Those of you who thought that the Obama approach to foreign policy was to anger our allies while retreating from our enemies can now relax. Apparently, we’ll retreat from our allies, too. The Times of London reports that Hillary Clinton has apparently hit the reset button with Binyamin Netanyahu on the issue of settlement expansion, angering the Palestinians and confusing everyone else:
The Palestinian leadership accused the US of caving in over Israeli settlements after Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, praised Israel for making concessions.
Having failed to force Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, to meet US demands for a total settlement freeze, Mrs Clinton switched tack during a one-day visit to Jerusalem when she called on both sides to resume peace talks.
“What the Prime Minister has offered in specifics of a restraint on the policy of settlements . . . is unprecedented,” Mrs Clinton said. …
The comments by Mrs Clinton were in contrast to the previous stance of the Obama Administration, which has pressured Israel to halt all settlement construction. In May, after President Obama’s first meeting with Mr Netanyahu, Mrs Clinton said that the US “wants to see a stop to settlements — not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions”.
Mr Netanyahu has been unmovable, saying that the nearly 500,000 settlers in the West Bank and east Jerusalem could not be expected to stop building facilities as their communities expanded. He has however proposed limiting construction to about 3,000 homes that have been approved already by the Israeli authorities in the West Bank. He has not considered any halt in east Jerusalem, which was captured with the West Bank and Gaza by Israel in the Six Day War.
In other words, the Obama administration has become quite egalitarian. Regardless of friend or foe, if another nation refuses to meet our demands, we’ll simply cave and praise them anyway. I’m certain Iran will take the appropriate lesson from this incident. The Palestinians certainly did; they referred to it as “American back-tracking,” and refused Hillary’s calls to return to negotiations.
In this case, the reversal is warranted. The Palestinians still have not produced leadership that has any credibility as a partner for peace in the region. The Israelis got all the pressure to stop settlements while the US ignored the more obvious provocations by Palestinians, mostly in Gaza but also in the West Bank. The latest incidents at the al-Aqsa mosque show that the Palestinians want confrontation and battle, not negotiations and peace.
But even beyond the specifics of the issue, the move seems very odd. The White House seems adrift on foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, careening from one position to another in reactionary mode rather than having a comprehensive philosophy and approach to diplomacy. The pinballing on missile defense in eastern Europe showed this over the last two months, and now the way that Obama and Clinton are handling one of America’s closest allies seems bizarrely inconsistent. They have strained American credibility with both friend and foe to the breaking point, and still do not seem to have any idea of what they want or how to get it.