wednesday, Nov. 25, that the security-political cabinet had approved a 10-month freeze on new apartment construction in the West Bank settlements in an effort to restart peace talks with the Palestinians.
US secretary of state Hillary Clinton praised the decision as helping to “move forward” efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “We believe that through good-faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders,” Clinton said in a statement.
The Palestinians rejected the Israel step on the spot because it did not apply to East Jerusalem.
All three parties were following a familiar ritual which is fated to lead nowhere.
The trouble is not Netanyahu’s policy positions, from which he is constantly being forced back, but President Barack Obama’s loss of credibility with Arab leaders, including the Palestinians:
1. They perceive him as having failed to deliver on his early promise to turn a new page in the Middle East conflict and in America’s relations with the Muslim and Arab world – as articulated in his June 4 Cairo speech of reconciliation. He is found to have disappointed the Palestinians and sacrificed Muslim and Arab respect by fighting Muslims in Afghanistan, Iran and the war on extremist Islamic terror in the Middle East and South Asia.
2. Arab leaders are watching with concern and amazement what seems to them to be the US president’s increasingly weakness in dealing with the ayatollahs of Tehran and their nuclear ambitions. That apparent weakness has deterred them from placing their chips on an Israeli-Palestinian solution under his auspices.
In these circumstances, any Israeli initiative is irrelevant because it cannot offer any real incentive for bringing the Palestinians to the negotiating table.
By their implacable animosity toward Netanyahu, the Palestinians and Arab governments are signaling their disapproval of the United States and its current policies.
But even token gestures carry a price.
The Israeli prime minister has developed a routine whereby he backs away from his avowed principles and policies in the belief that he is gaining time. This form of escapism has shown up in two key arenas:
Iran: Netanyahu keeps on maintaining that he supports international action for stiffer sanctions to contend with Iran’s nuclear violations, although he knows that sanctions are as real as Santa Claus.
Now and then he mumbles comments like: “Fateful days await us” – suggesting to the Israeli public that all other issues must be set to one side for the sake of preserving a military option against a nuclear-armed Iran.
Hizballah and Hamas: Like their predecessors, Netanyahu and defense minister Ehud Barak are fond of harping on the fact that both the Lebanese and the Palestinian terrorists groups are constantly acquiring new and more powerful missiles capable by now of reaching every part of Israel.
They are all talk but no action to stop the rising menace. This undermines their credibility and leaves the Israeli prime minister looking as ineffectual as the US president.

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