Today we are witnessing rare tension in the US – Israeli relationship and this is taking place against the backdrop of the launch of [indirect] Palestinian – Israeli negotiations and an Israeli announcement that it intends to build new settlements in East Jerusalem. This tension prompted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to apologize to Washington twice; one apology was made publicly while the other apology took place during a 43-minute telephone call between Netanyahu and the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. During this telephone conversation, Clinton said that Israel’s plan to build new settlements in East Jerusalem sends “a deeply negative signal” and was insulting [to the US] since it took place during US Vice President Joe Biden’s visit [to Israel], and that it also hurt the “bilateral relationship” between the US and Israel.
According to the New York Times newspaper, such strong language towards Israel is rare from a US official and sources indicate that during this telephone conversation [with Netanyahu] Clinton was speaking directly on behalf of US President Barack Obama and was passing on his anger to the Israeli government, and also that this telephone conversation only took place after Biden had left Israel.
Very well, what has this got to do with us? The obvious issue here is not to make – as we usually do – any mistakes that alleviate the pressure from the Israeli side, whether by making irresponsible statements or taking irresponsible actions. The first piece of advice here is to Mr. Saeb Erekat, for there is no need for any escalatory or threatening statements, especially as we are aware that most of these statements are for Arab media consumption. The best example of this is the news that the Palestinian Authority plans to pull out of indirect negotiations with Israel in protest against the recent Israeli decision, while we were surprised to hear the US State Department state that it has not received any news about this.
As for actions, it is up to the Arabs to have courage this time and name and even condemn any party that intends to sabotage this [peace negotiations], regardless of whether they are motivated by the Palestinians or they have the support of any Arab party. It is suspicious that missiles were fired from Gaza during Biden’s departure from Israeli territory amidst US discontent of Israel’s recent decisions, which is something that promoted Netanyahu to apologize publicly, not to mention resulted in the international quarter condemning Israel’s recent decisions with regards to the settlements The firing of rockets reminds us of the absurd operation of rockets being fired during any Israeli Prime Minister’s trip to Washington, for as soon as an Israeli Prime Minister’s plane lands in Washington then rockets begin to be fired in a clear example of political recklessness.
What we must remember here is that the tension in the US – Israeli relationship has not been caused by the recent Israeli decision with regards to the East Jerusalem settlements. Anybody reading the Israeli newspapers will have noticed the Israeli resentment caused by Obama’s disregard of Tel Aviv, and the US President has not visited Israel since he took office in the White House, while at the same time he has visited Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Egypt. This is something that some of our media and politicians are not paying attention to amidst their preoccupation with talking about “the American bias towards Israel.”
It is therefore important for the Palestinians and Arabs to be aware of the necessity of not losing Obama. In the end, Obama is facing forthcoming [mid-term] elections and is concerned with his own domestic interests, and if he does not find political intelligence and flexibility from the Arabs, this will be more important to him. One thing is required from the Palestinians and the Arabs and that is that they do not make a mistake…is that so difficult?