Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How U.S. Jews strangle peace talks

Mideast talks fall apart, as Israel lets West Bank settlements begin anew. Peter Beinart on how American Jewish groups tie Obama’s hands—and work against peace.

Peter Beinart, CommonDreams.org, Sep 27, 2010

This just in, for anyone in the United States who still cares: Israel has not renewed the partial settlement freeze it imposed ten months ago. Which means that the direct talks with the Palestinians born this month may die in the crib. Which raises an interesting question: What would it take to make American Jewish groups admit that an Israeli prime minister is not serious about peace?

You could hardly find a better test case than Benjamin Netanyahu. Until last year, Netanyahu had not just spent his entire political career opposing a Palestinian state; he had repeatedly compared such a state to Nazi Germany. He opposed the Oslo peace talks at their inception, and as prime minister in the late 1990s so consistently reneged on commitments made by his predecessors that U.S. envoy Dennis Ross later noted that “neither President Clinton nor Secretary Albright believed that Bibi had any real interest in pursuing peace.” In 2005, when Prime Minister Ariel Sharon proposed dismantling Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip, Netanyahu resigned from his cabinet in protest. Netanyahu was still on record as opposing a Palestinian state in 2009, when he again ran for prime minister. He hewed to this position when forming his coalition government, even though doing so helped keep Tzipi Livni’s centrist Kadima party from joining his cabinet, thus preventing Netanyahu from assembling the national unity government he claimed to want in order to confront Iran. Through all of this, the major American Jewish groups still refused to publicly entertain the idea that Netanyahu was anything but a champion of peace.

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