Is Obama to blame for the lack of progress? NO

By Uri Dromi, May 26, 2011
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Now that the parade of speeches by President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu is over, the question is: after listening to all this rhetoric, are we Israelis better off?

Unfortunately, we are not. When the applause dies out, we are left with the same problems, with less time to deal with them, with increasingly hostile world opinion and - I truly pray I'm wrong - with a rift with Israel's greatest ally, the USA.

Let me deal with the last issue only. Unlike the conventional wisdom which says that Americans have become tired of the Middle East, Obama made it clear that for America, a peace process was a priority. Netanyahu, however, in his speech in the Congress, made at least two conditions which guarantee that such a peace process will not take off: he called on Mahmoud Abbas to sever his relations with Hamas and vowed that Jerusalem will always be united.

Since Hamas took over Gaza, Abbas was challenged by the Israelis: how can we deal with you when you don't represent Gaza? Now that he represents Gaza as well, we say: how can we deal with you when you have Hamas in your wings? Instead, Netanyahu should have put the onus on Abbas by saying: when we come to the talks, make sure Hamas recognises Israel and renounces terrorism. Let Abbas sweat.

As for Jerusalem, most Israelis who take the Palestinians seriously understand that a two-state solution means that the Palestinians will have their capital in East Jerusalem, with one shared city authority. Also, I doubt that those who gave Netanyahu an ovation over "united Jerusalem" ever set foot in East Jerusalem, where 250,000 Palestinians are happily exhausting social services at the expense of Israeli taxpayers (me, for one).

Netanyahu is either counting on Obama not being re-elected (I think he is wrong), and then he can sail happily to nowhere with a Republican tail wind, or, alternatively, if Obama is re-elected, a Republican Congress to block any moves the President might make to twist the arm of Israel. In the coming crucial months, these manoeuvres guarantee one thing only - a growing impatience in the White House towards Israel.

When things become rough after September, when Abbas will be dealing with Israel as President of the Palestinian state, recognised by most of the world, Netanyahu will have some explaining to do.

Uri Dromi is a columnist based in Jerusalem

Last updated: 2:09pm, May 26 2011